Yesterday I was in an informal meeting of Evangelical Anglican clergy in Perth, listening to a presentation by Nick Goiran, a well known state Christian MP, on the political and legal implications of same-sex marriage (SSM).
What was most disturbing about Nick’s talk is the nature of the responses he received to a parliamentary speech he gave in 2013. In this speech he argued that if the only condition for marriage was that two consenting adults loved each other then logically it followed that a half brother and half sister in love should be permitted to marry.
Now here is his main point; no one responded in a rational way to his logic but simply accused him of suggesting that SSM will promote incest. He provoked an emotional avalanche of opposition both on the floor of parliament and in the media. If you look up this incident online Nick’s comments are most frequently called “bizarre”.
Logical thought has been trumped by emotion not only in relation to a SSM debate but on a host of other ethical issues that oppose traditional Christian morality. The Evangelical Church which has long depended on reason for apologetics does not seem to have grasped this new reality. As I sat listening to Nick’s presentation I began praying about the spiritual dynamics underlying this massive cultural change.
Easy to forget
It is easy to forget that our social situation is vastly different from that of both ancient Israel and the New Testament times. We live in a post-Christian era.
For the first time in history the Western Church engages with a culture that has renounced its Christian religious and moral identity. Suddenly Christians are realising that the foundations for treating life, marriage and family as sacred have been removed.
Whilst people from non-Western lands still instinctively sense spiritual realities mainstream Aussie culture has largely lost this awareness. People don’t experience the realities of beauty, goodness, and truth upon which reason is founded as they in the Christian age. Not only church-going but the religious art, music and literature which kept the presence of God alive in popular culture are no more.
With pleasure and autonomy the highest authorities in the land appeals to scripture and reason are fruitless. This is not a cause for despair. I believe the whole SSM debate is being used by God to teach the Church that we are out of our spiritual depth and are being called back to a much more intimate relationship with Christ (The Revelation chapter 2 verse 4).
Jesus assured us that as the “light of the world” people would be able to see the glory of God through our good works (Mattew chapter 5 verses 14-16). Every married Christian should be able to testify without contradiction that one of the greatest of God’s good works through them is their marriage. I can testify that my marriage of 41 years has gone from one degree of glory to another.
However my pastoral experience is that most Christian marriages are rather ordinary e.g. many couples do not even pray together. Moving beyond personal opinion, surely the spiritual blindness in our culture over sex is evidence that the light of Christ is not brightly beaming through Christian couples opening darkened eyes to the truth (Ephesians chapter 4 verses 17-19). There is a way forward however out of this terrible moral morass.
The great Christian novelist Dostoyevsky once said, “Beauty will save the world.” If people are no longer able to respond to reason then it will need an experience of the beauty of God to enlighten their minds so that they can “see” moral and spiritual reality as it really is. Western culture has long spoken of “holy matrimony”.
The exclusive love of a man and a woman for life surely embodies what the Old Testament describes as “the beauty of holiness” (Psalm 96 verse 9). Today this special presence needs to radiate out to the world through Christian marriages as a sign of the eternal glorious marriage between Jesus and his bridegroom the Church (The Revelation chapter 19 verses 6-10). Those who have been married the longest can glow with the brightest holy light.
Yet for this to happen a crucial disposition must be at the centre of marriage. Natural man says of the cross, “he had…no beauty that we should desire him” (Isaiah chapter 53 verse 2). Yet my heart tells me that the sacrificial love of the cross was the most beautiful thing ever to be seen in this world. Mutual sacrificial love forges a bond of intimacy between husband and wife in the presence of Christ’s cross which cannot be replicated in any other form of relationship (Ephesians chapter 5 verses 21-33).
When the power of the light of the gospel radiates out of our Christian marriages into the wider community anything is possible. If we let the example of the cross lead us into repentance from marital self-interest the emotional avalanche of the SSM movement can be stopped.
On past form however I doubt if the Church in Australia will take this costly course.
The Rev. Dr John Yates is an Anglican minister living in Perth and has 5 children and 5 grandchildren. He spends his time in praying, mentoring and writing.
John Yates’ previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/john-yates.html