Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Same Sex Marriage: Is There a Leg to Stand On?—a Review: and Some Other Thoughts on the Matter

I have to confess when I first came across this book at a recent Anglican Communion Alliance meeting, I secretly thought  (sorry, Roseanne), "O, no! Yet another book saying the same things over again!"

Reading it has disabused me of that idea! Roseanne has provided a very readable and fresh treatment of the subject. First, she gives an account of the development of gay and lesbian activism including the move from disorder to not for the American Psychiatric Association and the legal path to same sex marriage in Canada. Then, she shows how discourse around the issue has gone from the language of mere God-given biological sexual identity to that of socially constructed gender and sexual fluidity. Chapter Three explores the potential unintended (and negative) consequences of same sex marriage. In Chapter Four there is a brief account of how activism, gender progress and unintended consequences already have, or may, impact the Anglican Church of Canada. Finally, Roseanne explores the the impact of all this on the classic Anglican three-legged stool of Scripture, tradition and reason—hence the subtitle.

I doubt there are many minds left that are not made up on this subject by now, so why yet another book about it? Imagine my surprise this very morning when I found the answer to that question beautifully expressed in, "A Better Conversation about Homosexuality: three recent books expose the cultural captivity of the church to Western ideas about sexuality," a book review by Christopher Benson over at Christianity Today:
Just at the point of exhaustion and irritability, when we think the debate on homosexuality in the church has reached its end—with every position articulated, every line drawn in the sand, every constituency ghettoized—other voices emerge to remind us that the conversation must proceed. Despite anxiety for ourselves and the church, the conversation must proceed because God has called us to this annoyance as he has called previous generations of Christians to other annoyances; the interpretation of Scripture requires us to think deeply and wait patiently upon God; the shalom of the church is at risk if we close down the search for agreement; and, lest we forget, some of God’s precious children live upon the rack.
Benson goes on to review three new books on the subject (read it all here).

Exhaustion, irritability and annoyance notwithstanding, to me it seems that even as we might be secretly hoping to change a mind or two, before we take this momentous step, it's really important that all the ground is covered and the case is made, as winsomely and biblically as possible, before we abandon historical, biblical, Christian marriage (there, my bias is showing). Roseanne's book is another excellent resource to help us think deeply as we pray and wait upon God.


Roseanne's chapter on The Butterfly Effect and Unintended Consequences resonated for me especially.  I was reminded of ELCiC National Bishop, Susan Johnson's comments I read somewhere at the Joint Assembly saying that allowing just same sex blessings in 2011 caused their decline in numbers and finances to accelerate. I know that at least thirty congregations in Alberta left the denomination over it. Although unintended, the consequences can not have been entirely unexpected, I suspect. One can only imagine what the unintended and unforeseen consequences might be if we move to a form of same sex marriage.

I am reminded of other human attempts to "improve" on the way God set the natural world up.  In 1859 a farmer in Australia released twelve rabbits to improve his hunting fun—such a small, insignificant act. The unintended negative consequences were and are catastrophic.  That's just one example. There are many such "improvements" leading to unintended ecological disaster.

The recent flooding in Southern Alberta has generated much talk about the wisdom of building homes on flood plains. The unintended consequences have been grave for many. I wonder if same sex marriage will be like building on a flood plain. At first the setting is most desirable and a delight to the eyes, perhaps the beauty will continue for many years, but one day the natural order God created will kick in and do what it's designed to do and all will be swept away or buried under silt and worse.