“With church attendance falling in Britain, only one in four marriages is conducted in a church.”
—The New York Times, 6/13/2012
he Brits are entertaining a proposal to legalize same-sex marriage and, of course, the usual reactionary suspects are mobilizing to stop it. Roman Catholic bishops and the Church of England and, uh, Muslim leaders, are using what cultural clout they have left to try to keep their Iron Age theology in force.
One would think that conducting only a quarter of the marriage ceremonies in the country would not entitle British religious zealots to claim they are speaking for a majority of folks, and indeed they don’t so claim. What they do claim, though, is that they are speaking for God:
In common with almost all other Churches, the Church of England holds, as a matter of doctrine and derived from the teaching of Christ himself, that marriage in general – and not just the marriage of Christians – is, in its nature, a lifelong union of one man with one woman.
It is the nature of dogmatism, I suppose, for theologically rigid folks to force their beliefs on others. And in this day and age it appears to be necessary to lie about why they are doing so:
Our concern is for the way the meaning of marriage will change for everyone, gay or straight, if the proposals are enacted. Because we believe that the inherited understanding of marriage contributes a vast amount to the common good, our defence of that understanding is motivated by a concern for the good of all in society.
Of course that is false. What motivates these folks is cultural power and relevance, which they are fast losing. In short, just like here in the United States, the fight over same-sex marriage is a fight for survival of religious fundamentalism.
And speaking of the states, from USA Today:
A referendum that seeks to nullify Washington state’s recent law legalizing same-sex marriage has qualified for the November ballot, election officials announced today.
Now, all of this would be understandable, if the proposal in Britain or the law in Washington state forced churches to marry homosexual couples. But no one is arguing that priests or pastors or rabbis should have to offer their dubious services to couples they believe shouldn’t receive the Almighty’s blessing. They would remain free to discriminate against homosexuals and practice their doctrinaire theology within the walls of their churches or synagogues.
So, it is clear to me that the battle is really over whether Iron Age thinking will continue to enjoy the influence it has historically had in the West or whether it will take its place with other quaint relics we have put away in our cultural attics.
And as 60 percent of North Carolinians proved last month—as that state became one of the 30 that have banned gay marriage in the United States—some people aren’t ready just yet to put away their ancient and unenlightened beliefs.