My article yesterday highlighted the drama associated with those who are orientated to same-sex relationships but choose as a decision of conscience to move away from it and an example was given of a Presbyterian minister. Another example was given of a single man at bible college in the same situation but committed to abstinence.
These are huge issues for those in the fray, for those who are heterosexual but support family members and friends and engaged in it, or those outside Christianity who believe same sex marriage is a civil right, and we're certainly aware of the recent Irish vote.
Today my intention is two fold – first to look at the issue by Christians who believe there is an historical social aspect which many have not recognised and the second is to review how the national as a civil issue might find a way forward through this drama.
No theologically attuned Christian would be unaware of Tony Campolo. He recently published an article on the historical social dimension of this.
Tony Campolo says he is ready to fully accept into the Church those gay Christian couples who have made a 'lifetime commitment':
'... I am old enough to remember when we in the Church made strong biblical cases for keeping women out of teaching roles in the Church, and when divorced and remarried people often were excluded from fellowship altogether on the basis of scripture.
'Not long before that, some Christians even made biblical cases supporting slavery. Many of those people were sincere believers, but most of us now agree that they were wrong. I am afraid we are making the same kind of mistake again, which is why I am speaking out.'
Predictably social media has been inundated with comments. Some have suggested he has been a little late with his revelation, others supportive of such a change in direction and some critical. Welcome to social media.
I for one am reminded of Jesus words about divorce, that Moses condoned divorce because of the hardness (sin) of the people, and in a perfect world with perfect people a whole range of social sins against God's perfect way wouldn't abound. But alas, last time I looked at my own sinful life, this is simply not the case.
In this situation I can hold a personal view that marriage is between a man and a woman in how I understand the Scriptures. But how should I then react to those who hold and practise an entirely different perspective. This is my corporate life as a Christian: the salt, being reflective and consultative.
Nor do I want to live in a society of sinful hard-line Christians in total control as it would end up being more and more restrictive ending up like ISIS at the other end of the spectrum. That is a dark place.
There are continual national issues such as the population debate and society's well-being of a father and a mother involved in raising children, the natural love of mothers and the obligations of fathers as strongholds that binds a nation together with biological children.
But there is more. The state has maintained a role in recognising and supporting marriage, likewise in the protection of children. Studies have consistently shown that a loving mother and a father has such ingredients (albeit there are sadly many examples of the opposite). The state cannot legislate who becomes a father and a mother, but once a child is born, the state legislates to protect that child.
The marriage between a man and a women existed before the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ, the very first biblical announcements relate to a man and a women and that of children. When a redefinition of marriage occurs as between two (or more) people it's reduced to a committed affectionate sexual relationship. A marriage between a man and a women is no longer associated with the next generation, rather the legislation's sole emphasis becomes one of hedonism.
A law that reinforces marriage as an emotional and sexual union rather than a bodily union directed towards creating, nurturing and protecting children, has a warped sense of nationhood. We might live in a global economy but we are very much attuned to national future solidarity.
The 'choice' issue
Then there is the choice issue. This has legal and philosophical implications. The marriage between a man and woman has the protection of the state, but once that is redefined it is no longer a relationship of choice between a man and a women, it will become a right granted by the state upon whom it chooses. The very nature of marriage changes.
It's changed because marriages becomes the creation of the state, the state can redefine marriage to mean anything and where this might lead is frightening. Under the existing situation a man and a women can marry and have children without state interference. The state philosophically usurps this. Can any of us predict where this might lead.
Terms like 'mother' and 'father' may quite possibly be changed to 'parent 1' and 'parent 2' on birth certificates and other documents (viz as some other countries now have). Religious freedoms as in other countries will very likely be curtailed. One example is providing goods and services such as storekeepers, photographers, holiday venues (as happening overseas) who by conscience say 'no - shop elsewhere'.
Yet anyone by conscientious objection is legally able not to serve in the military to defend our nation, but the same may not apply to Australians by their consciences and beliefs in this matter at a 'commercial level'.
Moreover overseas experience has shown that to even verbally support the traditional view of marriage as between a man and a woman may become unlawful. It could be that as a preacher, I'll not be able to preach, publish or put on-line my series of sermons on traditional biblical marriage. Dietrich Bonhoeffer had Nazi spies in his services who listened to catch him out.
It seems to me that there are two unmoveable philosophies before us. Perhaps they could both stand alone and stand alone in legislation.
Without changing the current status quo, an additional piece of legislation could be enacted titled say "Marriage H L" (homosexual, lesbian) or some other name. Whatever term, this other marriage legislation would apply to those same sex partners with the entitlements that marriage brings in civil society (such as Wills, Superannuation entitlements, Centrelink payments, the rights and entitlements of marriage and the like). The marriage of a man and a woman would likewise stand as it does now. This idea protects the status quo. It is the minimalist position. Same sex marriage then exists with current parallel legislation.
Without something of this nature, should the overseas experiences be a guide, Christian couples might be better off cohabiting and avoiding 'legal' marriage as reverse discrimination could become intolerable.
I saw a Facebook question where the paper work for the Christian marriage (a young man and a young woman) held on an Island was unavoidably detained: the Christian marriage rites were given, the honeymoon experienced, then on their return, the books were signed.
Was this a sin, or a good sensible outcome? My wife Delma of 38 years who won't watch a movie even if there is a hall way leading to a bedroom, says it was a good sensible outcome, calling it 'God-joined'. Therefore, why sign the book at all of it brings possible legal sanction to express one's opinion as a married person. The evidence is becoming more and more abundant overseas, that if your single, in effect, your voice is not heard, but married, it's like a clarion call for legal action.
To this end, one Canberra Christian couple have put up one model to avoid reverse discrimination and willing to divorce. Others have suggested 'conscience of separation' with untold ramifications – emotionally, physically, financially, an impossible drain on resources, social services, Centrelink, the list goes on and on.
This is Australia where there is a very definite Australian style Christian heritage. This not Europe where many countries have State marriage legislation. Then should the couple want an additional religious wedding, off they go to the church, the temple, the tabernacle, the mosque wherever .....
That all aside, there are those politically aligned to same sex marriage as a means to another step toward knuckling Christianity. Nothing would satisfy them. They are politically savvy and if at all possible would covert their machinations to see the Courts ban every Christian rite possible.
The Bible indeed says, the followers of the way (Jesus) will find themselves up against principalities and powers. As stated yesterday, my primary focus needs be on evangelism.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html