June 19, 2013

Why Same-Sex Marriage?

Columnist Andrew Brown notes that +Rowan Williams has opined “I am not wholly clear to what problem same-sex marriage is the answer.”

Well, I've written a book on the subject* that approaches “the problem” from that standpoint, and I personally gave a copy of it to +Rowan at his visit to the General Convention of The Episcopal Church.

My approach was to examine the “causes” for marriage laid out in the Book of Common Prayer — with due notice of the fact that the liturgy, since 1549, has directed the omission of the prayer for procreation when the woman is past child-bearing; which omission neither negates nor nullifies the marriage.

Since procreation (at least as far as child-bearing goes) is so clearly a provisional element of marriage, it remains to examine the other causes: as a remedy against promiscuity, and for the help, comfort and support engendered by mutual society.

I believe that same-sex marriage is fully capable of accomplishing these ends. Nor do I understand why that is so hard for some to understand.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

*for more on Reasonable and Holy, check the sidebar...

UPDATE: an additional thought as posted on Facebook:
I sometimes hope that Rowan makes statements like that in order to provoke discussion. I don't want to think he is clueless. But he seems to be fixed in a rhetorical strategy that isn't sufficiently engaged with the debate as it actually is taking place -- just as he was fixed in an ecclesiastical stasis while Archbishop because of a prevailing notion that "unity" was the most important aspect of his work, rather than discernment. Continuing to ask questions that already have answers, instead of engaging with those answers, is not productive.
And I would add, Socrates knew how to move the discussion along... 

12 comments:

thomas bushnell, bsg said...

Back twenty years ago, it was common for liberal-minded Christians to say that homosexuality was "not really God's plan", while being convinced of its apparent fixity in individual people, and conclude that "pastoral accommodations" were therefore appropriate. On this basis, they could go quite far, blessing couples and relationships, ordaining, arguing for civil rights, and so forth.

For many of those people, the purpose of marriage was to underscore the supposed superiority of heterosexuality.

I believe a review of Rowan Williams writings about homosexuality will show that he is almost certainly in this camp.

Tobias Haller said...

Thomas, I think that is an accurate assessment. The position itself, however, is part of the problem with a self-referential "truth." Once procreation is eliminated from the "essential" of marriage -- as indeed it is in both Scripture, Tradition, and Reason -- we are left with efforts to find in male and female some other fictive quality that renders only their union worthy of the term "marriage." But all such qualities appear to rely heavily on social constructs rather than necessary reality. (That is, the sexes clearly exist for the purpose of procreation, including the incidentals of breast-feeding and so on in mammals, including humans.) But we are faced with the problem recognized in Aquinas: why should we fixate on the essentially biological (or "animal") aspects of marriage -- especially when explicitly provisional -- at the expense of the particularly "human" values of love, care, and so on? And yet so many seem fixated on that which the "Authorities" declare to be provisional.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Ha ha. You could write a book, and you did, and you even gave Rowan a copy. Rowan and Justin could at least engage with the serious writing that has been done, even if they disagree, rather than continue with the same head-in-the-sand pretense that nothing is out there.

Paul (A.) said...

I wouldn't want to think that Rowan Williams is clueless, either, but, as the saying goes, "If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck . . . ."

If he actually read your book, of course, he has absolutely no excuse.

Tobias Haller said...

Thanks, Mimi and Paul. In this case I like to give him the benefit of his doubt.

But I don't think he's really thought this issue through...

Erika Baker said...

Tobias,
you're being too kind. Rowan's whole period in office has been dominated by this issue. He is one of the most renowned theological brains in Britain.

He cannot possible not have engaged with the question and he cannot possibly not come across other people's answers.

It is absolutely inconceivable that he should not even have understood the question yet. Nor that he has not come across a number of possible answers to it.

This sounds like intellectual dishonesty for reasons I cannot understand.

Tobias Haller said...

Erika, you may be right. It may also be that he has come to a very negative conclusion, but doesn't wish any further to alienate his former friends than he has already. Of course, that is also a form of polite intellectual dishonesty. Maybe he's just tired of it all...?

Erika Baker said...

Tobias,
possibly, yes.
Only the way I read Andrew Brown's piece, Rowan made his comment during a lecture he gave himself. So he could have avoided the topic if he had wanted to.
It just doesn't add up - that's always been my problem with Rowan. None of it has ever added up.

Tobias Haller said...

Indeed so. I always think that if I have nothing to say on a subject, I say nothing! Rowan never seems to have learned the art of Politick Speech.

Franklin Ballard said...

The pseudo-piety of the 'centrist' who embraces false dichotomies just drives me to distraction.

Andrew Brown said...

Erika, it was part of a rambling and not very impressive talk about how he had been right all along about Sharia law. He reached this conclusion by constructing a wonderfully abstract theory of the law which had no contact whatsoever with a world in which laws are things that policemen must in the last analysis enforce, and which require democratic legitimacy.

So his starting point was to ask whether he, RW, felt that gay people were unjustly treated under the present arrangements. He concludes that they are not. That their opinion might have some bewaring on the matter is something he no longer allows himself to remember.

Andrew Brown

Tobias Haller said...

Thanks, Franklin. Middle Ways can only be found in some circumstances. On a journey, half-way there is not far enough! The mid-point between justice and injustice is not the desired goal...

Thanks, Andrew, for the clarification. Keep up the great work!