Gay marriage   (8.3.12)

The arguments for and against gay marriage will be made ad nauseam in the coming years, until such inevitable moment as the law is changed in favour of marriage equality. For this reason I have no intention of rebutting the transparently weak and logically incoherent views of chaps like Keith O'Brien. It makes me think, though, in the midst of the churches' politicking: what perspectives are currently being excluded from the debate?

Writing from the perspective of a gay Christian, the obvious answer is the pastoral perspective. A good friend of mine gave her response to O'Brien's comments the other day, in response to which I made the point that O'Brien's words violate Vatican guidance on the pastoral care of gay people -- guidance drawn up, no less, by the Pope in his former incarnation as Cardinal Ratzinger. That O'Brien's standards for the treatment of gay people fall beneath even those of this conservative Pope is telling.

The fact is that pastoral care for gay people in the church has hitherto been virtually non-existent. Some find themselves in churches that are openly hostile to their sexuality. Others find themselves in churches that are secretly hostile to their sexuality. The lucky few, or perhaps just the selective few, find themselves in churches which actually go out of their way to listen to gay people's experiences. I have never been lucky enough, or selective enough, to experience that.

Something that may not routinely occur to many "ordinary" churchgoers is that gay churchgoers have a unique experience of church, in that they are self-consciously, and conscientiously, attending places of worship which are formally and doctrinally committed to the immorality of the most important thing in their lives -- namely, the relationship with their partner. No straight person, with the exception of Catholic divorcees, really has a comparable experience to this. As a result, churchgoing itself is a kind of protest for many gay Christians -- a protest not against God, but against the church's attempts to diminish their love.

The truth is that the further society moves towards recognising what gay people already know -- the truth, love and value of our relationships -- the more remote the church becomes from our lives. The church, a man-made institution, continues in its refusal to sanctify a love that gay Christians know in their hearts to be already sacred and God-given. I couldn't be more relaxed about the churches' hostility to my life. When gay marriage happens, this country will have taken a step closer towards the Kingdom of God, and the churches will once again find themselves on the wrong side of history.

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