Tuesday, October 9, 2012

In which I wade into the fray and throw around some thoughts on homosexuality & marriage.

As I enter this fracas, I humbly acknowledge that I do not speak as the authority on this topic (or, for that matter, on any of the topics that I write about).  In the past few months New Zealand media have treated us to the musings of many worthy contributors well-read, well-researched, well-experienced, well-thought and well-lived.  The opinions and beliefs are (might I say) as varied as the entrants in New Zealand’s Got Talent.

And still, here I am adding my voice to the mix.  Because I can.  Because I want to.  And because, the only way that we can find a positive, life-giving direction forward is to understand the concerns, the fears, the aspirations, the hopes and the ideals that each person, on all ‘sides’ of this Bill are carrying.  Understanding starts with hearing.  Truly hearing and wanting to understand.

When each voice is heard, you realise that at many levels, this debate is much bigger than a Marriage Amendment Bill.  This is about identity, belonging, safety, and knowing that you’re OK.  It is about acceptance and forgiveness and judgement and miscommunication. It’s about being heard and understood. 

I’m not saying that everyone can be right, that “what’s right for you is right for you, and what’s right for me is right for me”.  I’m an absolutist.  I believe in absolute truth, wrong and right.  I believe that those who genuinely desires truth (and not just the experience of seeking), who continue to pursue it even when it comes in forms unsavoury or surprising, will find it.  

This is where my journey has taken me so far.  This is what I believe is true.

Homosexuality is not right:  You’ll probably not be surprised to read that I take my measure of truth from the Bible.  In my view; history, church tradition, and my own experience of life have shown the Bible to be accurate, inspired, and I believe – the word of God.  The Bible is pretty clear that God made man for woman, woman for man, and sex for man and woman together. As a side note, I think that our biology also hints at this intention;  the way that  a man and woman fit together, the fact that it is a heterosexual union that creates children.   
Maybe this sounds harsh, but let me ask you;  Would you say that lying is wrong?   Yet who amongst us would claim not to have chalked up a few white lies in our lifetime? Most people feel that to label a behaviour or lifestyle as ‘wrong’ is to be judgmental.  To put up walls, to make someone feel less than.   But we are all in the same boat.  No-one has all the answers, no-one has a perfect record. 
Stating a belief about a certain behaviour is just that.  A statement of belief.  In an article, it can seem a little cold.In the context of a relationship on would hope that it was followed by a conversation of how we both honour and love each other, even if we live different belief systems.  I can acknowledge the validity of a person, even if, after listening and understanding their perspective I question the validity of their belief.

Homosexuality is not marriage: In the beginning (of most creation stories in fact)  the Supreme Being creates the world, culminating in the creation of a man and woman/Earth Mother and Sky Father/Ranginui and Papatuanuku, who continue to multiply and diversify and produce offspring to populate the earth.  Marriage was instituted as a covenant, initiated by God, and lived out between a man and a woman. 
It’s original purpose was not to be a symbol of love and commitment, although these things flowed out of it.  Marriage was a tool of creation, primarily the creation of children, reflecting the beauty and nature of the Divine Character who so carefully crafted this order.  Marriage (and it’s definition) are intrinsically bound in it’s beginning.  
If homosexual couples asked to abolish the use of the term ‘homosexual’ and call everyone ‘heterosexual’, I’d eat my hat, and then I’d argue that we can’t do that – because you don’t fundamentally change the definition of a term.  You could come up with a new name, but you can’t call homosexuals heterosexual because they’re not.  In the same way, two people: man and man, or woman and woman, no matter how much love and commitment characterises their relationship, they don’t fulfill the definition of what marriage is.
In saying this, often heterosexual marriages fall far short of fulfilling this picture of marriage.  Sad, yes.  But an argument for gay-marriage? I think not.  It seems to make more sense to put resource and time into strengthening heterosexual marriage than to use it as an excuse to campaign for something else.  If gay-marriage is to become legal, it needs to be on it’s own benefits rather than on the shortcomings of other models.

No-one has the right to judge: Enough said.  I’m preaching to the choir here.  However, ‘no-one has the right to judge’ does not equal ‘no-one has the right to make absolute statements’.  I can say that i believe homosexuality is wrong, whilst acknowledging that I have no knowledge of each person’s background, past, childhood experiences, relationships history, personality, worldview, trauma, greatest aspirations etc.  I can make a judgement call on an idea/lifestyle.  It’s not my job to judge a person.

All people need to feel accepted:  I find it interesting that Jesus Christ attracted tax collectors and prostitutes and repelled religious folk.  Churches and church-folk (myself included) could do well to take a few pages from his book, or, you know, quite a few pages maybe.  He didn’t condone or brush over lifestyles and behaviours that he acknowledged as being wrong and unhealthy, but people who were around him knew that he loved them regardless.  If you’ve been burned by the Church, or bible-bashers in the past, I’m sorry.  I hope you are able to see the shining love from the face of the Master behind the flaws and failings of His followers.

So, where to from  here?  Personally, I want to be more committed to listening.  And discussing the things that really matter with people who really care. In terms of the Marriage Amendment Bill, I'm opposed because I think it falls short of achieving what proponents believe it will, and it fundamentally opposes my belief of what marriage is and should be. If anything, what the ongoing debates, the internet skirmishes, and the Facebook encounters have shown me that there are strong feelings on both sides, and people want to be heard.  I also want to look for solutions.  Why are so many marriages failing and what can be done about that?  Why are so many young people (especially homosexual) committing suicide, and what can we do? what do I think marriage is supposed to be – I mean I have some theories, but what about the practical ‘what it actually looks like? If I want to get married one day, it’s probably a good thing to have nailed down, or at least nailed down a bit more. 

Before I end, I want to acknowledge my friends; "gay", "lesbian" and "straight", who graciously allow me to shape my thoughts and sound ideas off them in the context of our friendship. I hope that my heart appears between the lines and that you are able to hear and understand what I am trying to say.  Feel free to share your thoughts also - Let's have another internet discussion!

Kia whai ngā tāngata katoa i te rangatiratanga i roto i te pono   - Let us pursue the truth, each and every one of us.


  1. Hey Peta. I have to say, it takes a lot of guts to write a post like that especially when opinions are so frenzied. I agree with a bit of what you wrote, but on the whole I disagree with a lot of what you say. I'm writing this with a voice activated software so there may be some mistakes.

    I too believe there needs to be a clear distinction between homosexuality and marriage in this debate. That said I do not believe either is wrong.

    The problem I have with your assessment of the "rightness" of being gay is, and like most Christians nowadays, is that it's built predominantly, if not solely on their interpretation of the Bible. In today's world, the Bible is both guiding and extremely disguising in situations such as this. Times have changed. A woman and everything she sits on are no longer considered unclean for seven days during her period . We no longer kill people for working on Sabbath. The Bible's context has changed.

    For example, bear with me, the Bible says you can eat locusts, despite saying not to eat other insects. Why? Because after locust swarms, that was pretty much all that was left. It was a guide on how to stay alive as a Hebrew. In a biblical context, the same goes for same sex relations. Thout shalt no lie with another man was not a rule because it was considered immoral, but bbecause the Hebrew nation's goal was to expand and conquer. As you say, two men cannot produce offspring nd therefore cannot proliferate their kind.

    In bible times, this made sense. Don't produce children, your race dies out. Now, this no longer makes sense in today's context. And yet people still take the word of the bible and apply it today without knowing the context, an base their entire belief system around a misconception. This would be okay if it were say, about hamburgers or the weather. But these misconceptions affect real people and cause them to be judged, mistreated and not given the same rights. That is not cool.

    Marriage in biblical times was not the holy sanctity we have this fantasy about. It was between a man and a woman. And then another woman. And usually several more. And let's throw in a cousin or daughter. This is pretty much outlawed now, but back then it was how almost every marriage went. But times change. We have to too. Basing our views on antiquated notions is just not feasible anymore.

    What harm will allowing two human beings who love each other do to me or you? They make good parents, are just as successful in relationships as heterosexuals and if they get a piece of paper and vows and can feel accepted and loved, who are we to say they can't ?

  2. PM you're really cool. I like the humility with which you approach this and especially your point about being non-judgemental not being the same as not making absolutist statements. I've been thinking about this a lot lately - the measure of acceptance is how you treat people who "offend" your moral code, rather than how small or large your moral code is itself.

    That said, I find it difficult to sit with the majority of “Christian Protest” around this issue – mostly because I feel like it kind of misses the point of Grace. As far as I’m concerned this idea of obey a law to make you right with God is very Ancient Israel – and it didn’t work even then. As Christians we know that we have been made right by grace through faith in Christ. We know that obedience to God isn’t about following a list of rules but about moving in love to know and imitate the Lord we are following. It is a response to internal change, not to external pressure. We know this (intellectually, although I’m sure we all float in and out of having it as heart knowledge) for ourselves. We know for ourselves that we don’t become right with God by speaking truth, by being generous with our resources, by abstaining from sex till marriage, by fasting, by being straight. So how can we tell non-believers to follow God’s law – knowing that it won’t do them any good because it will be resentful –not in love –not a response to Grace….knowing it won’t do God any good because He desires relationship, not robotic obedience….knowing that it will make it even harder for people to peel back the layers and see the core of what Christianity really is?
    God knows how human beings are wired so of course He knows how society works best. However even a cursory reading of the Gospel reveals Christ to be one who doesn’t force. Just look at the nature of the temptations in the desert!

    “Make a big entrance,” says Satan in his paraphrased voice, “throw yourself off the temple. The Angels from Heaven will save you, you won’t cut a foot” and what he didn’t say: “there will be no way they can deny you are God after seeing something as flashy as that.”

    Or what about Mark 10:17-31? The story of the young rich man
    I don’t want to comment on this too far – I think I often draw more out of passages than should be drawn but what I think – with thinking plagiarised from author Philip Yancey, is that it shows Jesus lets people He loves make their own choices. He doesn’t chase them down and force followship or obedience.

    Even back in Genesis, the Garden of Eden was complete with a tree, a choice to sin.

    God understands what’s best for society but, if He wanted to force it on people He could do it Himself! He didn’t. Why should we?

    This doesn’t really apply to your post – it is gentle and loving, wanting to find the best way forward – I commend you PM for this. It also doesn’t apply to people who oppose the law change because of adoption policies and what’s best for the child…I don’t know personally know if it makes a difference for children or not…

    I really don’t want to say Christians should be avoiding political action entirely and there are some areas which really do warrant our concern…it’s hard working out which they are and I’d love to open up that discussion to anyone who has ideas on it!

  3. Why is being gay a sin though?

    1. Thanks Steve and Polly (and Hamish and Daniel) for sharing your thoughts too. I always find it helps me to shape/form/question/change/strengthen my own ideas when I can come up against the critical and intelligent 'banter' (but in a serious banter kind of way) of others. I'm thinking about what you've written, and will reply soon once I've had a bit of time to process and formulate :)

    2. Hi Steve, I don't believe "being gay" is a sin and I doubt many traditional Christians believe it is either. Sexual acts between two or more people of the same sex is considered by most conservative Christians as being a sin though, as well as lust. I assume this is what PM means by "homosexuality is not right". Maybe that's what you meant anyway, but if not I hope you see the distinction there. I wouldn't say an orientation in itself is a sin. I don't think someone honestly saying "I'm gay" is sinning. That said, homosexual acts are considered sinful by Christians because they believe God says it's a sin. Same with fornication. That's the chief reason, though people may also attempt to explain why God would count it as sin, for example by saying that sex is a holy thing created by God and should be used the way God intended, in a holy way that goes beyond "don't hurt each other or do things other people don't like for selfish reasons". If you think the only commands God has made, or should have made, are to do with not harming other people, then I guess it wouldn't make sense. But I believe God intends for us to be "holy" and not just "loving".