A generational gap seems to have emerged in my circle of Christian friends in response to the Irish referendum on same-sex marriage.
After the majority of those who turned out to vote supported the YES vote, Facebook comments and ‘likes’ revealed a (for me) surprising degree of support for the outcome from the younger generation of Christians I know.
I’m sure that others of my (generally silent) generation are somewhat bewildered about what has effected such a radical reversal of perspective apparently so contradictory to the Biblical teaching they tried to pass on to their progeny.
What bewilders me is the speed at which this global change has taken place. The Netherlands was the first country to legalise same-sex marriage–actually on April 1, 2001 (no joking). And now even the conservative Irish are following the ‘progressive’ Dutch, a mere fourteen years later.
In the process of preparing a new website just for Weekly Words, I was recently reviewing some of my very earliest ww’s from back in 2001. One caught my eye with the title, The imam, the rabbi and the gay columnist. At the time, the Dutch government was a so-called ‘purple-coalition’ of liberals and socialists with one thing in common: an anti-Christian agenda bent on creating a new image of Holland with ‘progressive’ policies on euthanasia, same-sex marriage, prostitution and drugs.
The gay columnist I was quoting happened to be Pim Fortuin, who had not yet gone into politics and was writing columns for the Elsevier weekly magazine. A year later he had become a household name in Holland as a flamboyant aspirant-premier ambitious to be the first European national leader with a handsome young male partner accompanying him on state occasions. Before the elections took place, however, he had become world famous through his shocking murder in May 2002 outside the Hilversum television studios.
What Pim Fortuin had written shortly before my May 21 Weekly Word in 2001 not only questioned the wisdom of government policy on drugs and euthanasia; it called the new homo-wedding legislation ‘ridiculous’ and ‘superfluous’.
‘Marriage is an institution that is reserved worldwide for a bond between a man and a woman,’ he wrote in Elsevier, ‘providing any resulting family with the necessary legal, social, emotional, mental and cultural protection.’
Then he added: ‘I have been very surprised how easily heterosexuals have allowed this institution to be applied to same-sex relationships.’
Yet to make such a statement today would risk being ostracised as a ‘homophobe’. But look who was making this statement!
This climate of intolerance in the name of tolerance disturbs me and does not reassure me that we are dealing here with issues of justice long denied on a parallel with slavery or women’s emancipation.
The rabbi I referred to in my ww title was Jonathan Sacks whom I have quoted periodically over the years. On that occasion he was lamenting that almost any public pronouncement on personal morality would be greeted by a chorus of disapproval. In the name of tolerance, we had taught that every alternative lifestyle was legitimate. Moral judgement–once a virtue–was taboo, even ‘judgemental’. Moral relativism had destroyed our moral compass, he said.
What was right had become what did not harm others, and in time degenerated to what I felt like doing and could get away with. But since we no longer shared a moral code, how could we agree on what constituted harm to others? Did abortion? Did the withdrawal of a life-support machine?
To recognise others’ rights to their lifestyle choices was one thing. To demand that no-one questioned the ‘rightness’ of those choices was another. Such political correctness, he argued, was intolerance in the name of tolerance, intimidating the voice of reasoned opposition into silence.
Rabbi Sacks called his readers to summon the courage to rebuild a moral consensus, beginning with that most fundamental of questions: what sort of world would we wish to bequeath to our children and grandchildren?
What will be the long term effect of moving the ancient boundary stones of marriage (Prov 22:28)? What will future historians make of these first few years of the 21st century when the one institution guaranteeing the future of the human race was radically redefined?
I’m afraid I cannot accept the theological gymnastics of those who try to make the Bible justify the new interpretations.
I beg to differ.
Till next week,