Monday 10 December 2012

Walls of Churches Enforcing Discrimination

Good to see minister Andy Pakula of Newington Green advancing the cause of gay equality regarding marriage; of the two Pagan new attenders attending together (one away at present) one of them also came to us because of the stance on gay marriage. So it does matter.

The Church of England is stuck in a rut on this matter, but whereas the majorities can be mobilised to enforce equality of the sexes into its leadership (should the processes go through some tortuous changes) it seems rather a different situation from achieving thorough equality of sexual orientation.

This government's last figleaf of anything progressive is using equality of sexual orientation. It now would allow through full marriage equality without making a false distinction between religious and secular - either you are married or you are not. So religious groups can opt in to do marriage ceremonies. I would couple this proposal with extending civil partnerships to heterosexuals and thus redefine those to partnerships for those who want joinings for other reasons such as lifelong friendship, the basis of which would be their own. The question a reporter might ask is 'Why did you two form a civil partnership?'Another more advanced question is why more than two could not form a civil partnership.

Such a civil partnership would be easier to bless in church, but would require the flexibility of bespoke liturgies - in stating what exactly was being blessed. The detail would determine whether such a blessing is possible in that particular denomination.

Some seem to think that there is a 'love of Christ' that will come through to embrace treating people who love with equality, but that's a construction and concept. Christianity is a salvation religion around a cult of personality, and that personality is the construction via the Bible and rventually creeds or, at root, the Pauline letters. The Bible via the Pauline has the clobber passages, and it becomes necessary to transcend these. The reversion to a historical Jesus won't do because he is a rather more simple rabbi with some tough views on the given heterosexual marriage and its transformation in the Kingdom to come. If he know of gay sex it will have been via news of what Greek culture got up to in the range of other irrelevant cults, and none of this is relevant to two people forming a lifetime (intended) bond, as indeed the clobber texts after the life of Jesus are irrelevant. If one wants to stay 'with Christ' then it becomes a mystical almost Gnostic extraction, a somewhat Greek-indeed identification of perfection. It may be spiritual but it is not historical.

I regard the world as somewhat cruel: comparative death is what drives diversity and success; some species thrive through torture of their prey. Compassion only comes in social construction among higher animals, though evolution includes looking after the least in case an environmental shift means they carry on transmitting the genes after an ecological disaster. We humans have the intelligence and consciousness to empathise and this is what brings in a moral order.

I can understand high Anglicans who might inhabit the mystic and even Gnostic, and some Liberal Catholics of the arly 1900s kind who understood the supernatural as magical, but I can't understand the low Anglican liberal who is too aware of history and its limitations, of biblical criticsm and Church history, to continue to be 'Christ centred'. Such becomes a slogan only, detached, purely ahistorical, a shorthand that isn't - except for a route that ends up with ethical considerations available to all. If this is mixed up with natural religion (however that is conceived) then it seems to me to be further detached.

Broad Church Unitarians had this debate in the later nineteenth century, when there was still a residual Christian culture. Can't there be a wider definition of 'Church', one to encompass all who love? Even then the Church of England (and other denominations, but they were stricter then) could not stretch to where the Unitarians were going. Now that Unitarianism includes the Pagan and Eastern, the Humanist and the Christian, the Church of England cannot stretch that far either. It might (might) have a role in upholding religious diversity beyond itself, but it cannot itself embrace that degree of diversity. If anything it is facing greater sectarian pressure from within.

That necessary boundary is what prevents the treatment of everyone equally. It is the construction of the religion and its boundaries that coincide with other boundaries. Mainstream Churches, in the end, prevent the busting of those boundaries, those walls, that are also the route to discrimination.

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