Well, same-sex marriage is on its way to becoming law in Canada. There remain only the Senate, where the Liberals enjoy a large majority, and Royal Assent as final steps.
I'm disappointed, but not surprised. The country has been heading this way for some years now--my progressive friends laud this development as the growing inclusiveness of Canadian society. And to some degree, really, who can fault them? If we have no objective, transcendent standards then equality and inclusiveness are as good values as any.
Somehow I'm reminded of an Archie cartoon from when I was a kid: Veronica was proudly showing Betty a boutique her ultra-rich father had set up for her. "It's so exclusive," she said, "I'm the only one who's allowed to shop in it!" Well, exclusiveness is out, and inclusiveness is in, but it's the same loopy logic at work today; that is, now instead we have inclusiveness for its own sake.
My gay friends typically don't see it this way. They have felt excluded and marginalized, and not all of their experience can be chalked up to sober moral discernment about the rightness or wrongness of their behaviour. But orthodox voices have been misheard in many cases. The identification is sometimes so tight, that is, between gay identity and gay behaviour that criticism of the latter is heard as an attack on gay people themselves. I fell into this trap myself many years ago when I found out that my parents were praying for my deliverance from homosexuality. I experienced this as an attack on my very person: they were trying to take away my sexuality, which was so much a part of who I was that I could hardly imagine being otherwise. And yet now, five years after deciding that the gay side of my sexuality was not to be indulged, I'm still here. I still have gay friends and colleagues. And that burning outrage over the exclusion I once felt, it has abated. Not because my conservative friends welcome me in blissful ignorance of my orientation or my promiscuous past; for the most part, they're very well aware. Not because my orientation has shifted markedly towards heterosexuality, though it has done. Absolutely not because so many of my friends approve of homosexuality, though they do. It's reconciliation with God that matters, and having submitted myself to God's authority and availed myself of His grace, any exclusion by members of the human family pales in comparison--even if I occasionally have to remind myself to keep things in perspective this way.
"Not a mite would I withhold," goes the classic hymn "Take My Life and Let It Be." Every part of my life--my hands, my voice, my intellect, my money--needs to be surrended to God to be directed by His will. Several years ago I was on a rotation to lead the congregational singing at a liberal church, and it fell to me to suggest hymns for a Sunday in which we would be continuing a series of discussions on sexuality and sexual orientation. I proposed this hymn, among others, and the pastor simply didn't make the connection--a completely obvious one, I'd thought--to the idea that our sexuality, like everything else, needs to be consecrated to God. I was too stunned by her blank initial response to try to explain. But to return to my previous digression, when we die to self, we live in something infinitely richer.
Today in the Globe and Mail, the Right Rev. Peter Short, the moderator of the United Church of Canada (the denomination of my childhood and adolescence), wrote
Like any phenomenon appearing in a minority of the population (left-handedness comes to mind), homosexuality has been subject to a perceived need for correction. The Bible is not innocent of this anxiety and its bitter campaigns. In the Christian tradition to which I belong, the words of the Bible are judged by the Living Word whose life is given not for correction but for redemption, not for some but for all; not as a master but as a servant.
Right Rev. Mr. Short, in the name of the One you profess to worship: redemption from what???
Meanwhile, of course, there's that inconvenient passage of 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (emphasis added): "All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work."
Paul second letter to Timothy is fitting reading for today. As a friend of mine was saying this morning, the Church cannot fight same-sex marriage as a single-issue campaign. The advocates of gay marriage are quite justified, it seems to me, in complaining that many more sermons have been preached lately against homosexual practice than against greed. These advocates are by no means above reproach, but why indeed should they be singled out when the planet is groaning under the weight of Western consumerism and the world's only superpower used false pretences to start a war? Righteousness--a term now devalued through careless conflation with the very different idea of self-righteousness--and purity are utter necessities. Our opponents are in many cases more than eager to pounce on any instance of hypocrisy on our part, but more importantly, we should in any case always be striving to act out of love for the God who redeems us.
The newsletter of Anglican Essentials says this today:
Hand-wringing and ranting against church leaders and politicians accomplishes nothing. Intercession and profound repentance for our sin and the sin of our fathers can change the spiritual climate in which we live. The great saints of the Bible understood this. Listen to the words of Daniel crying out to God from a land of exile:-
O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands, we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. (Daniel 9: 4-6 NIV)
This same friend reminded me of the Old Testament as full of stories about God's people turning away from Him to idolatry and experiencing the consequences in the form of social decay or conquest by invaders. This has all happened before, in other words. And still we hope therefore. We repent for our own part in letting this turn of events come to pass, and we wait in patience.
And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, patient, correcting opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant that they will repent and come to know the truth, and that they may escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:24-26)