Following Barack Obama’s rather unsurprising revelation that his position on gay marriage has ‘evolved’ to one of support, the after effects are reverberating around the world. From predictable admiration and support out of tinsel town to the inevitable conservative fear mongering by those terrified of change, reaction has been far reaching and varied.
As expected, Christian churches have had plenty to say on the topic. Without question, plenty of practising Christians support the right of a man to love a man and a woman to love a woman, but, sadly, these individuals do not speak loudly enough. On the other hand, the deafening cries of the Christian establishment in defence of ‘traditional’ marriage and supposed family values can scarcely be avoided.
Mainstream Christianity and its representatives seem to want to have it both ways. In their panicked rhetoric against gay marriage, they argue that removing barriers to equal rights will endanger future generations by normalising same sex relationships. Simultaneously they feign concern over how children growing up with two parents of the same sex will handle school yard bullying. God, watch over the child with gay parents who is bound to be picked on for coming from a different family background, but heaven forbid that gay relations be normalised by society and shield that child in the first place. Moreover, their arguments completely ignore and even devalue the diverse array of families that exist in today’s society. In a world where the nuclear family structure has long been outnumbered by single guardians, remarried parents, and situations where other family members act as the main caregiver, can we really still entertain the notion that any type of structure differing from mum and dad and the kids is a threat to our community?
As is often the case, surely the best answer is the most simple. Kids are not born with prejudice and judgement; these are things that they learn from their parents, their teachers, and role models in society. Teach your children not to discriminate and judge; or take a leaf out of your own book, and just tell them to love their neighbour. The golden rule is as simple as that, with no qualifying clause excluding individuals based on who they love. If you teach your children that every family is different, and that the most important thing is to respect each other and those differences, the worst result is that we end up with a more tolerant world, a more accepting future and people less inclined to hate and fear each other.
Of course, such an argument won’t appease those who believe that any physical love between two people of the same sex is inherently wrong. On the contrary, the idea that people will not automatically judge minority groups in society will be abhorrent to many who claim to exemplify the virtues of Christianity. But on what basis do religious groups feel they can claim a monopoly over the institution of marriage? Marriage has existed in various shapes and forms since the dawn of time, originally as a union for largely economic purposes. Christianity’s cries that it is protecting the historical sacredness of the institution are just not sustained by fact. And as most examples of discrimination in history show, just as we look back with shame on a time when black people couldn’t marry white people, so to we will look back on the present, and hang our heads with embarrassment that we didn’t recognise the love between a man and a man and a woman and a woman; that we entertained ludicrous comparisons with polygamy or buggery, ignoring the fact that none of these circumstances are simply about two human beings who love each other and wish to celebrate that love.
Wouldn’t it be great if the Christian establishment was so vocal against real evils? One might question why we rarely see groups of Christians handing out material against child abuse, or paedophilia, or campaigning for women’s rights, or sprouting wisdom on how Christianity can work in a modern context with reproductive health. Instead we have church leaders like the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney claiming that same sex marriage is detrimental to society, lamenting that should it become legal, “it would be impossible to teach in the classroom that marriage is exclusively for male and female”. A travesty indeed.