I remember sitting with a well-known gay activist who said directly to me, in a somewhat threatening way, ‘You are the last people still standing.’ And then, his eyes shifting, he looked out the window. Still speaking as if to me, and yet in fact to himself, he said quietly, ‘And yet they still won’t accept us’.
That was his fear and it is a just one. Despite the unparalleled propaganda-war which has now been going on for decades, the victories achieved on behalf of gay sex are fundamentally unreal. They are Mardi Gras triumphs.
Nowhere is this clearer than in the case of marriage. But the news is tough for Biblical Christians also.
The government did not invent marriage – although it seeks to regulate it for good. Thus, for the time being, it bans polygamy. But it cannot redefine marriage itself, even if it thinks it can. Neither did the Church invent marriage – although it attempts to help Christians understand it in accordance with the word of God. Marriage is a God-given, human institution. We are in danger of ceding too much power to Governments.
Our present difficulties do not stem from the gay revolution. Long before, not least in the 1960s, the sexual revolution began to change marriage. Effective contraception, freely available abortion, divorce more easily obtained than the dissolution of business partnerships, fiscal policies which favoured the unmarried, the feminist triumph with its determination to crush any teaching about the differences between husband and wife, the rise and rise of cohabitation, civil marriages, the recognition and legal protection of civil partnerships – we have changed everything.
The evolution of companionate marriage away from marriage based on family and its responsibilities has been well charted.
But let’s stop and think what it means. The final (?) change will come, if it does, when two men or two women can ‘marry’. This is about as plausible as allowing men to compete in the Wimbledon women’s single title. By the time you do that, the title has lost any significance it may once have had.
‘Tennis equality’ destroys tennis; ‘marriage equality’ destroys marriage.
But is there much left to destroy? The sexual revolution with all its attendant consequences – not least easy divorce – has so impoverished marriage that it already hardly deserves the name. So many people cohabit because they cannot see what marriage adds to their lives. And they are right, if marriage is all we have now made it – a temporary arrangement set up for procreative purposes. If soppy weddings did not exist, would we still have marriage at all?
If – and I am opposed to this – if Australia introduces gay ‘marriage’, the consequence will be a Pyrrhic victory. In achieving their aims, the advocates will have destroyed the thing which they seek. It will be like harvesting a tree – the very act of taking it from the ground kills it. You reach for the prize and it turns to dust simply because it has been grasped.
I still believe we should defend true marriage politically because of the unintended (by most people at least) consequences should it occur. After all the debate is largely symbolic: it symbolically gives permission for full completion of the sexual revolution But that is another story.
‘They still won’t accept us,’ said my friend. And it is true that we must not accept the sexual revolution – its results are cruel. However, as I said, the news is tough for Biblical Christians too. For we now have to retrace our steps; we now have to think marriage through again. We have to learn how to talk about self-control – without which sex becomes merely an unsatisfying game. We have to demonstrate that the alternative to fornication is true love. We have to show families which work and marriages which make sense. We now have to re-think divorce and remarriage, as well as the purpose for family and marriage. We have to find ways to honour singleness.
In short, in the name of Christ we are going to have to really think and really explain ourselves. These are good times to be different in a gospel-driven way.
But take heart. Real marriage is not for sale.
Photos: Gareth Hughes, Judit Klein (inset); flickr