February 4, 2012

Salisbury Stakes

Bishop Nick Holtam of Salisbury has raised the stakes in the same-sex marriage debate in England by coming out with a moderately supportive position, contrary to that of the Archbishop of York. The story in the Times is still behind a firewall, but I hope it will be visible soon. In it, the Bishop is quoted as saying, basically, that apart from procreation — which he notes is not required of heterosexual marriages even if it is the norm — there is nothing meaningful to distinguish a same-sex couple from a mixed-sex couple other than their sex, and that this is not enough on which to create a boundary to recognizing same-sex marriages. The Bishop testifies to his own change in point of view due to his experience of loving same-sex couples.

Some will ask (as they have already asked), "If it isn't about procreation, then why should we have marriage at all!?" — though it is interesting that they didn't raise that question in the face of infertile couples. And of course, the answer is, If what life is about is only the generation of more life, then life itself must have a value extrinsic to its generation. Life is more than a merely self-fulfilling prophecy or circular argument. It has value even if it does not lead to procreation. And that value is, for human beings, love, which is the divine image in humanity, a meta-biological reality. As I've said before, love and fidelity are virtues, biology isn't.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG


bls said...

What's really ironic, to me, is that as far as I can see, "fidelity" is the primary Biblical virtue, start to finish.

And of course, it's the central feature of Christian marriage as well, in the requirement for monogamy. Not surprising at all, this, to me, since this temporal act of fidelity models the spiritual type.

What's happened to the church is really very funny, in fact. Gay rights came along and surprised everybody - me included, in the speed at which things have happened! But instead of simply folding gay partnerships into the marriage mix, with its requirement of fidelity, the speed of events just blew the Church's collective mind, and it's now arguing the weirdest collection of stuff one can possibly imagine - that "the heterosexual act" is the real marker of marriage.

It's only going to get weirder, too, as far as I can tell....

Robert Brenchley said...

I find it strange that so many people think that marriage is all about procreation - the command to 'be fruitful and multiply' is in Genesis 1, in the context of human dominion, and is never given in the Adam and Eve story - while the text (Gen 2:18-23) actually says that God split him in two to create a partner, because he wasn't too good on his own. It's about companionship and community, not procreation.

Being fruitful and multiplying is surely about the fact that humans can't exercise donimion over the earth without filling it. On human, or the odd couple, couldn't manage very much of it on their own.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks, bls. It is additionally odd that the church got trapped in this "taboo" mentality, since it is also exactly what Jesus had to deal with: sabbath and utensil regulations, rather than the truly moral issues of love and faithfulness and generosity.

So true, Robert -- no one suggests that marriages should end at menopause, and Genesis 2 shows that marriage is primarily about companionship; procreation only comes with the fall... but let's not read too much into that!