A Loving God Does Not Fight Culture Wars

1 kings 19: 11-13: 

11 And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lordpassed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:
12 And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.
13 And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?

I'm going to lose friends for saying this and it breaks my heart to do it, but I cannot for the life of me see the point of denying marriage to loving couples on any basis of natural order or logical consistency in faith. 

Mine is a church of addicts, prostitutes, cowards, and taxmen graced by the love of God and the virtues, especially courage and wisdom, which flow from that. I do not wish to define adults as gay or straight and I do not wish to condemn people who live together and I do not wish to elevate a couple of dodgy quotes from Romans, one from Corinthians and one from Genesis above the message and example of Jesus Christ, who did not say one single thing which in any way justified having a go at gays. Not one. He held some dodgy views on monopsonistic labour practices, even cursed a fig tree, but the Son of Man is in no way shape or form a poster child for exclusion of anyone other than Satan, usurers, and child abusers. 

I am also well aware that my freedom is your freedom and if you happen to get up to sex things which other people don't like so long as it isnt illegal or destructive I have no opinion. I have in fact no right to an opinion. Pride is a sin, and I know how this reads, but I once went through women at a rate of knots and I only reflect on the grace and beauty of those I knew, but also how demented sexual licence made me. It makes fools of us all, and in at least three cases it did me no credit whatsoever.

A stolen kiss here, a tumble with someone whose name you don't know there and lives and relationships can unravel and fold. They can be made richer too, but there is wisdom in being enough of who you are to be faithful to one other person. To all those of you who would recruit me in some war against homosexuals, all I would say in response to the biblical quotes is, well, a higher one is that people without sin are the only ones who should throw the stones.

More importantly, I love my church. I love its elaboration of the mission of Christ on earth, and I do not presume to know that mission fully any more than I can put the ocean in a cup, as Aquinas challenged such as do claim to know the mind of God to do. However, I do know that digging a ditch around idealised legal marriage just will not work. 

It is worse than folly, it is a mistake. It gives licence to those who would indulge in genuine evil to isolate and divide the church against itself. It encourages people who happen to do gay things sometimes against the love of God. It forces complicated families, and people married by the state, and anyone alive, frankly, into the sort of fear driven moral ellipses which release far worse emotions, and it will not work. There is no injunction in our tradition to nail yourself to a cross; Christ and St Peter, to name but two, were dragged to theirs. What is it that makes us want to stand the Church in front of a gun and say, 'shoot'?

We live in a world where rich, indebted and consumption addicted people are very close to justifying murder, infanticide, and bigotry every day of the week, and where more passively affirm these things. To weaken the witness of Christ, and to release the fear and then all the vices that follow by focusing on what may be a sin (like ninety percent of everything else) in a way that offers no quiet compassion, no haven, and which encourages division, ruined lives and suicides is fairly near a crime in itself. Self-immolation for trivia does nothing to fix, to oppose, or to undermine these terrible things.

Where does it come from, this desire to have a fight over the way in which people who will go on living their lives--often with more fidelity and peace than heterosexuals? From nature? The very idea is silly. There is not one sex differentiated species on this planet, not one, which can't be seen to up to all sorts of things. Spend an hour or two with dogs, or birds, or on a farm or at a zoo. If God did not anticipate man and man, woman and woman, man and woman, and men and women alone sometimes lapsing from the ideal, he shouldn't have made men and women at all, he shouldn't have made them live and he shouldn't have made them imaginative. 

It stems from a lack of confidence, perhaps. St Peter is so instructive. Three times he denied Christ, and three other times he challenged God--once, on a roof over something as silly as food, once when he struck in anger at a soldier, and once when he demanded ownership of the identity of Jesus by pressing the question of who he was. Wheels within wheels that smack of authenticity because no dramatist could have written them so beautifully. But he recovered, and was crucified, not because of some roar but because of a quiet voice of love which accepted all our human contradictions and brought us to something much better.

Our sexual relationships are also a response to our environment, and to the way our societies treat people, I think. This new emerging global capitalist civilisation is profoundly disordered; in fact, it is sick. It isn't sick because people do things in bed or round the mulberry bush. It is sick because it treats human life as disposable, the human mind as a thing to be drugged or dulled or diverted, and because it exploits and destroys on the basis that a vacuum is a ground of meaning. It constantly reinvents slavery, and hate, and war, and it depends on mass destruction, from the shrapnel bomb to the abortuary. How on earth, looking back at the moral challenges to which we are called to bear witness, will any of us fare on judgment day if we merely say 'oh well, I did my bit, I threw a spanner in the secular plans of sundry western rainbow people?'

So I cannot take part in dividing people from people. Not for sex. Not for exclusive ideas of relationships. Freedom is indivisible, and it comes from God and God cannot therefore stand apart from the logic of freedom, anymore than Elijah could ignore the wind or rename a mountain. It is a central Catholic Christian proposition that there are rules, and if freedom and free will are rules, we are bound by logic and by love, and that includes whatever it is we refer to as God. Otherwise, everything is absurd. 

We are called to love, and to forgive, and to bear witness as flawed people. Not to fight stupid politically driven culture wars, and only in defiance of anger and hate can we respond.

Now, please, stay my friend.

Comments

PJMULVEY said…
Martin.....I understand your viewpoint and although I disagree with it, I believe that the Church should retreat to the concept of 'Holy Matrimony' as a sacrament of the Church and redefine 'marriage' in any of its modern manifestations as a secular affair governed by the laws of the State. Holy Matrimony as performed as a church sacrament by a priest can be recognized by the state as part of marriage but the reverse can never be true since it violates the laws of the Church and Tradition. Here in the States, there is already talk of polygamy and polyandry being the next cause célèbre probably backed by the LDS and Islamic groups in addition to the usual progressive types. Our children will the be compelled to learn in public schools that marriage and family is what you define it to be. As a historian, you know the consequences of destroying the traditional concept of family. However, as far as abortion and euthanasia we have to take a stand and say no further in our post-Christian age since infanticide and non-voluntary euthanasia will be next. Inevitably, orthodox (and protesting) Christians will become outcasts once more especially in the West - it is inevitable as the morals and values of society become more secular and anti-religious. The Africans in particular do not see the need to bend to the modern winds. So you are right we don't have to fight culture wars if we prefer to get along with the Zeitgeist in any age. However, we do castigate in hindsight those who stood idly silent during the Jacobist, Nazi and Bolshevik eras when traditional Christian values were discarded and mocked. We also remember the bravery of the martyrs during the Elizabethan and Stuart era who paid the ultimate price for standing with the Church and Truth. God bless and always a fan.
Martin Meenagh said…
Thanks for your typically civilised response, PJ, I very much appreciate it.

My worry is that if the Church does not retreat to Holy Matrimony, it will be isolated and ignored on things its witness is vital to--like abortion and euthanasia, where science and reason and basic human instinct are starting to make the same arguments anyway.

Since we've long accepted the case for liberty, religious as well as otherwise, and since many are not Catholics, the secular will have to learn what they will have to learn. Demented people will sometimes not stop until a crash. Often, though, the loudest and most demented are not in charge. It may be that the secular see where they are going and stop the lunacy--one has to have a little faith.

With regard to equal secular marriage, I do have to say that experience has changed my mind. I have gay cousins, and friends abroad, who have stable, loving and supportive partnerships of the sort which I see in older heterosexual generations but relatively rarely in younger ones. I woulndn't want to legislate their shot at happiness, albeit by definition a secular one, away, in a fallen world where it is hard to find anything comforting alone.

Your martyrdom point is a real one. Christianity grew up as a faith associated with lion food and persecution--tribulation, if you will, since it was in a sense being judged. We are currently seeing a wave of physical martyrdom in the Middle East. As liberalism shifts from tolerance in principle to intolerance in practice, we are also seeing a redefinition of freedom of conscience into freedom of worship. This is partly driven by big corporations and meccanomics--which is why halal food appears in my supermarkets, who simultaneously have gutted Easter and Sundays and who are determined to wreck Christmas. This may result in a new form of martyrdom in the West.

On the other hand it may not. The exclusion which can be inflicted is exclusion from work and income and therefore credit. For many, the internet, plus distributism, small businesses and a Catholic or Christian network of education and support might alleviate a good deal of that. For others, we just have to remember and establish that equality works two ways, and that the Catholic and Orthodox and Protestant and Coptic people have lives which the law must defend too. There need to be more Catholic philosophers, jurisprudentialists, and practitioners, and in a time of devastation and falling incomes in the law and academia--and with a blog or two--it becomes more possible to tempt the brightest away from selling their souls and towards telling the truth, which will lead others too.

I think that those who are secular will sooner or later realise how mad and frothing some of their number are, and that this will tip the scales--so long as we consistently uphold faith and liberty.

Freedom is the thing, still. It's indivisible and it allows us to escape the martyrdom or destruction others might have planned, and thus to save whom we can and to honour the memory of those who are gone.
Paul S. said…
I'm curious, have you read anything John Zmirak has written recently? I've been following his posts/articles via Facebook. He has a deeply historical perspective on things and can be quite witty. This is something he recently wrote: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/towards-a-christian-libertarian-marriage-alliance/
His perspective is not so much focused on the allowance of "gay marriage" but the negative consequences for the Church (inflicted by the State) as a result.
I think it is the Protestant fundamentalists who predominantly originated the flawed arguments such as "gay marriage will weaken hetero marriage" etc. What they can't accept or acknowledge is that their acceptance of contraception has essentially made marriage something meaningless like the thing they so oppose. By attempting to control or thwart the nature of sex, man makes marriage less of a sacrament and more of a mere contract that has some tax benefits.
In short, it seems to me that the acceptance gay marriage is getting in more and more places is due to the already weakened state of marriage due to contraception.
I'd be curious as to your thoughts. Contraception has already shown to be quite the force in demographic shifts whether in China with the problem of caring for the elderly, Europe with the influx of Muslim immigrants and the same in the US and our "illegal" immigration situation.
Martin Meenagh said…
Thank you for the thought provoking comment Paul. I'm not familiar with Zmirak, but will have a look at the link later. I think that arguments about secular marriage began to change for several reasons about half a century ago, divorce, sexual practice, contraception and prophylaxis and civil rights being amongst them. I do think that there are massive demographic imbalances because of abortion, which will cause and are causing huge global trouble.
I have to run but will reply at greater length later: all best!

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