Today Ireland will vote in a referendum on whether to approve of ‘same sex marriage’, and this, in the same week that a bakers in Northern ireland were told they had discriminated against a customer who had asked them to bake a cake with a ‘pro-gay’ slogan; so much for the slogan that ‘gay marriage’ wouldn’t be a bother to you if you didn’t want to marry a homosexual. It is painfully clear that the main consequence of the lobbying on this issue is the suppression of the freedom to express the traditional Christian view of marriage and sexual relations. In the hierarchy of made up ‘rights’, those of a tiny minority of vociferous homosexuals trump those of a minority of vociferous Christians.
By all accounts, the attitude of those on the ‘yes’ side of the Irish campaign has been intolerant in the extreme – tearing down ‘no’ posters and hounding those who expressed the counter view. If that side of the argument is filled with ‘passionate intensity’, then the same cannot be said for the formerly dominant Irish Catholic Church. Archbishop Martin of Armagh could not, it seems, find a way to express a view on how Catholics should vote in the referendum, and his fellow Bishops have not, on the whole, been much better. After the tremendous damage done to the Church there by the Paedophile scandals, it may well be that the hierarchy’s backbone has been so effectively filleted that it no longer exists. Protestantism, the great bulwark against the the tide in the North, does not really exist in any meaningful form in the South, and has had little effect on the referendum. The centre does not only ‘not hold’, in Ireland, it scarcely exists – if the polls are to be believed.
There’s the rub of course. With so much of the media on one side, and with the voices on that side being both clamant and nasty, no one can be sure how far the man and woman in the street is willing to express their view to a pollster. We saw this in the UK election a few weeks ago.
Ironically, a campaign which began in support of freedom of expressiona and against discrimination has ended by exhibiting exactly the characteristics its original supporters fought against. There’s a lesson in that for Christians. The professional tolerance merchants who tolerate any opinion as long as is one with which they agree, did not invent that way of being. Look at what the Catholic and the Anglican Churches did when they held the whip hand with the political establishment – exactly the same. My own ancestors, having being persecuted by the Catholic Church for Lollardy, then by the Anglicans for nonconformity (I come from a long line of awkward customers), would not have been surprised by the intolerance of the new Establishment, even though its intolerance of other views is not based on an interpretation of Christianity. Power tends to corrup, as Lord Acton noted. It has, in its time, corrupted Christians, and now it corrupts liberal atheists.
We are called to bear witness to the truths we receive from Christ. We are not called to impose them on other people by force of the law. Those Christians whose churches have spent hundreds of years doing just that, claiming it was in God’s name, are ill-equipped to garner sympathy when they protest against non-Christians doing it in the name of the god called equality.
The Irish must look to their own consciences. If the Catholic Church has done the job it should have done in helping form those consciences in a Christian way, the result should be a clear no. If it is not, then that Church and its hierarchy should hang their heads in shame, admit they have failed utterly in catchesis, and enter a period of prayer and repentance before beginning the process of rebuilding.
My ancestors stayed true to Christ when men in pointed hats and robes living in palaces persecuted them, and they will stay so when men in rainbow-patterned hats living in media palaces do so. We have not sought to impose our way of life on others, and we shall turn the other cheek, as we always have, and we shall dwell with the Lord. If the State wishes to enact godless laws, I am neither surprised, nor deterred. The State is not God’s, and attempts by Catholics and Anglicans to use it for their ends have failed utterly, leaving the State able to quote past Church support for its intolerance, and the two main Churches in these islands with nothing useful to say. They should try prayer, and they should try repentance. They sowed the wind and they shall, assuredly, reap the whirlwind.