Sunday, 9 October 2011

Commitment! Commitment! (as sung by Tevye to the tune of 'Tradition!')

So now we know. The moral imperative behind permitting homosexual marriages and the concomitant redefinition of marriage, is the desire and need to foster 'commitment'.

I am glad to know this - glad, that is, in the sense that having a bad answer to an investigation into one's health can be better than no answer at all - because I had asked Ms Lynne Featherstone in a letter to her after the Lib-Dem conference what the moral drive behind homosexual marriage was. I have yet to receive a reply, but the Prime Minister has rather answered it for me. Equality - yes (as I suggested to Ms Featherstone but also thinking there must be something else) and now we know, according to the PM - commitment.

Commitment is the fig leaf with which the government is going to try to lend moral decency to this breathtaking proposal. It is in some ways a shrewd move. Commitment is of course something no-one could easily oppose. It is a Good Thing. Faithfulness in relationships is something to be encouraged and applauded. We would want to see it in marriage. In any relationship. And if the committees (is that the right word in this context for two committed people?) happen to be two men in a sexual relationship, then surely we should expect it of them too. So let's encourage it and let them get married.

Indeed it could even be sung as a kind of anthem - as Tevye, the Topol character in 'Fiddler on the Roof' sings 'Tradition!' It sounds good, worthy, moving even.

The problem is that, like tradition, it is ultimately completely morally empty. Commitment is a 'formal' virtue; is is the husk to the kernel, the insulating protection to the wire that conveys the current. It has a definite usefulness; but it derives its real value from the matter it contains or carries. One can, it should not need to be pointed out, be utterly committed to totally the wrong thing. There is a certain honour among thieves, by which we normally mean they are loyal to each other for their criminal purposes. Men and women show incredible (even enviable) commitment to the most cruel, perverse and self-serving ideals and activities and have done all through history. Idolatry is a case study in commitment.

Nor is a distinction between commitment to people and to ideals or tasks valid here. All types of commitment have to be measured in the end by this criterion: commitment to what or whom or for what purpose. Commitment in itself means very little. It may even be a moral evil.

So I remain unimpressed by the moral high ground the government is occupying in this iniquitous and arrogant matter. Equality has come to mean that people must be allowed to do what they like (within grounds circumscribed by the government of the day of course). Commitment is dragged in to bolster what is obviously regarded as a weak case, but it is a staff to splinter in the hand that leans on it. Commitment to an immoral relationship will never make the relationship moral. In fact if it presumes to dress itself in the institution of marriage, so that marriage, that God-given ordinance,is now stretched and distorted to embrace moral perversion, then commitment has become an instrument of great evil. Law, as Francis Schaeffer might have said, has never been so sociological.

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