None of my business …

Forewarned is forearmed so please allow me to kick this post off by admitting that it’s not going to be about knitting this time. It’s the continuation of this story

Previously on Knitting for Mental Health … for anyone still interested but too busy or lazy to click the link above, the story so far is that a couple of friends and I found some remarks made on Twitter by another friend (P) a little hard to swallow. The tweets in question orbited the question of same-sex marriage: specifically that not everyone opposed to gay marriage is homophobic; to which I replied that I’d like him to specify some legitimate, non-homophobic reasons to oppose same-sex marriage. The most important thing in P’s life is his faith, and at times this can sit a little uncomfortably with the sexual preference of some of our mutual friends. Being a bit of a busybody at times I took it upon myself to see if some of the areas of conflict could be resolved, but I also wanted to have it out with P and have him prove to me that his opinion – as he claims – does not come from homophobia.

Well, I met up with P last Friday. We’d made the date weeks ago, as he seemed to share my view that we ought to talk about this and get everything out in the open. I must admit I wasn’t at my best – hungover, rattled by the motorway traffic, I’d skipped lunch because I was running late – and Café Nero does insist on putting two shots of its unpalatable espresso into each cup of barely drinkable coffee, so I was quite jittery with caffeine by the time P arrived (I’m not sure if there’s anywhere in Wolverhampton that does a decent cup of coffee these days … except perhaps Café Maxsim, but it’s always closed when I’m in Wolverhampton). P seemed a little rattled too, but despite that, we managed to have a calm and respectful conversation: he explained his position in some detail, I questioned him a bit more on the parts I had difficulty with, and I guess that while we don’t agree, at least we can each understand where the other is coming from – to an extent.

So firstly, P’s position. I’m not sure exactly what denomination of christianity he follows but it’s an unstructured church: no vicars or priests, no incense or incantations, no scandals (yet). He was quite critical of the ‘old’ churches and their salaried leaders of worship, and told me how the Church of England, the Catholic church, and even the Methodist church are losing members to new churches. His church is one of love and  acceptance, and leaves judgement to God (or at least tries to, we’re only human after all). However it also has a picture of how God wants the world to be, and evidently God’s plan for the world is built from blocks made up of a man and a woman joined in holy matrimony before bringing their children into the world. As this is God’s intention, no matter what our desires are, they must be second to the will of God. A marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman, and is the bond that is required before procreation. It says so in The Bible II: The Adventures of Jesus and Friends. P told me that God doesn’t hate homosexuals. He doesn’t want to deny them His kingdom. He just wants them to get married to people of the opposite sex and have children and spend their lives repressing their desires, that’s all. Because that’s not a recipe for disaster …

I’m trying to reproduce all this with respect and fidelity to P’s side of the story, but – in case you haven’t guessed – I’m a big ol’ cynic (I’m sorry – a ‘disappointed idealist’). I can’t keep my own doubts and concerns about organised religion out of it. P did reassure me that he isn’t homophobic from his own definition of what homophobia is; he doesn’t treat LGBT individuals any differently, he’s not going to go out with placards and megaphones and impose his view on everyone else, or post anti-gay petitions on Facebook. However, based on what I understand homophobia to be – that is, an engendered belief that homosexuality is somehow wrong or bad –  it’s clear that his church is homophobic. Not that that’s going to be much of a revelation to anyone. I suppose the real question is, does it matter? Is it any of my business, for one thing, if a bunch of people aren’t happy that a certain couple wants to tie the knot? At any rate, most of the gay people I know tell me that equal marriage rights are not awfully high on their to-do lists: as this New Statesman article describes. But it does concern me that new churches, whether outwardly evangelical or not, are attracting more and more worshippers while being less liberal than the more traditional churches – at least the Anglican church is taking some steps in some direction.

Oh deary me … I’m neither religious nor LGBT so why I let these things concern me is beyond me. I’m actually pretty envious of the strength and fulfilment that P gets from his faith, but I can’t help but think that the values and ideals he builds his life around are those of a society two thousand years old and five thousand kilometres away. Not so long ago it would have been unheard of for someone of good breeding to marry someone of lower class, but modern society generally looks more kindly upon that sort of thing. The institution of marriage has already changed, and not, in my opinion, for the worse. I can’t see how extending marriage equality to same-sex couples could cause society to crumble and fall. Economics has already done that anyway.

Many people I know have struggled to reconcile their faith and their sexuality. Some might argue that in modern society we’re encouraged to treat sex as though it’s the most important thing in the world, and to draw our identity from our sexuality or sexualisation (if that’s even a word). I’m not too keen on seeing eight year olds in hotpants singing ‘I’m sexy and I know it’ myself, or on witnessing excessive displays of physical affection in public places (a throwback from my time in Japan, where public displays of affection are frowned upon, perhaps … more probably it’s just my general emotional constipation). I’m not convinced that many people – no matter their sexuality – make it the focus of their perceived identity past the age of adolescence, though.

P told me he was uncomfortable bringing his children into a society that recognises homosexuality as a legitimate choice. I’d be more worried about bringing kids into a society that didn’t accept that there is more to the human ‘heart’ (let’s be coy) than growing up, getting married, having kids, and living happily ever after. Can any of us afford to be so naïve?

Right then, thanks for entertaining my whim today. Normal business shall be resumed as soon as possible. Peace.

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About Sarah

Still just trying to make sense of the world.
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3 Responses to None of my business …

  1. Russell Farr-Jones says:

    I love this post. I’ve read a lot about the gay marriage debate, including news websites where articles are open to comments and I’ve seen a LOT of what I would call homophobic comments (based on my own definition of the word).

    When we look at our own society and other cultures throughout the centuries, the definition of relationships and marriage have changed. A number of religions have supported polygamy and polyandry. Islam allows for a man to have 4 wives (but women are only allowed one husband!). This is illegal in Christian countries. What I find hard to comprehend is why a ‘God’ in one religion would allow something, but not in another. And whose ‘God’ is right?

    What also annoys me is why the Christian church believes they have the say on what marriage is. Marriage in one form or another has existed for many thousands of years, and pre-dates Christianity. I do not believe the church owns marriage, but rather society, and if that society evolves then definitions of key fundamental rights evolve along with it. It’s just unfortunate that until recently, religion has formed the basis of society, so Christians are under the belief that their rules dictate how we should all live life in society.

    Society only survives because it adapts and accepts the people that make up the society. Enforcing rules that don’t support members of a society result in that society breaking down, or a separate society breaking off from and existing one, and perhaps losing a key element in the process.

    I think I’m waffling on now. I entered into a civil partnership in 2010. I’ve never really thought about it being different to marriage, although I know there is a difference in its perception and also society’s attitude to it. People don’t know what it is, and what it means. My partner and I have both experienced ignorance and discrimination as people didn’t know we were entitled to the same legal rights as married couples. To be defined as married would probably eliminate those issues to a certain extent. But it’s not a big deal to me, although I would like the choice and perhaps out of principle I hope it is passed as law.

    • Knoob says:

      I don’t think there’s any doubt that it’ll be passed into law eventually, no matter how wealthy the anti lobby is. After all, the Catholic church opposed divorce for an awfully long time, but it doesn’t make much difference now. The religions are free to make their own rules but like you say, there’s no reason why that should have a bearing on the rest of us.

      One thing that concerns me about the civil partnership system is that it seems to be easier than marriage to break up if one partner decides they’ve had enough. I’m not really sure, I’m only going on what I know happened to a friend.

      I think that in Muslim societies that allow polygamy, the man has to be able to prove he can support more than one wife before additional marriages are allowed. I remember reading about a guy in Nigeria (I think) who married all four wives in one service, but I gather that’s pretty rare!

  2. rustichello says:

    I don’t like marriage. I can’t really understand why people seek the permission of church and state to approve/bless something already present, why dress up to make it real? The bond worth marrying for is therefore a bond already worthy, and wedding would be superfluous. I can’t believe it, sometimes, that otherwise clear thinking individuals spend a years salary to spruce themselves up and shout everyone lunch and seek pieces of paper to represent what is in their heart. But I suppose I support gay marriage, as much as anyone’s, but as a father of daughters, all of whom already plan to get married, I would be madder than anything should it turn out that they couldn’t marry whomever they wished. That would be shit, and confusing too I should think.

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