A whole lot of gay loving

Last Friday, New York became the 6th US state to behave like a western democracy and vote in favour of the legality of same-sex marriages. This is excellent news.  I was best-man at the civil partnership (as UK law treats same-sex marriages) of 2 very close friends, and it was a deeply moving, beautiful day.  It has however given the fundamentalist crazies cause to thrash about in their trailers and beat their fists on their pulpits. I get very cross when silly, misinformed people pronounce on the morality and legality of these unions.

It's generally religious people, who claim to embrace society's downtrodden, who cannot reconcile anything other than a man and a woman as forming a "normal" relationship. Occasionally there is an areligious conservative who expresses these opinions too, but generally they are xenophobic bigots whose arguments are fit for not even the gutter press.

The primary idea which cause religious conservatives to foam at the mouth is that it is an "offense before God". When you closely scrutinize this it boils down to only a few passages in The Bible. A few in Leviticus (old testament) and a couple in St Paul's letter to the Church of Corinth (new testament) - St Paul also had a thing about women wearing hats and being quiet. Christians are on really shaky ground if they take Leviticus too seriously because it tells us to do and not do all sorts of things weird things, from burning doves when you are on your monthly, not having tattoos, to wearing clothes made from more than one fabric, and swearing at your parents (that one carries the death penalty, you've been warned).  The New Testament actually advises against "sexual immorality" and it is modern Christian mentalists (particularly low-church troglodytes who would welcome back slavery and fiercely defend their right to bear arms) who rewrite this to mean same-sex relationships. What it intended to relate to is incest, rape, sexual slavery and other sexual abuse. These are seriously immoral acts, same-sex relationships are not. No really, compared to all the horrific things humans inflict on one another, it really is not. Don't be silly. Shush now.  Anyway Southern Baptists are jolly good sports, they're all about inclusivity so I've heard.

Anyway, moral finger wagging aside, there is a deeper misunderstanding about what marriage in a Christian sense is and what it means. Many Christian denominations see marriage as a sacrament, that is something which reflects the divinity of God. This is means, God is a benign creator who has scattered  little parcels across the world which allow you to be more like HIM. Like unlocking achievements in computer games, but without the gold coins falling from the sky or musical jingle. So marriage, and a good marriage allows you to be closer to God, and God isn't gay, so tough luck. Um, no, that's just bias. Actually reading the New Testament will show you lots of same-sex loving happening all over the place.
"faith, hope and love"
"love one another with a pure heart, fervently"
Ah ha! "With a pure heart" can't mean with a gay heart! Silly Billy, it is actually in favour of loving regardless of looks, status, hand-writing, novelty teapot collection, sex or gender, but doing it truthfully.

The really key thing here is that aside from the law (the one courts and lawyers use, not the vague idea of a celestial one), the only people who actually do the marrying are the happy couple.  In a religious sense the priest, minister, justice of the peace, or licensed elvis impersonator are only there as witnesses. It is convenient if they can fulfill the legal (and entirely secular) obligations, but as far as God is concerned it's a contract between the couple and the almighty. If you were married in a Anglican Church in UK the vicar is licensed to legally marry you, that happens when you sign the register in the private side chapel. The reading of the vows has no legal baring on the marriage, and is just for show. It doesn't mean it's not important. In fact if you can say you love the one you are standing in front of, before hundreds of people, and will mop up their sick when they drink too much or whisk them away to Paris when they are stressing their eyebrows off, that's hugely significant and symbolic, particularly if you mean it.

So if the Christian church doesn't have any legal part in a marriage, and God would be fine with the couple saying "I do" to each other in private, then what are churches making a fuss about? Well... Exactly. It basically boils down to tradition, handed down from a time when the Church and state were tightly coupled. If you make a judgement which is on shaky scriptural grounds, be very careful how you live the rest of your life. It had better be immaculate.

Q: How many evangelical Christians does it take to change a light bulb?
A: CHANGE?!