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meaning2A commentator remarked on one of my recent posts:

 Accept gay marriage, do it specifically because my faith tradition disagrees with it, because this protects my faith tradition, this is good for the government, and my faith tradition.

That seems a typical modern, relativistic view.  My ‘faith tradition’, Christianity, teaches that active homosexuality is an abomination in the eye of the Lord and is sinful; how ‘gay marriage’ is ‘good’ for Christianity begs the question as to what the word ‘good’ means in this context. For an orthodox Christian it must mean in accordance with God’s Law, for God alone is good, and all his ordinances are likewise, and are for our good; so something which cuts plain across God’s Law is not good; therefore, by no Christian definition of the word ‘good’ is ‘gay marriage’ good.

There is a secular meaning where such a designation might make sense: if a State tolerates one thing, it will tolerate Christianity too; surely that is ‘good’? Well, that depends on a variety of considerations. An overtly Christian State such as the United Kingdom (that, surely is the meaning of having an Established Church whose bishops sit as a right in the legislature?) should be bearing some kind of Christian witness; so for such a State to endorse sin is not a good thing.  My own view is that I’d much rather not have an Establishment, because it leads to things like this – the absurdity of a nominally Christian State endorsing sin.

You might want to argue that a non-Christian State is at liberty to endorse what it likes, and I’d not dissent from that; but that lays no obligation on a Christian to endorse sin; our loyalty in such a situation is to God, not the State. That does not mean that I wish to prevent the State endorsing a majority view, if it is a secular State, but it does mean that I will campaign for what my faith teaches, and that whilst I will, of course, accept the law is the law, I am not free to call sin by another name. If the State wishes to punish me for that, so be it.

As one who, when teaching the dreaded PSI (personal and social instruction, if memory does not betray me), had to discuss sex education with a bunch of sniggering fourteen year olds, there’s not a lot you can tell me about ‘civics’ and sexual morality in education; I bear the scars to this day. I was always careful to draw a line between what the law allowed and what God allowed. I never made any secret of my Christianity to the boys, neither did I allow it to lead me to stray from the path of the good teacher; indeed, as Christianity mounted the best argument against sexual license, the two went rather well together.

I can recall back then saying that I could see the day coming when the State would allow homosexual people to have the same legal rights as others, and indeed that I saw no reason, as a Christian, to dissent from that when it came; the secular law was the secular law. That is a position I took when the Labour Government brought in the Civil Partnerships Act. Homosexual activity is a sin according to God’s Law, but, alas, we are not ruled by that, and failing the day we are, equal legal rights seems a not bad principle.

But ‘marriage’ is a word with a meaning, predominantly a Christian one, and it is between one man and one woman. To change that in the name of ‘equality’ is the right of the Government, but given it had no mandate, and given that folk are generally convinced that they can spot when politicians are lying by whether their lips are moving, it seems rather a bad idea to change the meaning of something so fundamental with no mandate so to do. The loser here is trust in the political process, although a cynic might argue that is at such a low level, it hard matters.

But to anyone who believes in democracy, it does. Unless words means what they are taken to mean, folk will ask why, in the immortal words of Jeremy Paxman, the British broadcaster: ‘why is this lying bastard lying to me?’  Why indeed? Faith in Christ remains strong, as it has for nearly two thousand years. Democracy in its current Western form is a much more recent phenomenon, and faith in it seems to be declining rapidly.

The more our elected politicians behave as though they are our lords and masters, and less like they are our servants, the more that will continue. If we look, for example, at two examples from the heyday of confidence in the democratic process and compare them with now, we may see part of the point.

Clement Attlee and Harry S Truman held the helm in the UK and USA from 1945 into the early Cold War; both men achieved great things, though they were not great men. When they retired they lived off their pensions and continued to give whatever service was required of them. Compare that with Tony Blair and Bill Clinton, men who left office conspicuously richer than they had entered it, and who have continued, after service, to line their pockets and live like billionaires. The first two remind me of Roman senators in the hey-day of the republic; the latter two of some of the emperors in the decadence of the Empire. With Attlee and Truman, their words meant something and so they used them, sparingly; with Blair and Clinton, they meant little, so they used them with profligacy. Thus it is that sin ruins a nation.