Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Impediments to the marriage of true minds.

Outside my work as a teacher, mainly of economics, I've devoted most of my time, energy and enthusiasm to the Liberal/Liberal Democrat Party and the Church of England.  An acquaintance, I think probably a Labour voter, described the current  situation of the former  quite aptly, I thought, when he said that the Liberal Democrats had committed voluntary euthanasia for the sake of the country. But we shall see: even a week is a long time in politics  and a lot will happen in  the next three years.  We may yet revive.

Now, with its almost hysterical opposition to same sex-marriages, the Church of England seems to be trying to commit suicide.  As it happens I am not all that enthusiastic about calling same-sex unions marriage, but my reservations are linguistic rather than moral or legal, as I'm a bit of a pedant and I like words to men what they used to mean.  So "cool" should mean a bit below the "ambient temperature" (thanks, George Osborne) but not quite chilly, rather than "trendy"; "wicked" should mean evil rather than "exciting with a hint of dare-devilment"; and  "gay" should simply mean "light hearted and happy."   However I recognise that languages are living media which evolve and adapt over time, so I must learn to live with changes.

The Church's objections to same-sex unions being called  marriage seem both illogical and rather desperate.  One claim is that, although religious organisations will not be compelled by the law to perform same-sex ceremonies, gay couples wishing a religious ceremony will be able to appeal to that poor old universal scapegoat, the European Court of Human Rights, on the grounds of discrimination.  Well, both the C of E and the Roman Catholics have for decades been refusing  marriage ceremonies to couples where one of the partners has been divorced  without any such litigation. 

Another claim is that marriage is for the purpose of procreation and same-sex couples won't be able to procreate.  Again, the C of E has been marrying women of  "riper years"  in all its existence, as proved by the rubric  in the Book of Common Prayer (1662) which allows that the  prayer that the newly-married couple "be fruitful in procreation of children" shall be "omitted where the woman is past child-bearing."

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the Church's real objection is that it doesn't like same-sex relationships and sees their recognition as marriage as a further loss of its control over our private lives. After the excellent Jubilee Service in which the Church, through the Bible readings and the Archbishop's sermon, publicly declared its mission to be the promotion of the pursuit of wisdom rather that material wealth, and personal fulfilment through service to others rather than self-aggrandisement, it is regrettable  that we have so soon turned to navel gazing on an essentially trivial matter.

But if and when same-sex unions are recognised as marriage, we shall have to find two new words to distinguish between the two kinds.  If it still has them, this would provided a good subject for one of the New Statesman's competitions.

1 comment:

  1. I find it astonishing that fifty years ago homosexuality was illegal and never mentioned but now it is open and out there as if it was the most 'normal' thing in the world.
    Semantically a marriage must be man and wife. Why are they not satisfied with civil unions?
    Afraid I did not think much of the AB of C's sermon: the royals have enjoyed much pleasure and power, as well as 'duty.
    I consider Williams as the epitome of welsh windbaggedness, unable to say anything clear on anything.