March 2, 2011

Defining Moment

Over at what calls itself the Anglican Mainstream, Andrew Carey reflects on the impossibility of same-sex marriage based on the fact that "The essential nature of marriage as complementary union of a man and a woman, and the stable nature of marriage for children remain appealing." Marriage, by definition, is thus and so.

Andrew is smart enough to recognize this is not entirely true. He even raises the obvious counter-argument: "We are constantly being told that marriage has come in many forms over centuries and millennia and that if it has changed in the past, why can’t it change now?"

Unfortunately, rather than make a cogent response, he merely points out that while such an argument may gain traction outside the church, there enough people in the church who find the old notion "appealing" to be able to communicate this to the larger society, and argue passionately in defense of the ideal.

Andrew's "definitional" approach is a classical example of begging the question. It reminds me of the thwarted efforts of word-purists to resist the changes in meanings of words (based on their actual usage). It is as impossible a task as Canute trying to stop the tide. Reality will always win over false idealism. Andrew, welcome to the real world.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

h/t The Lead


Erika Baker said...

This would be the same Andrew Carey who writes on Anglican Mainstream that:
"When legislation creating civil partnerships was passing through Parliament the government was at pains to give reassurances that these were distinct from marriage. They undoubtedly righted an injustice that many dependent couples, not married, could face great hardship when partners died or were ill."

But who said only last year:

Andrew Carey Lambeth Notes

Since the debacle of Civil Partnerships I must confess to some doubts about the place of Bishops in the House of Lords.
You will recall that eight bishops (Chelmsford, Manchester, Norwich, Oxford, Peterborough, St Albans, St Eds & Ips and Truro) voted in favour of the Bill while only two bishops voted against (Chester and Southwell). In recent times they have slightly redeemed themselves with a spirited defence of religious freedom by defeating the government on the Equality Bill, but such was the seriousness of the Civil Partnerships legislation that it is not easy to forget.

Paul (A.) said...

And given that (at least in the U.S.) something on the order of thirty percent of same-sex couples are raising children, why should they be denied the argued-for "stability" of legal marriage?

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks, Erika. Like father, like son, I suppose...

Paul, great observation. The irony of the traditionalist argument arising in light of adoption and foster-parenthood on this score is amazing: they want to say that the ideal is to have a child raised by biological parents -- but fail to notice that at least in some cases (apart from orphans) the need for foster or adoptive parents is due to the real instability of the biological parental household.

I also must note that when it comes to "stable families" that the family that found no room in the inn, but sheltered in the stable instead, was not in fact a "biological family."

Anonymous said...


I like the part where he says that historically marriage has been the union of a man and a woman. To begin with, that's only true for parts of history and in some places and cultures but not others; when he says historically he implies a standard that has been true up until this controversy.

And he also implies that historically equals 'right.' Even if it were historical, its 'historicalness' doesn't make it 'right.'

Historical authoritative arguments always drive me nuts; they're either rooted in shortsightedness, disingenuousness, or both.

Scott Gray

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks, Scott. So true...