“Truth, marriage and the threat to religious liberty”

Below are some excerpts from an article on the ABC called “Truth, marriage and the threat to religious liberty” by Anthony Fisher, 6 September 2012:

Marriage as the crunch point for religious liberty

Dan Cathy, president of a family-owned business, Chick-Fil-A, is a Bible Christian. Unremarkably, you might think, he told a Baptist publication and a Christian radio programme that he believes in the “biblical definition of the family unit” based on the marriage of a man and a woman.

All hell broke loose. Within hours the fast-food chicken chain was being labelled a hate organisation in the media, its restaurants were spray-painted with defamations and colleges were cancelling them as caterers. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said he hoped to ban the restaurants from his city, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel declared that “Chick-Fil-A values are not Chicago values” and the company that supplied Muppets and other toys for the Chick-Fil-A kids’ meals cancelled its contract and donated a large sum to the Gay and Lesbian Alliance.

This is no isolated incident….

In several European countries state and even church schools must now teach homosexuality amongst the range of options for children. Religious leaders, such as the Chief Rabbi of Amsterdam, have been sacked for daring to differ. In Spain same-sex lobby groups want to prosecute a bishop for hate speech after he preached in favour of Catholic teaching on marriage.

Not in Australia surely? Well, when Victoria’s Deputy Chief Psychiatrist, Kuruvilla George, joined 150 other doctors advising a Senate inquiry that children do better with a Mum and Dad, committed to each other and to the kids for the long haul, he was pilloried, forced out of his position on the Victorian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, and threatened with dismissal from his academic and medical posts….

It is this intrinsic link between marriage and family that explains why societies take marriage so seriously. The state doesn’t normally get involved in the relationship business. It is not up to governments to tell us who our friends should be or even who we live with. The state isn’t there to regulate emotional ties, hopes and promises. It is only because marriage involves so much more than emotional ties – and especially the having and rearing of children – that governments ever got involved in recognising, regulating and supporting marriages…

SSM advocates say talk of polygamy is scaremongering, but they give no principled reason for excluding it. Indeed, a three-person partnership of a man and two women was recently registered under Brazil’s civil union law introduced to accommodate SSM advocates; a public official explained that the concepts of marriage and family have now “morphed” to allowing recognition such novel arrangements.

If polygamy is irresistible on the “all that matters is that they love each other” line, so is marriage between siblings or between a parents and their (adult) child. Once again this is not just “slippery slope” pessimism: it simply reflects the fact that the advocates of SSM give no account of marriage that would exclude such intimate partnerships from being deemed marriages. Only marriage understood as the kind of comprehensive union I have outlined can resist such “morphing.”

So, too, proposals that two (or more) people who love each other and want to marry for, say, ten years with an option for renewal. Many today think – like Humpty-Dumpty in Through the Looking Glass, who said “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less” – marriage is whatever we make it…

To say that redefining marriage won’t affect our community’s understanding of marriage is a lie we must resist. So too the pressures to bully us into silence.

The fact is: there’s nothing inevitable about SSM. Human freedom is the perpetual foil of all inevitability theses, a lesson the Marxists had to learn the hard way. The future is the product of human deliberation and choice -what we make, under divine grace, in and through our individual and common actions. So can we, together, turn this thing around? By God’s grace, I believe we can.

I encourage you to read the entire article (from ABC’s Religious and Ethics section).

Please sign this Petition supported by Vanessa Goodwin MLC against the Same Sex Marriage Bill in Tasmania. The words of the petition follow:

Tasmanian citizens draw to the attention of the House the Same-Sex Marriage Bill 2012.
The Bill:
(1)  has a very low priority for most Tasmanian citizens, who would prefer that the government focus its efforts on health, the economy, jobs and education;
(2)  will be challenged in the High Court, causing the government to be further distracted from its core concerns for years; and
(3)  deeply aggrieves many Tasmanians, both from faith and non-faith backgrounds, who consider marriage to be a vital and natural bedrock institution that should not be redefined.
Your petitioners, therefore, request the House to reject the Bill.


“Truth, marriage and the threat to religious liberty” — 3 Comments

  1. Thanks for your encouragement Arthur. We continue to live the challenge of discipleship in a chaotic world. Glad we are are in it together trusting in God’s grace in Christ.

  2. What is it about some Christians that makes them fear that legislation to protect the rights of everyone will make it somehow compulsory for everyone to behave the same? Back in the 90s, some Tasmanian church leaders pleaded that homosexual practise remain a crime, apparently out of fear that children would be “encouraged into a gay (and therefore deviant) lifestyle”. Now we’re urged to see euthanasia and same sex marriage as threats to the fabric of society. How about we chill for a bit and recognise that the choices of others are dictated by their own values, beliefs, priorities, life experiences, psychological and biological “wiring” and sometimes just stuff that life throws at them? Claims to the “truth” are dangerous here and Bishop Fisher walked into a minefield when he selected some of his “historical” examples. No-one’s going to force same sex couples to marry and neither are heterosexual unions likely to be devalued by redefining marriage – Fisher’s ranting about polygamy and incest are just bizarre and contribute little to a reasoned debate. Given that there are now state laws that protect couples regardless of the gender configuration,some of us wonder about the purpose of marriage for anyone, but to argue against marriage equality on the basis of “what’s best for children” (did Fisher actually say that couples who choose to be childless can’t claim to be married?? Or did I imagine that??) or what Jesus might have meant by marriage (when he spoke of it in a patriachal, Middle Eastern, 1st century CE context) is to venture onto very shaky ground. Similarly, to be supportive of most of the human rights of same sex attracted people, but screech to a halt at the right to marry (or participate in the eucharist) is to suggest that some are more equal than others. Perhaps we need to hear more from modern theologians and Jesus scholars (eg John Dominic Crossen and Marcus Borg) as we seek meet the challenge of being Jesus people in the 21st century.

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