Monday, May 17

Reflections on marriage, the Church and teh gay

In the first, blame Tobias for getting me to think on this.

With the hullabaloo regarding teh gay in Christianity (especially the RC and related communities), I figure I should put out a few thoughts.

My father, who was educated by Jesuits, once told me that marriage was a license by the Church to sin. That is to say, the difference between sin and sanctity is a nod from the clergy. This explanation has bothered me for many years and I have come to the conclusion that marriage is, instead, a state of mind and being. There are many who are married who 'live in sin' and there are many who have the nod of a priest who are not married.

Put differently, marriage is the special bond between two people and this particular state of union between two people predates the Church. It is, even within the bounds of Christian thought, a matter of God and not a matter of man.

"So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate." (Matthew 19:6)

To have anyone, be it Mullah or mother or Bishop or brother, forbid two adults from entering into a lasting and loving relationship is to assume the position of the Divine and knowledge which is known only to Him. I say 'adults' not in the legal sense, but rather in the intellectual, moral and emotional sense. So, if it is a matter between these people and the Divine, what's the big deal? Well, there are several issues which I see that cloud and muddy the waters.

The first is the idea that marriage is a static entity. Marriage is not at all the same as it was 100 years ago...which was very different than at the Council of Trent...which was different than when Paul and Luke wrote...which was different than Mosaic Law was written. Whether or not these changes are good or bad are entirely open to interpretation (which I shant go into here), but it is incontrovertible that marriage has changed over time. This has happened because societies change over time, which leads to my second point.

There is a conflation of religion and society in regards to marriage. Traditionally, the principle reason for marriage is a public recognition and acceptance of the union into the community. As religion has been (up until recently) an integral part of the community, there has been a religious component to marriage, offering a certain level of legitimacy by the moral pillar of the community, the priest, giving his blessing to the couple. Because western society has, in the last thousand years, recognized heterosexual relations in this sort of manner, the Church has given sanction to these unions. The societal role of (or lack thereof) homosexual relationships leads me to my next point.

There is a conflation with homosexuals and casual relationships. This is a hard one, because the ground has shifted a lot recently in this part of the world. Time was that gays of all stripes had to hide their true selves from society, which forced them all too often into fleeting trysts. Then, with the sexual revolution and the nascent gay movement, these trysts turned into serial 1-night stands and anonymous sexual encounters. Still, society had nothing for those who wanted a lasting relationship. In the last decade or so, things have changed a lot, especially in Europe. Within the gay community (especially the male gay community, which has been historically much more promiscuous), the novelty of free love has worn off and the value of a loving, lasting relationship has been seen of increasing value. Outside the gay community, many have realized that the differences between 'them' and 'us' are no larger than the differences between 'us' and 'us'.

Bringing us back around, societies change over time and the expectations of people, both in and out of the relationship, have changed. Our societies are in much closer contact with other, different, societies than ever before and these different societies have valid and divergent beliefs and expectations that are rooted in other cultures. That is the underlying issue with the Burqa in France, but that is a matter for a different post.

What doesn't change is the value of a loving and lasting relationship. That bond is what is important. To love God (in whatever form you consider the Divine) and to love one another. After all, isn't that the whole point?

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