Marriage: lovers’ pact or “creation ordinance”?

At the heart of all the sound and fury over marriage equality is a vacuum — a silent bubble of incomprehension created in the gulf between two very different understandings of marriage. Sydney Anglican Archbishop Glenn Davies, forced to defend Standing Committee’s decision to donate $1 million from the Diocesan Endowment Fund to the “No” campaign, was crystal clear on the Church’s.

“[I]t is a consequence of our discipleship to uphold the gift of marriage as God has designed it — a creation ordinance for all people,” he said. “By so doing, the wisdom of God is made manifest.”

The wisdom of God is made manifest, for the Church, in an orderly social structure of obedient, productive couples. But for people who live in the real world, anything claiming to be the wisdom of God has to respect love, and love in a world as developed as twenty-first-century Australia just doesn’t only work the way the Church thinks it should. What’s more, though bishops often forget it, it’s a very long time since any Church was considered the only authority on such matters — for good reason, not least the dissenting voices of libertarian love and reason among the clergy. Reverend Andrew Sempell, rector of St James King Street in Sydney, puts it beautifully.

“I think this suggests we are more interested in politics than people, and I think that may be a bad thing for us,” he said.

“What we should be doing is humbly trying to persuade people of a point of view rather than judging and condemning them… by putting our money into this sort of political process, we seem to be on the wrong side of grace.”

But, as the pronouncements of the Archbishop and the ubiquitous nonsense of Tony Abbott illustrate, gay marriage makes no sense to the appointed guardians of God’s cosmic decrees; the notion of true love between souls is irrelevant; marriage is no mere lovers’ pact — this is nothing less than human society’s ritual reaffirmation of Male and female He created them, and blessed them — the congregation’s acceptance of the Church’s truthy origin myth, its dubious validation of gender, and its relentlessly patriarchal take on gender roles.

Abbott’s astonishing claim that marriage evolved “to protect women and children” was greeted with curt incredulity or righteous outrage, but he only had one word wrong — replace “protect” with “trade” and the assertion makes more sense. In Tony’s world the two are easily confused: “trade” becomes “control” and everything under masculine control is “protected”. It’s Gilead-speak.

That the Church has within it, often rebuked and repressed, the seeds of a greater understanding of God, who, being truly all genders and beyond gender (and not against the science that tells us gender is, after all, a spectrum, not poles), being also truly all love and justice, is a God who surely blesses marital love in that spirit, wherever it arises — that this truth is spoken for all to hear and multitudes to acknowledge only makes the sins of the fathers more deplorable.

equality heart

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