[Written by guest blogger, Adele Sretenovic]
I’m about to write some of my perspective on the issue of same-sex marriage (SSM). I am going to say regardless of what you believe about same-sex marriage it NEEDS to be legalised. And I’m going to say it on behalf of the hurting people, on both sides.
This plebiscite is nothing more than a vote-saver for Malcolm Turnbull. He knows that it will be passed through this plebiscite, but now he can say to all those Christians who are against SSM and choose to vote for him that he followed through on his promise… AND to all those who wanted this law to pass, that he did do it. It’s just a political manoeuvre and we are the pawns and the victims of his games. I say victims because in the midst of our strong views that politicians like to believe is just law, are people. People who have hurts and pains like everyone in this world. People who don’t deserve to feel like less than people for the life that they have. People who will lash out like a wild animal in pain, when threatened and belittled, and I will admit that while this is happening on both sides of this debate it is those to whom this law matters most who are truly the victims here. Whether you are homosexual or not, whether you believe SSM is wrong or right, at the end of the day we are ALL just people. And this debate has dehumanised so many people and it is just not right.
So why do I say to Christians to legalise SSM? For many reasons, but firstly because law is not religion – religion generally tries to imagine the world as it could be. At its best it makes us strive to be better people, but it does not rule a society. The Law, in my mind, protects, it protects us from others and from ourselves. It acknowledges the reality that life is not perfect, humans are not perfect. And in this sense I can only say that Jesus himself acknowledges the need for exceptions. He said that God did not intend for divorce, yet He made allowances for it. Our law now allows people to have no-fault divorce, yet according to Jesus in the Bible unless there was evidence of adultery, divorce is not God’s intention and to remarry after divorce He declares it a form of adultery. Yet how many Christian’s today are divorced not because of adultery and are now remarried? I don’t condemn them; I understand life is beyond the ideal of Jesus’ words. In fact to be perfectly honest, I could have gotten divorced. As wonderful as my husband is, after we had children it was so hard. I wasn’t coping, he wasn’t coping and he and I just couldn’t seem to work things out (my polite way of saying, screaming, crying and arguing matches). Eventually, for us we were blessed to have counselling sessions that helped us resolve our differences and deal with our own issues.
I also believe Jesus didn’t condemn. For example, not long after he makes this declaration about divorce, he forgives the woman caught in adultery. But my question is why does not only society but many churches now accept people who are divorced? I believe it is because we understand that sometimes even though we try to understand each other in a marriage, it doesn’t always work out. And sometimes the better solution is to walk away so that we don’t spend a lifetime hurting ourselves and others. In some ways the Church can learn from the Law, it can learn to accept that life isn’t perfect and we must make allowances for this. That sometimes we need to imagine that the worst will happen, and explore how we will respond, which is what the Law does. My question at the end of this is: if you met someone who was divorced would you honestly tell them that they are condemned by God? Would you condemn them and convict them, disown them; tell them that you love them but not their actions? Would you belittle their life? Tell them of all the potential negative consequences of divorce on their children? If so, then you need to get the massive log out of your eye, because according to your beliefs, Christ died for them and he does not condemn them. If not, then how can you do this to someone who wants to marry someone of the same sex? Is it not the same thing, a lifetime decision against various verses in the Bible? Drop your stone my friends, we are guilty too. And if it is right or wrong to love someone of the same sex, it is not our place to judge. It is not our place to condemn and it is not our place to say that it should not happen. The only thing we can control is ourselves. So make a pledge with yourself to not marry someone of the same sex if you believe it is wrong, make a pledge with yourself to be a better person, but understand that this is the only true power you have in life, control over yourself and your attitudes.
For those who are willing to concede a civil union but not marriage, here is my view. The church does not own the word marriage – it was in place before the Bible and used within many different cultures and religions, many with no knowledge of the Christian or even Jewish faith. There are many different definitions that have evolved over time, from a transaction between families, to a love match. I mean, even in the Bible there are difference definitions, with the Old Testament allowing (if not promoting) polygamy: great patriarchs such as Jacob, David and Solomon all have multiple wives. Yet the New Testament states that a deacon can have only one wife. So it is not a question of redefinition of a word, such as ‘trinity’, which is exclusively used in Christianity; ‘marriage’ is a word that both secular and religious people use. I see no controversy from Christians stating that they are appalled, offended and refuse to recognise the marriage of non-Christian heterosexuals; often Christians are willing to recognise these ‘marriages’, even if a celebrant not a minister performed the ceremony and there was no mention of God in the service at all. So if marriage is not a Christian-only institution, why try to stop this redefinition? My reasoning for allowing it to be called marriage is because words have connotations (I’m an English teacher, connotation is my world) and if a civil union looks like marriage, sounds like marriage and is basically marriage, then why create a new word that will cause potential discrimination? If the only difference between a civil union and marriage is the gender of the participants, then it is discriminatory. How do you say that someone is equal if one group have one word to describe their relationship and another group a different one? It becomes a way of division instead of love and unity, a way to judge a relationship as lacking, incomplete or inappropriate. Will you also protest a civil union relationship calling their partner their wife? I understand you are trying to compromise, but it is not enough if we want to live in a society of peace and inclusion.
Finally, I just ask that those Christians putting forth their ‘no’ point of view to stop looking at this as though it is not personal. It is very personal, especially for a group of people who already have been hurt, abused and belittled in our society; they do not need your judgement too. They do not need you to say that it’s not you judging them but God, they don’t need you to espouse views that you think are impersonal, but are very personal to them. They don’t need you to say that they are going to screw up any kids that they have. As a parent I don’t think there is any perfect parent out there, and there is potential for both heterosexual and homosexual parents to damage the psyche of a child. Divorce damages, single parenting damages, but it also has the potential for good. I know some wonderful, amazing, single mums who are doing an amazing job raising their child. Honestly, are any of these any worse than a married Christian father who abuses his child? There are many risk factors to the physical, emotional and mental health of a child, I know that, in fact I’m sure many of us have hidden scars from our own childhood. But everyone is different and we can’t judge all homosexuals on an anecdote where someone experienced pain being raised by homosexual parents. At the end of all this I just ask that you see homosexual people as PEOPLE first. Not as theology, not as right versus wrong, not as hypothetical problems, but as people. As your mother, as your sister, as your father, as your brother. That is how I believe Jesus lived, he saw people, that’s why His ministry was with the lowly, the fishermen, the tax collectors, the prostitutes. He didn’t condemn Zacchaeus’ life, he didn’t say, “You’re wrong, you’re greedy and I’ll prove all of this to you by quoting the prophets of old”; instead he said, “Let’s go have lunch together.” I get that it is hard to not feel as though SSM is threatening you personally, but in time I hope you can see the people, not the topic. I hope you can forget the topic and just love the person.
I’m not perfect, I can’t see the future any better than you, but I trust God to bring healing and wholeness to a situation that is full of hurt, confusion and righteous indignation. I trust God to help me be compassionate to all people, homosexual or heterosexual, Christian or non-Christian, and because of this I am choosing to vote ‘yes’. Because essentially the greatest commandment Jesus gave was to love God and love one another as ourselves. So before you say anything more on this issue, think whether is it loving and err on the side of silence if unsure.
And as a side note please be wary of a politician who cares more for votes than he does about the emotional welfare of his people.