Fifteen Reasons

Changing Attitude have published a new document called “Fifteen Reasons” by Keith Sharpe which attempts to give fifteen reasons why same-sex marriage is not an unbiblical idea.

And you know what, it’s silly. Even just reading it through once I could see the obvious flaws in the argument, so let’s have a go at a quick fisk.

1. The fundamental purpose of marriage is companionship:

Then YHWH said, “it is not good for the Earth Creature to be alone.  I will make a fitting companion for it.”    Genesis 2:18

The reason God creates Eve is solely to alleviate Adam’s isolation.  God’s overriding concern is for Adam’s/our well being.  God wants him/us to thrive and flourish and realises that  this will not happen  unless his/our loneliness is relieved by a soulmate. If God did this for Adam it is not credible that God would create homosexual people and then subject them to the pain of lifelong loneliness  For gay people the fitting companion, the soulmate, is necessarily somebody of the same sex.

Oh dear. This is a typical case of the “let’s pick one verse and build a theology on that” line of biblical interpretation that demonstrates a wilful ignorance of the Scriptural text. One could point to Genesis 1:28 for an instruction to the couple to multiply and fill the earth. Perhaps Keith could explain to us how a same-sex couple would fill that command? Alternatively we could look at Ephesians 5:22ff where the grammar of the text is very clear that the sex of the married couple is indicative of the parts of the union of Christ and the Church that they uniquely signify in connection to their sex.

So we have two purposes for marriage beyond companionship. And shock horror – these are the same two purposes that the liturgy of the Church of England recognises.

Feel like we’re already banging our head against a wall? Brace yourselves because it just gets worse…

2.  A lifelong companion has to be someone compatible. Gender is not important.

 The Earth Creature gave names to all the cattle, all the birds of the air, and all the wild animals. But none of them proved to be a fitting companion.  Genesis 2:20

At first God tries to find a companion for Adam by creating the animals, but then realises that he needs someone like himself, another human being.  So the essential point about Eve is not that she is female but that she is human.  She is a human person like Adam.

This is such a naive reading of the text. Where is this “Earth Creature” phrase coming from anyway? The word is “Adam” and I cannot see how you get “Earth Creature” from that. The fact that Eve is a human does not distract from the fact that she is also a woman and in other places the Scripture makes that sexual distinction an important factor.

3.  The essence of marriage is mutual commitment and faithfulness

 Adam exclaimed, “this time, this is the one!  Bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh!  Now, she will be woman, and I will be man, because we are of one flesh.  Genesis 2:23

What matters here is that the human pair should commit totally to each other in a relationship of mutual dedication and faithful support.  Widows, widowers and bereaved partners often say they feel only ‘half a person’ after the death of their spouse.  ‘One flesh’ does not crassly imply the sexual act but rather the entire human union which the two people together created. Two men or two women can equally make such profound mutual commitment.

Once again, Keith ignores the passages of Scripture that contradict his position and suggest two more purposes to marriage. More than that his translation ignores the notion of Eve being “taken out of Adam”. Why is that?

4. Procreation is not essential
There is no reference to procreation in the story of Adam and Eve until chapter three of Genesis, and even then it comes only as a sort of incidental afterthought. Its only mention is as a minor detail in the story of God’s punishment of Eve for eating the apple proffered by the snake.

To the woman God said, I will greatly multiply your pains in childbearing, you will bear children in pain.  You will desire union with your man, but he will be bent on subjugating you.  Genesis 3:16

Childbearing is therefore not an essential part of marriage.  And indeed the Christian  churches have long been happy to marry couples who cannot have children by reason of infertility or age.  And of course protestant and reformed churches all approve of contraception which clearly demonstrates their view that marriage is not about having children. There can therefore be no objection to same-sex marriage on the grounds of inability to procreate.

Well, apart from the fact that two chapters earlier God instructs the human pair to multiply, that’s a great case. But since two chapters earlier God does instruct the human pair to multiply, it’s actually a lousy case. If procreation is not an important component of marriage, why does the Church of England liturgy suggest it is? Indeed, why does the Bible suggest it is?

5.  There is no Biblical injunction on individuals to reproduce

There are two accounts of Creation in Genesis. In the first account there is no mention of Adam and Eve. God creates the heaven and the earth and then everything else including humanity, and then the text says:

 God saw that this was good and blessed them. saying, “Bear fruit, increase your numbers, and fill the waters of the seas! Birds abound on the earth!” Genesis 1:22

This injunction is addressed to whole species of creatures, and by implication to the whole of humanity, not to individuals. So there is no necessary implication here that every single person is supposed to be heterosexual or produce children.  Indeed in the present circumstance of global overpopulation where the earth has been more than replenished, this commandment has been fulfilled and not having children might be considered the more godly act.

Good grief. Is Genesis 1:28 not in Keith’s Bible? Is he really that naive that he cannot see something that contradicts him just six verses away from the verses he mistranslates? Do I need to add anything else?

6. If marriage is a ‘remedy for sin’ for opposite-sex couples then it is equally so for same-sex couples

St Paul’s view was that the sexual drive is so powerful that most people (he of course meant men) have difficulty restraining it, and so it is better for them to marry in order to avoid the sin of fornication.

But if you cannot control yourselves, then you should marry, for it is better to be married than to burn with passion.   1 Corinithians 7: 9

Homosexual people are as much in need of this institutionalised channel for sexual expression as heterosexuals, and it is therefore as good a theological justification for the marriages of lesbian and gay people as it is for those of straight people.

Keith’s argument is as follows. The Bible says that marriage is a remedy for sin for a specifically defined couple (a man and a woman). Therefore it is a remedy for sin for any couple.

What about an incestuous couple? If not, why not?

And why cannot a homosexual person marry someone of the opposite sex as a remedy for sin?

7. Marriage is a partnership of equals

St Paul is usually read as a defender of patriarchy and  female subjugation, but on the question of marriage he advocates equality, with each partner owning the body of the other.

 The husband’s body belongs not to him alone, but also to the wife, and the wife’s body belongs not to her alone, but also to the husband.   1 Corinthians 7:4

He even goes further to suggest that there should be equality in the sexual pleasure enjoyed by both partners, placing a duty on both to ensure that they think of the satisfaction of each other:

Do not deprive each other (of sex), except by mutual consent and within a time frame, so  that you can devote yourselves to prayer.  But come together again lest you invite Satan to tempt you through your weakness.  1 Corinthians 7: 5

Since there is no gender differentiation in these injunctions they apply equally well to a faithfully committed same-sex couple.

Some Christians, particularly evangelicals, believe that in Genesis, and in some of the writings of St Paul, God establishes what they call ‘complementarity’ between the sexes.  This concept, for which in practice there is very little actual Biblical support, leads them to overemphasise the differences between males and females and ignore manifest historical and cultural variation, to believe that God ordained men to rule over women, and of course to argue that monogamous heterosexuality is the only divinely sanctioned erotic. They overlook both Paul’s important statement that ‘in Christ there is no male or female’ and Christ’s own words that there will be no marrying in the Kingdom of Heaven.  This discredited idea is an interpretive imposition on the Biblical text and is not a sound basis for opposing gender equality and same-sex marriage.

There is no gender differentiation? No gender differentiation? Did he not read 1 Corinthians 7:4? Did he not see the words “husband” and “wife”? Do I need to add anything?

8. The diversity of human sexuality is a gift of God

Paul believed that the second coming of Christ and the end of the world were imminent in his own times.  He therefore thought it best that  people should remain celibate in order to work for the coming of  God’s Kingdom, although he acknowledges that this does not suit everybody.

Let me make a suggestion – it is not a decree.  I would hope that everyone could be like me.  But we all have our own particular gifts from God. One has the gift for one thing and anfother has the gift for another thing.

1 Corinthians 7:6

There seems to be an implicit recognition here that not everybody is the same. Some theologians have seen in this text an implicit acknowledgement of human sexual diversity as a gift of God.  Not everybody is heterosexual and these differences should be respected because they are part of God’s creation.  The logic of the argument is that if marriage is the solution for heterosexuals then it is also the solution for those with other ‘gifts of God’, lest they too fall into sin.

So we leap from “people are different” to “the sexual union I wish to engage in is therefore a good thing”. That’s the argument here. Step forward my consensual adult incestuous couple please…

9. Marriage is the union of two people who find each other sexually attractive, love each other and wish to commit to each other.  It is not  necessarily the union of one man and one woman.

A person does not marry somebody because they are the opposite sex.  A man does not choose to marry a woman because she is female.  He marries her because he is sexually attracted to her and loves her.  Marriage is the union of two people who are sexually attracted to each other and who love each other.  This works in exactly the same way for two homosexual persons as it does for two heterosexual persons.  There is no difference.  If God blesses the union of a man and woman who love each other and marry he will also bless the union of two men or two women who get married because they love each other.  There is no ‘missing ingredient’ in homosexual unions which is present in heterosexual unions.  Also, because marriage is the union of two  human persons there is no ‘slippery slope’ into disorder.  Marriage is an I-Thou relationship in Martin Buber’s sense.  This rules out all the usual claims about the recognition of same-sex marriage leading to the legalisation of pederasty, bestiality, polygamy etc.

I refer the honourable gentleman to the reply I gave some moments ago.

Seriously? Marriage is about sex? Really? And because two people are sexually attracted to each other they should be able to get married? Step forward my consensual adult incestuous couple please…

10. ‘Traditional’ marriage is constantly evolving

Historically marriage was seen in a socio-political and economic context.  In Biblical times daughters were effectively owned by their fathers, and then ‘given’ in marriage to a husband who took over ownership.  The main concern was control of property and obedience to authority.  A thousand years ago most marriages were not celebrated in church.  Right into the twentieth century many states in America prohibited interracial marriage.  Being divorced used to be a barrier to remarriage.  Now almost half of all marriages end in divorce, and serial monogamy has become normal, so in practice marriage is no longer a lifelong union of two people to the exclusion of all others.  It is simply not the case that there is a ‘traditional’ concept of marriage which same-sex marriage threatens to destroy.  On the contrary, the devotion and commitment of same-sex marriages will help to strengthen the institution.

And yet the New Testament model for marriage (1 Timothy 3:2) is still the one we proclaim in the liturgy of Marriage in the Church of England 2,000 years later. Funny that.

It’s worth just mentioning miscegenation here. Yes, some states in the USA continued the practice of banning inter-racial marriage into the 20th Century and the Biblical arguments in favour of it are a nonsense. But we make the following observations:

  1. There has always been a dispute in the church over issues of race. There has never been a time when a large portion of the church was preaching and working for racial equality. In comparison, it is only in recent decades that Christians have argued against the traditional prohibition on same-sex activity
  2. Race (and sex) are categorisations which are easy to identify genetically and are natural human variants over which an individual has no control. In comparison, the sexual orientation of an individual cannot be determined by any method other than asking the person what their sexual orientation is. In that regard it is a self-determined identification rather than one which can be made externally to any self declaration (i.e. through a DNA test) even if one cannot control one’s sexual attractions.
  3. One may be attracted to people of the same-sex (and be happy to describe such an attraction as homosexual) and yet reject any attempt to own a sexual identity of “gay”. Having a particular sexual attractions does not obligate one to act on those attractions. By contrast, it is simply impossible not to be a particular race or sex if one is. A contrast needs to be made between discriminating against what a person is and what a person does.

11. The Bible does not support models of ‘traditional marriage and the family’

The modern advocacy of the happily married heterosexual couple with two children is an invention of nineteenth century protestantism.  Marriage appears nowhere in the Nicene Creed.  Any claim that the Bible presents anything approaching consistent teaching about marriage is frankly incredible. Biblical men have multiple wives and many concubines, they marry and have sex with their relatives, they engage in forcible sexual conquest, and all apparently with the approval of the almighty.

Jesus was certainly no nuclear family man.  He sought no wife and had a particularly loving relationship with one of the disciples.  He told his disciples to leave their families and said that nobody could be a disciple unless they hated their own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters.

It is therefore simply not possible to argue that the Bible endorses heterosexual marriage and condemns gay marriage.  There is no eternal divinely ordained  form of marriage and therefore same-sex marriage is as Christian as opposite-sex marriage.

But the Bible does have (i) an initial clear model of monogamous heterosexual marriage and (ii) a trajectory back towards monogamous heterosexual marriage from models that emerge in the Fall (e.g. polygamy). Furthermore, the Bible never commends many of the examples Keith gives above (e.g. forced sexual relationships, polygamy), often condemns them and sometimes observes them.

The fact that Jesus did not seek a wife merely tells us that even though humans are created as sexual beings they can live completely fulfilled and functional lives without engaging in sexual activity. Jesus was not diminished in his humanity in any sense by dying (and rising) a virgin or single.

12. Tradition and Christian Love: Orthodoxy and Empathy

Even if it were possible to demonstrate a continuity of tradition in marriage, the Christian approach would still be to consider the needs and wellbeing of those outside the orthodoxy.  Many protestant and reformed churches believe in divorce, yet there is arguably a very clear Biblical injunction against it, and a centuries long tradition of legal prohibition.  These churches have accepted divorce because of the pastoral need, and because they empathise with the pain of those caught up in it, whatever the orthodox teaching might say.

On every occasion when Jesus had to choose between orthodoxy and empathy he chose empathy. The task of Christians is to proclaim the gospel afresh in every generation.  In our generation empathising with the genuine love lived out by a faithful same-sex couple is a greater Christian imperative than rigidly adhering to a supposed traditional set of rules governing who can marry whom.  The Christian churches therefore should recognise and celebrate the fruits of the Spirit evident in these faithful same-sex unions – love, joy, peace, patience, fidelity, kindness, goodness, constancy, tenderness, gentleness, self-control etc.

The claim that Jesus always chose empathy over orthodoxy is misleading. That Jesus is empathic and treats all sinners as deserving his forgiveness and a relationship with him is undoubted, but the way of Jesus was to combine orthodoxy and empathy. Hence, the woman caught in adultery is first compared to the other sinners around her (“Let he who is without sin….”) and then challenged to forsake her sin. There is no case in the Gospels of Jesus’ empathy altering orthodoxy and if Keith wishes to suggest that there is he would do well to actually cite it.

13. The LGBT communities need same-sex marriage

The LGBT communities suffer disproportionately high rates of problems relating to self-esteem, social integration and psychological security: alcoholism, drug abuse, mental illness, social isolation, self-harm and suicide etc.  This cannot be God’s will if we are to believe the Gospel. These sad statistics arise out of attitudes towards LGBT people in the wider society but they are also influenced by a lack of the sort of stability which marriage can provide.  Marriage is good for the individual and good for the community.  Including same-sex couples in the institution of marriage will help to strengthen it and will help also to stabilise networks of relationships within the LGBT communities themselves.  It will also send a message that LGBT people are fully loved and valued as God intended.

It’s a brilliant argument apart from the fact that the research doesn’t support the proposition. Recent studies in the Netherlands have shown that despite ten years of legalised gay marriage, there is little change in the level of mental health issues amongst those self-identified as LGB. Introducing same-sex marriage may help add another level of legal status to gay relationships but the suggestion that it will in and of itself help reduce the problems listed runs contrary to the empirical data.

14. Civil Partnerships are not marriage

The term ‘civil partnership’ is essentially about a legal and financial contract. Marriage is also a legal contract but it carries a superstructure of social and cultural meanings about personal commitment, dedication, devotion and mutual love. with which many same-sex couples wish to identify themselves. And for gay Christians it is important that they make these marriage vows before God.  Furthermore, while same-sex couples are barred from the institution of marriage there is still the implication that they are second-class.  It is a form of segregation and discrimination, it is a manifestation of inequality, and it is a denial of the Christian birthright of all, evident in Christ’s great commandment that we love our neighbour as ourselves.  We are all God’s children, gay or straight, and we should be treated accordingly equally.

Keith picks and chooses the “social and cultural meanings” of marriage to suit his purposes. He neglects the widely held understanding of marriage as a stable institution for procreating and rearing the biological children of the union and the specific Christian understanding of husband and wife signifying the union of Christ and the Church. Furthermore, his argument that it is important that gay Christians make their vows before God could be equally applied to our permanent, faithful and stable monogamous adult incestuous couple from above.

15. Same-sex marriage as much as opposite-sex marriage models the self-giving character of God

Any faithful loving relationship finds its raison d’etre, meaning and purpose in self-giving love for the other person. To enter into such a relationship is to experience at first hand the kind of self-giving which is characteristic of the three persons of the Trinity and characteristic also of the relationship between God and his Creation. In reality it has never mattered what the genders of the two people are. Many scholars believe for example that the relationship between the Roman centurion and his boy servant, whom Jesus healed, was a gay one (ref) . What mattered was that here was true love and commitment.  Everything therefore that the church has taught about opposite-sex marriage mirroring the love of God applies equally to same-sex marriage.

Save the worst for last. Keith demonstrates here that in order to make his argument he has to minimise the meaning of marriage and extract from the definition those commonly understood and liturgically pronounced notions that contradict his position. That any mutual relationship can reflect the relational nature of God in his being is not in question, but the Bible then qualifies the sexual expression of such relationships.

As for the the Roman Centurion and his servant, I have dealt with that here and it’s worth repeating the summary of the analysis – To assume the revisionist readings involves first translating the word pais in a manner not used elsewhere in Scripture and secondly, accepting that the only culturally contextual use of the word pais as a lover would be as a pederastic junior who, give the fact that the Centurion was Roman, not Greek, may not have had any say in the sexual relationship.

And if all that matters is true love and commitment, what about our monogamous and consensual incestuous couple?

Are we done with this?

132 Comments on “Fifteen Reasons

    • That’s not the point. No-one is complaining that she didn’t remain neutral but they are complaining about Giddings because he’s on “the other side”. It’s just plain hypocritical, and that’s me saying that as one who wanted the vote to pass.

      • Yes, shows that the conservatives need greater protections in order to fulfil the oft repeated votes in Synod over the years that wanted women bishops *and* a place of equal respect for conservatives…

    • It does seem like hypocrisy on the face of it, but it’s also an indication of how relations between the two camps have worsened to the point of total breakdown. Desperate people resort to desperate measures. You of all people should realize this, Peter. Just look at the arguments you’re using to try and keep equal marriage at bay… ;-)

      A witch-hunt is starting and I believe this is the first move in what will become a Church-wide purge of conservatives from positions of responsibility. When all possibility of compromise is dead in the water, what can you do except go on the offensive?

      It’s the first blow in a modern Nacht der langen Messer. Only this time the daggers are pointing squarely at the conservatives. Or, if I may mix my metaphors, you’ve awoken the wrath of the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog. Don’t be fooled by her pretty white whiskers and her pink twitchy nose. Those incisors are lethal and she’s coming for you. Be scared. Be very, very scared… >_<

        • Begone thou spirit of Godwin! Let us away now, my liege…away to the hiding hole that assures us safe passage from these benighted shores, lest those of the baser sort shouldst avenge themselves and do their worst!

          • My grandfather’s house has a priest hole behind a panel in the solar, if you’re interested. A bit cramped, but otherwise serviceable … if you don’t mind sharing the space with 500 year old cobwebs and the odd petrified Cromwellian rat corpse.

            • Yeah, right: what you claim to be a rat corpse…or a malnourished neo-con who needed to be taught a lesson. Pull the other one! ;-)

              • So that’s what happened to Granny! We always wondered. Her politics were slightly to the right of Genghis Khan so we just assumed she went off to fight in Margaret Thatcher’s Second Crusade. You know, the one where all the miners were impaled on captured Argentine bayonets and Barnsley was sacked and put to the sword.

                Well there ya go … but my offer still stands. Will you walk into my priest hole? said the wet-con to the dry. ‘Tis the prettiest little priest hole that ever you did spy…

            • Actually, priest holes might not be far off the mark. The arguments the state are coming out with at the moment are reminiscent of elizabethan attitudes towards catholics, ‘of course, you’re free to *believe* what you want, but ….’ Though not needing a priest to consecrate the host, perhaps secret house churches might be the way forward.

              • Really? I’m reminded of those who claimed that the Pilgrims left because they were being persecuted for their beliefs when, in reality, they weren’t allowed to persecute others for their beliefs, which isn’t really the same thing at all ;-)

        • None whatsoever, because that would make me a Nazi too and I could never be a Nazi. They’d never give me an Ahnenpaß. Es genügt, wenn ein Elternteil oder ein Großelternteil nicht arisch ist…

        • I obviously don’t think that conservatives are worth comparing with Nazis either(obviously. Lord Carey making the same argument about equal marriage advocates is ridiculous too. Last time I checked, neither of the theological teams are keen on concentration camps and genocide for their ideological opponents) but is it not worth noting that Godwin’s Law is no such thing? I recall the wag who wondered what it would have been like if the internet was around in Stalinist Russia

          ‘these people are being rounded up for camps! It’s like the Nazis!’

          ‘Godwin’s Law! You lose!’

          Tangetnially, I’ve noticed that many an evangelical will, in debate, invoke straw men, ad hom and Godwin’s Law, but not other (proper!) fallacies like argumentum ad verecundium or the like. What’s up with that?

          • I considered invoking ‘a dicto secundum quid ad dictum simpliciter’ in our last encounter, but cool evo-cons on the block like me, try to call it like it is: the converse accident fallacy. We just like to keep it real, bro!

      • I think that the issue isn’t two camps falling out so much as the wrath of the more extreme liberals at being thwarted… lots of people in the middle were disappointed but believe that we can sort this out quickly without resorting to the tactics of nasty politics.

        • I think the point is that even those in the middle realize that if something isn’t done very soon, the Church will be tied up in this debate for a generation.

          In the face of growing and justifiable contempt from the government and the wider public, how can such a petty, squabbling Church ever hope to stand as an example to the nation? Will a risible bunch of Big and LIttle Endians ever be taken seriously again as a national church?

          This is the challenge facing us and if it isn’t faced head on then in a generation there may be nothing worth salvaging.

    • … if both chairs have broken the rules then both must go. If neither has then is this just the persecution of people who “in conscience cannot accept the ministry of women”?

      If so, the liberal comforting argument, oft repeated, that those conservatives just need to learn to trust, is seen to have been a lie…

      Which means that they definitely do need solid legal protections in the measure.

  1. Maybe we could have a guest post from someone who is in favour of changing the marriage law? It looks a bit one-sided to have a proper discussion about the ‘coalition for marriage’ points and then write off the Changing Attitude doc as silly from the start. Not that I don’t think the other side aren’t capable of defending themselves, now where did Linus go …

      • Linus vanished once he realized this blog was just a large porcelain bowl into which conservatives could conveniently spew their bile and venom.

        This will be my last post here. My point in being here was to try and understand the conservative position better. I now do. It wasn’t as nuanced as I thought it might be. Hatred, anger and outrage rarely are.

        So I’ll leave you to make up your mind whether you’re gay, post-gay or just a cynical manipulator hell-bent on being “right” whatever the cost to your fellow man. The latter will be my lasting impression of you and many others here and will certainly inform my future attitude to your faction within the Church.

        • I just love it when folks claim you’re making stats up, you offer to give them your dataset to do the work themsleves and their response is this kind of ad hominem. Love it. LOVE IT.

          • Linus kind of has a point on the gay v post-gay stuff, Peter. Your blog’s USP (initially, am sure many regulars would, like me, stick around even if you decided to stop posting about sexuality issues!) was its post-gay paradigm. You say specifically that you’re post-gay. Yet, when it comes to debating the ‘rights’ to marry, you claim to be a gay man so you can posit yourself as someone who has taken up the right to marry a member of the opposite sex ergo there is no anti-gay discrimination! Even if one takes you at your word that you’re now a gay man rather than post gay, surely you’d agree completely that a gay man who marries a woman (!) is, to riot in understatement, highly atypical, making it problematic to use yourself as a good example of a fulfiller of the rights available to (generalised) gay men?

              • So one is both x and post-x simultaneously? Isn’t rejection of the presupposiitons of ‘gay’ (i.e. my sexuality is a key part of my identity) necessary before one can be post gay? ‘Predominantly’ suggests bisexuality (i.e. a mostly but not solely homosexual point on the Kinsey scale) , whereas gay indicates exclusive homosexuality. And being in a life-long sexual relationship with a woman is hardly suggestive of exclusive homosexuality.

                • Not all “gay” people are Kinsey 0 (or 6 – can’t remember which way round it is).

                  I don’t think gay does mean exclusive homosexuality. I don’t think it does. I also think that many gay people marry.

                  • Can gay mean exclusive homosexuality in some cases? most? Surely the gay man who feels as non-aroused by straight sex as the straight man is by gay sex is extremely common?

                    Interestingly, our mutual hero (;-)) Dan Savage had a good point on sexual orientation labels and the endless debates thereof in his column today (last question)


                    To be honest, I don’t see how a definition of ‘gay man’ that can encompass post-gay is necessarily helpful. ‘I’m a gay man married to a woman’ has connotations of the unfulfilling, whereas presumably those who struggle with SSA would want to view you as a success story, and I’m guessing you, too, would not want to view your marriage as any way less an exemplar of a successful heterosexual relationship than the marriages of ”always straight” guys! I mean, if you were advising a SSA-fellow, who shared your conservatives beliefs, and the guy identified himself as a ‘gay man’ who wanted to marry a woman, wouldn’t you try and steer him in the more biblical ‘post-gay’ direction? And if SSA is a life-long struggle, isn’t identifying as a ‘gay man’ a bit problematic? (instead of donwplaying the attraction, along lines of ”I’m facing homosexual temptation, but this isn’t my identity” which I thought was the preferred approach?)

                    I’m not sure gay people marrying members of the opposite sex is a success story. Would most women be happy with a gay male partner? Would most gay men be happy with trying to force themselves to enjoy sex with women?

                    • It’s not helpful for you, but its increasingly helpful for me. I completely reject the notion that gay = must have sexual relationships with men. That’s so reductionist and constraining.

                      I would advice anyone who wanted to marry anyone to make sure that they loved them and that they both understood what “till death do us part” meant. You don’t go into marriage with secrets.

                    • …. absolutely. I think that your position is actually similar to bisexuals who marry (either a man or a woman) and are monogamous – as long as everyone knows the score. I also agree that being gay doesn’t mean you necessarily have sexual relationships with men. I was entirely celibate for three years before I met my partner. I was still gay, though

                    • Who said anything about ‘must have’ sex with men? We’re discussing erotic, romantic etc desires. A straight man on a two year ‘dry spell’ of celibacy hardly stops being heterosexual; why is the same thing not true of ‘gay men’?
                      NB personally, despite being devotely celibate, I’m all about the hoes these days, so the above isn’t a reflection of my own label-preferences!

                  • I think they used to – I hope you would agree that as it usually meant deceiving the wife, it was very unkind and cruel. I think with the changed social situation, it is less common now

              • Its very dangerous and psychologically not advisable, Peter. See ‘cognitive dissonance’. Actually, many people are ‘post-gay’ in the sense of not seeing ‘Being Gay’ as the entirety of their personhood, but they don’t find that a barrier to having relationship/s with people of the same sex. Your position is different as you are ideologically committed to denying your predominant attraction in terms of ‘practice’ owing to your Christian stance. My advice is always – and happily, many have taken it – to either give up Christianity or find a version where you can be happy and accepted. It appears , from the very, very low numbers of people sharing your position, that our stance convinces far more people than does yours. I expect this to continue as Christianity continues to decline in the UK

        • I’ve spent the best part of yesterday evening debating on the Guardian and Thinking Anglicans comment threads. I love both. The challenges to my position, the parry and thrust of skilled debaters are an intellectual fix for me.

          Tobias Haller is the chief liberal theological protagonist for gay marriage. Our debates exchanges on Thinking Anglicans have become legendary. We respect each other, but no quarter asked and no quarter given. We earnestly contend for the faith. Perhaps, I kind of like him because our logic circuits are wired similarly.

          With all due respect to Peter, this is nowhere near as gladiatorial, so, sorry if you can’t stand the heat!

          • I remember Philip (of this parish) commenting that many of his perfectly logical and non-emotive posts have been deleted at the Guardian – something that this liberal agrees is entirely unfair! I’m never off the Guardian sportspages, but the rest of the comment threads always looked like more-heat-than-light sorts of places. One recalls Julie Bindel claiming that most people, especially men, don’t regard rape as that serious a crime (!), comments threads full of men objecting to this, and loads of posts of feminists calling said men misogynists! It would be a good if a conservative statistics buff (like Peter!) could turn his mind to the endless “1 in 4 women will be raped” type factoids that are a feature of feminist discourse. Were I a conservative looking for votes to my cause, I’d also note (given your points on paternity) that your average straight guy family man is probably far, far more concerned about unfairly losing custody of his kids than he is about two gay guys hooking up in a Church (er, so to speak ;-))
            Glad you’ve had some good debates at the Guardian.

            • I don’t quite know where the 1 in 4 comes from – I thought it was 1 in 4 sexually assaulted rather than raped (which could include being groped in the underground). What sometimes people miss is that that doesn’t mean that 1 in 4 men are rapists or gropers. It means that a few men are getting away with assaulting a large number of women because it’s so under-reported and difficult to prove. No matter how badly some feminists want us to have ‘equal sexual freedom’ to men, it just isn’t advisable to end up alone with a man you don’t know very well. Just because you have a right to do something doesn’t make it a good idea.

        • Excuse me. You have all been making it pretty clear that marrying sodomites is not something you wish to tarnish your golden intangibles with. You now have that enshrined in law.I don’t see what your issue is.

    • I’m entirely in favour of changing the law. Its just that my view is that the secular law should have nothing to do with religion and that the church needs to sort out what it wants to do. However, I don’t believe that the consequences for the church should have any bearing on the law. Its up to the church to sort out the difficulties it may bring for them.
      Mind you it appears that the government is trying to do it for them – without asking first! But perhaps the church should think whether its very noisy complaints may have inspired this response. They must have realised that the legislation wasn’t going to be removed just because they didn’t like it – if that had been the case none of the pro-gay rights changes would have happened as the church have opposed them all at the time other than initial decriminalisation

        • Yep. What I am saying is that the advocates of gay marriage really aren’t using the Bible at all to justify it. Why should we? Marriage is a secular contract in law, and the churches are being given the right to decide whether they wish to partake in it when the partners are of the same sex. Or not, in the case of the CofE and CinW – clearly they can’t be left to their own devices and Nanny knows best how to protect their freedoms!
          Or should I say headmaster – I have always thought that Tories tended towards headmasterly bossiness and Labour to worried nannying….

          • My comment was sloppily worded. What I was suggesting is that maybe we could go through the Changing Attitude points a bit more slowly rather than Peter writing them off at the beginning. (I was being a bit interfering as this is Peter’s blog!) This might not be important to you, Mike, but it’s important to many gay couples who attend Anglican Churches.

  2. ” If procreation is not an important component of marriage, why does the Church of England liturgy suggest it is? Indeed, why does the Bible suggest it is?”

    ” And of course protestant and reformed churches all approve of contraception”

    Given that Coward is correct in the latter assertion he has, perhaps, a point.

    • Contraception is perfectly fine. Doesn’t negate the principle in the slightest. No moral difference between wearing a condom, slipping out just in time or simply doing it all externally.

    • Interesting (and partly along the lines of what we were discussing on the other thread), here are the reasons given by the Vatican for rejecting artificial contraception:

      Consequences of Artificial Methods

      (Humanae Vitae) 17. Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control. Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.

      Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone. It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife.

  3. Rather amusingly the Archbishop of Wales has just piped up saying the blanket ban on gay marriages in the C of E is a step too far. Not at all. It is a fair and just decision.
    It will, of course, lead to Unitarian and Quaker churches gaining members and the established church being left in the hands of the lunatic fringe. But that is life.
    And the decision will probably also keep gay kids out of the hands out of the highly lucrative “ex gay” racket which can also only be a good thing as they will no longer be able to subject them to to their weird Josef Mengele type theories.

    • You know what – I completely agree that the proposed ban on the Church of England and Church in Wales is outrageous. It’s attempting to protect our religious freedom by dictating to us what we can and can’t do. Nonsense.

      I do wish you would drop all the hyperbole. I’d take you so much more seriously if you argued the facts and didn’t surround it with all this hatred.

      • Yes – I can’t really see how it will benefit the church. The approach taken by the Scottish parliament makes more sense – and may result in individual churches having the right to decide. In a presbyteryian system this is easier to enact but it may be the only realistic way forward. as clearly the issue won’t go away when gay people are marrying regularly and in time the issue becomes entirely uncontroversial, socially

      • I can see why the Govt, rightly or wrongly, may have thought it advisable to put a blanket ban on the CofE because it is by law established and because parsons are obliged to marry everyone in their parish who are not legally disbarred…but the Church of Wales is not established any longer, so what is the justification there (apart from the fact that the Westminster Parliament’s legislation in this case is being limited to England AND Wales)? Can you help explain, Peter?

        • I can’t! Really, I don’t understand it. Perhaps because it is the quasi national church of Wales? But I think it is an extraordinary move and the Church in Wales will very likely challenge it.

          • The irony. Your kind make it clear that marrying sodomites will bring fire and brimstone down on the country. You pass a bishop’s statement condemning even the possibility, you elect an Archbishop determined to oppose the move. Then when you get what you want (i.e the legal assurance that your diminishing congregations won’t be upset by the prospect of buggery on the altar, that local children will go unraped by passing clones), you get all prissy and protest your freedoms.

            The ban is a fantastic development and if the Archbishop of Wales is as sympathetic as I have heard, he can always join the Quakers or the Unitarians.

            You people have had your chances to show rational thinking on the issue. You failed to do so. You are now out of the discourse and free to run your churches by whatever archaic glorified gentlemen’s club rules you like.

            Both sides have won.

      • No it’s perfectly fine. The further your kind can be kept away from gay kids (and adults) the better. We can consign each other to our respective hells and have done with it.

      • By the way why does referencing Josef Mengele count as hyperbole? He too believed he could cure gay people of their affliction. Same position, different method.

  4. As an ex-Christian, I actually find this sort of document rather pointless as well. The Bible is of its time and in my view, needs to be largely dispersed with in terms of its usefulness. I came to the conclusion that there was very little left within Christianity which convinced me, and that it wasn’t what I believed or wanted to believe.
    I do think that the church is fast declining and in a few years will be little more than a club for the more fundamentalist elements and immigrants. I have been quite surprised how much many people without strong views on this issue do still think that its none of the business of the church….
    The current debacle will make the church appear distinctive, but also bizarre given the clear shift of opinion and attitudes on this issue – ultimately it will lead to its marginalisation. I’m fine with that!

  5. Point 11 is perfectly correct. The whole notion that all sexual conduct outside of marriage should be deemed an abomination in the eyes of the holy comes from Plato’s “Laws” where a group of wealthy aristocrats discuss putting together the ideal society and decide that it would be useful as a whole to control the population by putting that notion into statutory law.

    The early Christian view of marriage is probably closer to the angle St.Jerome took on it, a product of the fall, a mere sop to prevent sin, a secular distraction from the ways of the holy life:

    which is pretty much what St Paul himself says of it and why 1Cor 7 actually prizes celibacy over marriage, and why he states in 1Timothy that unmarried widows seeking to remarry abandon their first love and bring damnation upon themselves.

    St Augustine is also interesting on the topic promoting “conjugal purity” and condemning those who use sex bestially (ie.non-procreationally):

    My my how far you heretics have strayed and how little right do you have to pass judgement on others.

    • I’ll leave others to tackle you on the Early Christian view etc, but you’re completely distorting Plato. (All references below are to the Laws

      1) First, ‘The whole notion that all sexual conduct outside of marriage should be deemed an abomination in the eyes of the holy comes from Plato’s “Laws” ‘? Really?? Nothing to do with Judaism? Anyway…

      2) Laws 839: ‘For, in the first place, it follows the dictates of nature, and it serves to keep men from sexual rage and frenzy and all kinds of fornication, and from all excess in meats and drinks, and it ensures in husbands fondness for their own wives: other blessings also would ensue, in infinite number, if one could make sure of this law.’

      Plato regards (eg) homosexual activity as wrong (for the above reasons), thinks it is hated by God (835: ‘But the things which do make no small difference, and of which it is hard to persuade men — these form a task especially for God (were it possible that orders should come from him’) and having established that, only then tries to work out how best to establish that law in his city.

      As the Stanford Encyclopedia puts it:

      In the Laws, Plato applies the idea of a fixed, natural law to sex, and takes a much harsher line than he does in the Symposium or the Phraedrus. In Book One he writes about how opposite-sex sex acts cause pleasure by nature, while same-sex sexuality is “unnatural” (636c). In Book Eight, the Athenian speaker considers how to have legislation banning homosexual acts, masturbation, and illegitimate procreative sex widely accepted. He then states that this law is according to nature (838-839d). Probably the best way of understanding Plato’s discussion here is in the context of his overall concerns with the appetitive part of the soul and how best to control it. Plato clearly sees same-sex passions as especially strong, and hence particularly problematic, although in the Symposium that erotic attraction could be the catalyst for a life of philosophy, rather than base sensuality (Cf. Dover, 1989, 153-170; Nussbaum, 1999, esp. chapter 12).

      • And dare one say that Plato’s proto-cocktail party ruminations are, in the Year of Our Lord 2012, about as intrinsically useful, let alone binding, as Humorism?

            • Why not read the article for yourself and find out. You might also wish to google up on what Marsilio Ficino wrote about the striking similarities between Christ and Socrates and the common threads running through the written accounts by Socrates four disciples and the Gospels.
              The Socrates narrative features a last supper, the crowing of a cockerel, the ransom of 30 pieces of silver for Socrates bail etc etc.
              It was a major theological issue during the Rennaiscence and up until the 19th century books about Socrates Vs Christ still appeared.

              • Thank you, I have read the article. I still don’t see where Plato says that (eg) salvation is achieved through Jesus rather than through knowledge of the Ideas. Perhaps you’ll quote the passages where he does this?

                • Yes, ok. I’ll modify my stance. Take Plato out of St Paul and you have very little left aside from some greetings and his accounts of a lot of hallucinatory visions of somebody he never actually met in person but seems to have found a convenient prop to hang his Platonism on.

                  He might just as well have had visions of Elijah for all it brings to the table,

        • Well, I certainly wouldn’t rely on the Laws for a specific argument here! But in general terms, his version of eudaimonistic ethics (ie the ethics of human flourishing) is still worth grappling with philosophically.

          • Can’t help feeling ‘not averse to a little bum action’ doesn’t quite capture the nuances of the last two paragraphs of Lucas’ paper! But Plato certainly wants to abolish marriage in the Republic, although he is more positive about it in the Laws.

      • Yes, yes, I know all that,having actually read him for myself. Your point being? And, of course, the OT also makes eating shellfish and pork an “abomination” but we don’t hear much about that do we?
        This is all YOUR Christianity is. Social coercion, the use of the threat of divine sanction to support a secular communal tie in order to stabilize society.
        You don’t need the bible for that, Plato would do the job just as well.

        • You’re simply repeating your original error. Plato first identifies what is harmful to human beings and only then talks about social control in order to save people from that harm. The aim is not to control the population simply for the sake of domination as you suggest but to benefit the population.

          • So what is “harmful” then? It can’t be buggery because Mr Ould holds that sodomy is safe and holy in the context of heterosexual marriage. Could it be two people who love each other and want to commit to each other for life in a single exclusive relationship? Well that’s marriage out of the window then isn’t it?

            It is about social control and how the populace should be regulated. Now this may have a place when it come to limiting stuff like alcohol sales or supporting the prohibition of drugs etc when these are known to create social dangers. But, in terms of consigning to perdition whole sectors of the adult population who love members of their own gender and who want to have the same ordinary kinds of relationships that heterosexuals take for granted, then its bigoted discrimination and that is all.

            Oh and before you give me the usual nonsense about it being on a par with bestiality and child rape, bear in mind that the latter involve power imbalances and are thus immoral on that score. Not that it stops old men marrying people young enough to be their daughters, of course, but hey, what can you expect?

            If you want to argue that it is harmful on non-procreational grounds and were it universal mankind would perish, then the same argument will have to be had against artificial contraception. Which is fair enough, but not one you wish to worry yourself over clearly.

            The more I read this nonsense the more I am glad that your kind have been taken out of the discourse altogether. The levels of irrationality here are staggering.

            • Okay, Alan. Let’s do this.

              ‘Could it be two people who love each other and want to commit to each other for life in a single exclusive relationship? Well that’s marriage out of the window then isn’t it?’

              Any institution has a shared social meaning and that meaning can evolve. However, it must evolve in a way that remains shared societal and inter-generational benefit. Otherwise, it lacks the enduring significance of an institution. Call it a trend or a movement instead.

              I’ve been reading recently about genetic sexual attraction. It would seem that biological relations who are a separated early on (typically at birth) and are reunited can experience intense emotional attraction. The stigma engenders secrecy, They are not sick, They just don’t fit the norms of society.

              Several are both single, want to get married and would even undergo sterilisation, if the real concern was inbreeding depression. There is no potential physical harm, so if they, as consenting adults, want to commit to a single exclusive relationship, why shouldn’t they be allowed to marry?

              From your argument. let’s see.

              1. They love each other and want to commit to each other for life in a single exclusive relationship. Check!

              2. They are a part of the adult population who love a member of their own family and who want to have the same ordinary kinds of relationships that heterosexuals take for granted. Check!

              3. The relationship does not involve power imbalances (like bestiality and child rape) and are thus not immoral on that score. Check!

              4. There are no procreational issues. And anyway, the elderly, infertile and those with potential for children with birth defects can marry Check!

              Okay, it may mean that the pairing is constituted in opposition to beneficial biological kinship of which marriage is a crucial element. The same can be said for gays getting married. So, according to you, it appears that’s optional. It’s about just two people, not whether the pairing is constituted in opposition to beneficial biological kinship.

              Enlighten us.

              • A real life example, did anybody see last Sunday’s episode of ‘Call The Widwife’ (based on true life history of a midwife working in 1950s East End in charity hospital run by Anglican nuns). The young midwives are gossiping because they’ve discovered that the cleaner and her brother gardener share the same bed. An older nun tells them off and asks them if they’ve ever been in an English Workhouse (the brother and sister were sent there with their family when v. young because of debt). They object ‘but their brother and sister’ and she replies ‘There was no family when they closed those gates’ (families were separated into men’s wings and women’s wings and barely saw one another). It’s on BBC iplayer for the rest of the day if you want to see it.

                It raises an interesting question. If biology is just an accident of nature and real family is about who you love (‘different families, same love’), then why not siblings who didn’t grow up together? And what about people genetically related to the same sperm or egg downer. Would they even know they were related if they bumped into one another?

              • And, of course, if argument fails bring in a lot of abstruse pseudo science to try and blind people with.

                Are you trying to infer that incestual relationships would be a result of gay marriage?. If so, then please explain that under the current set up the marriage of man and woman has not yet extended to father and daughter or mother and son, or brother and sister? Why would two people of the same sex marrying suddenly kick start this phenomenon?

                It’s such a ridiculous statement and yet another reason I am pleased that the C.of E has been excluded from the debate altogether now.

                And why would I waste my time and energy exterminating a group of people who are hell bent on suicide anyway? Let ’em hang themselves I say.

                • ‘Are you trying to infer that incestual relationships would be a result of gay marriage?. If so, then please explain that under the current set up the marriage of man and woman has not yet extended to father and daughter or mother and son, or brother and sister? Why would two people of the same sex marrying suddenly kick start this phenomenon?’

                  So, since I’m not (since the absence of phrases suggesting ‘incest is the automatic concomitant of gay marriage’ or ‘it’s a slippery slope from gay marriage to incest and polygamy’ prove I’m not), your conditional question ‘Are you trying to infer..If so, then…’ becomes meaningless.

                  So then, you assign the position to me anyway: ‘It’s such a ridiculous statement and yet another reason I am pleased that the C.of E has been excluded from the debate altogether now.’ Given that the ‘ridiculous statement’ arose from an unsubstantiated inference, I have no reason to respond to this either.

                  This reminds me of that fallacy which attempts to attribute a position that was not actually held by a debating opponent, only to discredit it. All that I can remember is a metaphor about torching a combustible effigy, so perhaps you of the other commenters here can help…

                  What I did demonstrate was that if marriage only amounted to the reductive criteria that I distilled from your earlier comment, it would also be possible to permit incest.

                  However, my position is that the other prohibitions that make a marriage void, including incest, prove that marriage laws do more than your criteria permit. Marriage upholds the primacy beneficial biological kinship as a policy. For this reason, those relations that are constituted prima facie in opposition to this are not:

                  Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, Section 11: Grounds on which marriage is void:
                  A marriage celebrated after 31st July 1971 shall be void on the following grounds only, that is to say—

                  (a)that it is not a valid marriage under the provisions of [F11the [F12Marriage Acts 1949 to 1986]] (that is to say where—

                  (i)the parties are within the prohibited degrees of relationship;

                  (ii)either party is under the age of sixteen; or

                  (iii)the parties have intermarried in disregard of certain requirements as to the formation of marriage);

                  (b)that at the time of the marriage either party was already lawfully married [F13or a civil partner]F13;

                  (c)that the parties are not respectively male and female;

                  (d)in the case of a polygamous marriage entered into outside England and Wales, that either party was at the time of the marriage domiciled in England and Wales.

                  None of these prohibitions deliver beneficial biological kinship. So, permitting any one of them is a special pleading that thwarts the goal of marriage as social policy.

                  Why should I waste any more time on demolishing arguments of someone so bent on logical suicide. It’s a pity. Since I have debated Tobias Haller and Professor Iain McLean on similar matters, I somehow expected more from you as the self-lionised scourge of Christian apologists. (sigh!)

            • I would love the chance to be irrational, but you won’t let me get a word in edgeways between telling me what I think and believe (which has no relationship with the actual facts of my position) and then pouring abuse on me for those strawmen.

              I *LOVE* your debating style.

                  • Alan did also use “Your Kind” to refer to liberal me so, all else being said, you’re in ‘good’ company ;-)

                  • Oh, I fully understand. Doesn’t bother me in the slightest. You have lost the argument, progress is coming. The ban on the C.of E is now starting to get those individual clergymen who are willing to marry gay couples to make their voices heard. Perhaps we will see them outnumber you and yours?
                    As your kind did with Marie Stopes, the abolition of slavery, the Catholic Test Act etc etc. You shook your bibles vehemently in protest but were overtaken by history.

            • “If you want to argue that it is harmful on non-procreational grounds and were it universal mankind would perish, then the same argument will have to be had against artificial contraception.”

              Very true. And I would add that the same argument applies with equal force to celibacy.

              • Celibacy is the sacrifice of a natural good in favour of a higher supernatural good. Contraception is different (in Catholic teaching) because it involves an objectively immoral action and isn’t oriented towards a supernatural good.

                • Hopefully you would agree though Lazarus that the RC position on all aspects of sexuality is more logically consistent than the birth control-allowing reformed one? I recall David S defending the symbolism of marital sex utilising birth control. An act where the openness to new life is deliberately precluded via artificial means hardly functions as transcendent symbol of the reproductive possibilities of marriage

                  • Well, of course, it would be tempting for me smugly to note the superior consistency of RC thought!! But I think that might be ill-mannered -so I won’t! (A quick google produced this which suggests that the modern ‘reformed’ position isn’t monolithic and certainly my understanding of at least Anglicanism pre-1930 Lambeth is that it was nearly identical to the current RC position. But I’m straying beyond what I can claim to know here…) More seriously, I could see at least the possibility of a natural law argument which tolerated some artificial contraception with a generally procreative relationship -but that wouldn’t be the RC position and I’ll therefore leave that to others to argue.

                • It was exactly the same in Anglican circles up until the 1930’s. You only need to see how Marie Stopes’ ” Married Love” was greeted by both sides of the church. This is another reason why the likes of Mr Ould are being more than a little forked tongued on the issue.
                  “Family planning” is sin from the orthodox viewpoint as it denies faith in God’s natural purpose and goes against the natural intentions of genital activity.

                • The argument that the human race would die out if it became universal applies as much to celibacy as it does to homosexuality or to contraception. In each case, the argument, however unassailable in logic, is detached from reality, since it envisages a contingency which has no chance of being fulfilled. Whatever one believes about the (im)morality of contraception or the supernatural value of celibacy does not in any way affect that point.

                  • Fair enough: I was thinking more about the ‘harmful on non-procreational grounds’ part of the conjunction rather than the ‘mankind would perish’ bit. I suspect that those who advance the latter aren’t making an empirical claim about what would actually happen, but invoking the sort of universalization test of moral rules that you find in Kant. But not having much sympathy with Kant, I’ll leave that to others to argue…

            • Well, Alan, ‘my kind’ (Catholics) wouldn’t agree with Peter on ‘buggery’ (assuming you’ve stated his views correctly) and are opposed to artificial contraception. But go on, throw everyone who disagrees with you on anything into the same bucket of ‘your kind’.

              You’re jumping around all over the place here. Opposition to SSM and homosexual activity are not the same thing: to note that marriage has a procreative function is not in itself to condemn homosexual activity. (The arguments are different, since a belief that homosexual activity is wrong is neither a sufficient nor a necessary reason for believing SSM is wrong. (Eg): you might believe that homosexual activity was wrong but still think that it is better if it is encouraged to take place in a lifelong faithful relationship.)

              I’m not sure there’s a great deal of point in going into either of these broad questions with you: in essence, Peter’s whole blog is about these issues and you’re clearly not trying to engage with him at any rational level. (Which is a pity because, as Ryan has suggested, this is one of those few spaces where people from very different perspectives can meet on these questions and try and get some sort of fruitful engagement.)

              My specific intervention here was to point out that, in the midst of your other distortions, you are also distorting Plato. In one way, that’s not terribly important: the issues of SSM and homosexual activity will trundle on with or without his contribution. But in two other ways it is, First, it’s symptomatic of your failure to engage with any rational argument. You know you’re right and ‘my kind’ are all gay hating bigots. Second, from a Catholic point of view, Plato is part of that eudaimonistic tradition in ethics that forms the core of natural law (ie philosophical) reflection on morality. That doesn’t mean that every single one of his arguments is a good one (I don’t think the Laws in this case is particularly enlightening) but it does mean that when you accuse him of simply desiring to dominate rather than benefit his citizens, you are misunderstanding a key element in classical political theory and hence Catholic teaching: ie law seeks the flourishing of citizens.

                • You’d maintain that it’s not intrinsically sinful however? I think even Mark Driscoll takes that line these days! Which is no bad thing of course – it’s a lot easier to establish a ”mutually agreeable acts within heterosexual marriage” sexual ethic from the bible than it is a list of allowed and not-allowed acts! Wasn’t women-on-top sex considered immoral in the bad old days of mindless Patriarchy?

                  Indeed, there’s surely even some wiggle-room in the ‘mutually agreeable’ clause – surely a large part of Christian Marriage is meeting the other person’s desires (irrespective of whether cunnilingus or anal or whatever is one’s particular cup of tea)

              • A bunch of wealthy aristocrats having a wine and cheese party and discussing how best to govern a country by using appeals to the divine to stamp on certain kinds of behaviour within communities has very little to do with some itinerant hermit wandering around the middle east saying things like “treat others as they would treat you”, “don’t judge, lest you be judged”, “speck of dirt in brother’s eye, plank of wood in one’s own” etc.etc.

                One is decidedly a vertical power structure the other is horizontal/mutualist. If you find that difference difficult to comprehend, I hope I have been useful.

                • If you’re arguing that Christianity and Plato are in central ways very different, I’d completely agree. (But wasn’t it your argument elsewhere that St Paul was entirely contained within Plato? Seems you might note with as much force the difference between an itinerant tent maker and aristocrats.) To defend Plato, however, the Laws is as much a ‘city in speech’ as anything in the Republic even if the city envisaged in more concrete terms: the ‘wine and cheese’ party is about modelling a mutual, free rational exchange on the nature of the good life (bit like these comboxes, perhaps?!). And you’re still misunderstanding the process of Plato’s thought: the appeal to the divine (very limited if you actually look at the text (Laws 835)): Plato dismisses the possibility of direct divine command and turns instead to the ‘bold man’ following reason) follows on the identification of harmful behaviour: you find out what’s harmful, note that God will therefore hate it, and then work out how to prevent it.

  6. I’m sorry to say that I’ve blacklisted Alan after one more use of “Your Kind” after he was requested very clearly not to use that language in the manner he was. Remind me after Christmas and I’ll take him off the blacklist.

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