Thursday, 22 March 2012

A Letter to the Prime Minister

Dear Prime Minister,
Re: Same-sex marriage

You must be aware that there are many Christians in this country who are experiencing a variety of reactions to the proposal (or is it decision?) to permit same- sex marriage. Reactions include disbelief, that such a major change in the family and social structures of this country could go through without a serious debate about the issues, or at least get a mention in your party manifesto to put people ‘on notice’; disillusionment that political power is being used to override the sincerely held convictions of millions on a major issue; and disappointment at the way our very valid objections and questions are being sidestepped or met with contempt or abuse. For example one has heard too often phrases like ‘you’re just behind the times – in fifty years everyone will wonder what the fuss was about’; or (from various sources if not governmental ones) ‘you’re just homophobic and discriminatory’.

A letter of response I have received from the Home Office relies again on two main arguments. The first is a policy of ‘fair treatment and equal opportunities’. That is a laudable policy but does the government draw no lines as to who can get married? What about minors, or (as mentioned above) people who want to marry more than one spouse, or adults who feel ‘committed’ to children? The government obviously feels authorised to draw lines somewhere, or will these limits also disappear in the years to come? Until all differences are withdrawn, is not the government guilty of discrimination against polygamists and paedophiles?

What is happening is not the pursuit of equal opportunities, but a removal of natural, tried and tested structures to make way for the satisfaction of personal desires. That is not equality; it is licence. Equality is not the eradication of differences and distinctions. The statement that man is made in God’s image (the basis for equality) is immediately followed (in Genesis 1:27) by ‘male and female he made them’ (the basis of diversity and indeed, marriage). Both need to be protected.

The second limb of the departmental argument is that this affects civil marriage, not religious marriage. This misses the point entirely. Marriage is marriage; it may be celebrated in a civil form or a religious form, but the act is the same; it is between a man and a woman. To try to distinguish the two does not commend these changes to Christians – nor, I should have thought, to most ‘faith communities’.

What is particularly worrying about this matter, apart from the merits of the issue itself, is the way it has been handled. It has been rushed through with a mere nod in the direction of consultation. Christians sense that their case is not being listened to and that they are dismissed as ‘dinosaurs’, and worse. The feeling in many churches is that the ‘gay’ lobby has the ear of government and the media; we are being steamrollered, and yet all we are doing is standing up for the values which you, in your excellent speech on the Bible in December, acknowledged were at the heart of British law, life and culture. I really struggle to see how your convictions so warmly expressed in that speech square with ditching the biblical picture of marriage.

Christians are already being squeezed out of public life, frequently over the ‘gay’ issue. The fact that our views seem to be dismissed as irrelevant or a relic of a bygone age, does not encourage us to respect, or get engaged in, the political process. The government is seen by Christians as being arrogant and dismissive. You can ill afford to lose from the political realm those who have on good authority long been regarded as ‘the salt of the earth’.

If you could find time to respond I would be very grateful.

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