“Same-sex Marriage”: What I would have said

As I watched last night’s parliamentary debate, I started pondering what I would say if I were an MP with a chance to address the nation on this historic night. Sam Seaborn or Toby Zeigler I am not, but here’s what I came up with

RingsMr Speaker, as we meet tonight in this chamber, hundreds of thousands of people around the nation are watching and anticipating not just our decision, but our discussion. And so I’d like to address my comments to some of those who are watching tonight. Specifically, I’d like to directly address the members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities for whom tonight is so important. Indirectly, I’m also addressing the countless New Zealanders who share your hope that this bill will pass.

I must begin by saying that I oppose this bill, even though the horse has bolted and, clearly, this bill will pass. Why? Why oppose a bill that many have claimed is all about human rights, freedom and equality? Am I scared? Am I a homophobe, or a bigot? Am I just a bluff old traditionalist? Let me explain where I stand.

I oppose this bill because I am a Bible-believing Christian, which I know makes me a strange breed in 21st century public life. I believe that the Bible is the very word of God – the words spoken by our creator, God, to us, his creatures. At many points, the Bible’s message delights and comforts us. But it should be no surprise that at some points, it challenges and confronts us. And together with Christians down through the centuries and around the world today, I believe the clear, unambiguous message of the Bible is that marriage has been designed by God to be between one man and one woman. I believe this parliament doesn’t get to define what marriage is. God does. And he has designed marriage to be based around the wonderful complementarity between the sexes, where a man and a woman come together in a lifelong sexual union and start a new family, based (at least in part) on their complementarity and their differences.

While it puts me out of step with many of my colleagues and much of my society, I am not at liberty to change or to sideline what God has spoken about marriage.

I believe that civil unions are an appropriate and helpful structure to allow the preservation of traditional marriage, which is foundational to our society, while still allowing those of you who wish to live in legally recognised same-sex partnerships to express those partnerships publicly and to enjoy important legal rights and protections with one another.

I know that I can’t persuade you to share this position tonight. That’s not my aim. But I believe it’s important to clearly and honestly tell you why I hold the position that I do. Indeed, I hope you will recognise that this very short summary doesn’t do justice to the depth of thinking behind my views. Deep discussions like this one aren’t suited to five minute speeches, let alone to our sound-bite, YouTube-driven society. But just as you hold your views for deep, carefully considered reasons, so do I and so do Christians like me.

Moreover, I hope you will hear and respect my views, even if you don’t agree with them. For that is true tolerance. What we have here is a profound clash of worldviews, but that doesn’t mean we should quickly dismiss the views of others, no matter how strange they may sound to our ears. That’s true for people on both sides of this discussion.

That will be the part of my speech that saddens, angers or maybe just confuses you. So I hope you will still hear me loud and clear as I continue. Because what I want to say next is this: though I cannot support this bill, that does not change the fact that I love and respect you and want the best for you – your community as a whole, and you as an individual. Opposition to ‘same-sex marriage’ does not equal hatred of homosexual people. It means there are real, profound differences between us, but those differences need not divide us or set us at enmity with one another.

I recognise that sometimes Bible-believing Christians have done a very poor job of conveying our respect, care and love for our homosexual friends. I admit that, even worse, some Bible-believing Christians (or at least those claiming that name) have in fact failed to love, care for and respect you as they should. Equally, I believe that at times, our conscientious objection to ‘same-sex marriage’ has been (sometimes wilfully) misinterpreted as a lack of love, care and respect.

But dear friend, please hear me loud and clear. While I oppose this bill, I do not oppose you. You are welcome in my church. Although it sounds patronising to say it, let me affirm that you are welcome in my community and my society, and you have so much to offer us. And though I believe God’s intention for you is not that you live in a sexually active same-sex relationship, you are created in his image every bit as much as I am, or as any person is. You are loved by him, valued by him, treasured by him. Your sexuality does not change that.

This is a vitally important discussion – not least because as we’ve heard here tonight, issues of equality, freedom, and human rights are perceived to be at stake. But let me mention again one other vital value that is at stake tonight: tolerance. Our society is deeply confused on this very important topic. Today, in most circles, tolerance has come to mean the removal of all differences – a refusal to disagree with someone else’s worldview, or to disagree with their spiritual beliefs, or to disagree with their actions. But if we give it a moment’s thought, true tolerance means something quite different. To tolerate one another, we must first acknowledge that we disagree. What does it mean to say, “I agree with you completely, and I tolerate you”? Our redefinition of tolerance has left us deeply confused. Even worse, we have sometimes promoted the deadly idea that says, “All views are acceptable – apart from the view that says something is unacceptable.” Loving your neighbour as yourself does not mean always agreeing with your neighbour.

The result of tonight’s vote is all but guaranteed. We all know that. But what is not guaranteed is where we go from here, and how we handle our disagreements and our competing worldviews. My hope and prayer tonight is that we commit ourselves to true tolerance – not merely papering over our differences or pretending they don’t exist, but talking about our differences, and deepening our respect and care for each other in the process. That we commit ourselves to listening to each other – deeply, genuinely, patiently. That we take the time to understand the worldview of others, even when we cannot quickly relate to it. I pray that our society will renew its commitment to the ideal that says, “I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” I pray that people who stand opposed to tonight’s decision will not be marginalised as homophobic, bigoted, intolerant, backward rednecks. And I pray that people who stand opposed to tonight’s decision will give no one any real reason whatsoever to believe that they are, in fact, homophobic, bigoted, intolerant, backward rednecks.

This debate has been important for many reasons – not least because it has brought out strong, emotional reactions on both sides. One of the measures of a society is the manner in which these discussions take place, and the respect and kindness with which people on all sides treat each other. Tonight, I commit myself to treating you and your communities with love and respect, even as I oppose this bill.

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33 thoughts on ““Same-sex Marriage”: What I would have said

  1. Great ‘speech’, very balanced, demonstrating your Biblical views re respect for marriage and respect for all people. It’s sad so many people don’t understand tolerance. One thing i’m still thinking through is the role of civil unions, since the reason married couples get extra privileges (e.g. in superannuation) is that the lifetime, family-building commitment between one man and one woman is a special one where the two people become one and uphold a society comprised primarily of families. It seems odd for other groupings (whether de facto couples, same-sex couples or non-sexual groupings) to enjoy marriage-like privileges. Then again, that may be a concession that one needs to make in a democratic society. Not sure where I stand on that! Thanks for your post. You and your fam remain in our prayers =)

  2. At the end of the day, this hasn’t changed anything, the world (NZ included) is just as messed up and brilliant, ugly and beautiful, free and restrained as it was before this entire issue was even thought of.

  3. Since nobody takes the Bible at it’s literal word, surely your definition of marriage can change too? After all, we don’t accuse those that divorce and remarry as adulterers, even though the Bible clearly states it in Luke.

    In a previous age, inter-racial marriage was considered unnatural and abhorrent, but we moved on, and I’d wager that the same will happen here.

    • Hi Simon,

      Thanks for your comment. I’m not sure I agree with your premise, though (ie: “nobody takes the Bible at it’s literal word”). Taking the Bible literally doesn’t mean we read or apply every single part of it in the same way. We read it carefully and thoughtfully, taking account of things like genre, Old Testament versus New Testament, what’s descriptive versus what’s prescriptive, etc. But the truth is that most Christians for the last 2000 years (and most Christians today) have treated the Bible as the literal word of God. I know that raises some significant questions, but I think it’s important to state it clearly. (And I’m going to shamelessly avoid getting into questions about divorce and remarriage – too complicated for an already-complicated issue… 🙂

      Many thanks,
      Geoff

    • Simon you are wrong when you say that nobody takes the Bible at it’s literal word. Perhaps you should look at the Creation MInistries International web site to assist you in finding out just how many do
      Phil

  4. I understand and respect your beliefs and opinions, however, don’t think the worlds laws should be based on one view and on one religion. The world is diverse, multicultural and full of people with varied beliefs. All of these beliefs hold value and worth and all of these beliefs matter to the person who possesses them. The thing is, not one person has the right to push that belief on another, or try to dictate what others can say or do by domineering and controlling; such christofascism is an almost certain precursor to war, a history book will demonstrate that. Whilst you have the right to say “I don’t agree”, you don’t have the right to impose your religious views on others. Having a law against gay marriage would impose your beliefs on the lives of other people. Such narrow-minded behaviour is domineering, judgemental and the reason behind millions of deaths throughout history, people don’t like to be controlled. This isn’t about your bible, your religion or your thoughts and opinions. This is about human rights, freedom and the choice each individual has to live their life how they want to. The truth is that with advancing education, people are informed and there are a lot of inconsistencies apparent in the Bible and many human rights violations ordained by this book. As such, it is naive to believe that an educated and intelligent society will continue to base choices on the fact that the ‘Bible says so’. We have developed our own minds, we question everything, we ask for alternative views and we search for our own answers. In many, this journey has led us away from the bible, and instead allowed us to discover our own hearts, our own character and our own values. Lastly, if the answer to the world problems were based on “What is the kindest choice?” instead of “What does the Bible say?” I can only imagine with a wistful smile the better state the world would be in today. Imagine if we put people first, and treated others with the same respect we would like to be treated. After all, how would you feel if you were thrown into Afghanistan and their laws prohibited you from living by your Bible? I think the domination and control would have you in tears… many a tear has been shed by a dominated man or woman who wished to marry the love of his or her life – but you said no, because the Bible says so.

    • Hi Casey,

      Thanks for your reply. I’ve responded to a similar point below (from Lee), so rather than responding again, can I ask you to take a look at that (if you’re still interested).

      Cheers,
      Geoff

  5. I do not agree with your views, but I respect them. Your belief, and your strength of belief, is a great thing. I believe that there may one day be ‘true tolerance’, and I look forward to that day. As a bisexual woman, I appreciate your message of welcome.

    To business, however; has not the bible put forward other definitions of marriage, such as a man with many wives? How does this fit with ‘one man, one woman’? The idea of marriage also long predates Christianity, and has changed in many ways over time. What about other religions – if a couple do not believe in God or His word, should they be refused ‘marriage’? Marriage in today’s society is not a Christian affair. It is a legal matter, in which religion plays a part only depending on the beliefs of those being married. If two men are in a loving, committed relationship, should they not be able to have that legally recognised (which civil unions do not wholly achieve)? Fair enough, they cannot get married in a church, or as part of a religious ceremony.

    As I said, I respect your beliefs, and your right to a different opinion. I do not ask these questions to inflame or prompt argument, but because I am genuinely interested in your answers.

    • Hi there,

      Thanks very much for your reply and your kind words, despite our disagreement about some things – I really appreciate it 🙂

      The questions you’re raising about the Bible’s teaching on marriage are very big, and very complex. If I was going to try making a quick (unsatisfactory) reply, I’d start here:
      (1) The Bible records instances of polygamy, but not in a way that approves it, endorses it or normalises it. For example, one of the things that led to the nation of Israel going off the rails so badly in the Old Testament was Solomon’s ridiculously over-the-top polygamy (700 wives and 300 concubines!). Reading the Bible as a whole, it becomes clear that God’s design for marriage is between one man and one woman.
      (2) When you say that “the idea of marriage also long predates Christianity”, it all depends on our definition. My belief is that God established the pattern for marriage right from the beginning of human history – as described in Genesis 2 (Adam and Eve), a picture later picked up and endorsed by Jesus himself (eg: Matthew 19). So while Christianity technically started with the coming of Jesus 2000 years ago, God’s design for marriage has been woven into the fabric of creation since the very beginning. I know that might sound strange in some ways – I certainly acknowledge that we’re (probably) coming from different places in terms of the foundations of our worldview at this point. There’s a lot, lot more to it than that, but it’s the best I can do for now 🙂

      I think I’ll leave it there for now. Please do reply again if you want to think about it any further or share more thoughts. And thanks again for replying so graciously.

      • Thankyou for your sincere reply. Your first point did clear a few things up. I don’t have a thoroughly religious background, and although I have been told the basics, I haven’t ever read the bible ‘cover to cover’, or received in depth explanations for it. You are probably right in your second point, that we think about things differently. Although I believe in the scientific explanation of the universe, I have always thought that the stories of Genesis are not necessarily mutually exclusive. (For instance, when I asked my physics teacher at school what caused the Big Bang, he frowned and suggested God.)

        I think the only area in which I disagree is the idea that marriage is a solely Christian issue. We could consider a marriage to have two components; the spiritual and the legal. Even a Christian marriage between a man and a woman in a church is not legally recognised until the couple sign a few documents. This indicates that marriage can be spiritual without being legal. Does this not imply that (for people with different beliefs) a marriage could be legal, but not spiritual?

        Perhaps this was the idea behind civil unions. I can’t speak for NZ, but in Aus a civil union has only limited legal benefits. A civil ‘spouse’ cannot automatically make medical decisions for their partner, as a husband could for a wife, for instance.

        Thankyou for sharing your beliefs with me. Feel free to ask anything about my sexuality or beliefs 🙂

  6. Incredibly ridiculous piece of writing.

    Conservative Christians and social conservatives in general are not and have not been subject to criminalisation, violence and discrimination on the basis of their birth. They have long held the privilege of being able to influence majorities in parliament and subsequently produce laws and influence the ‘values’ of society. They have for centuries chosen to use this power to marginalise queer people with impunity.

    It is therefore supremely arrogant for those who are not queer, who are profoundly privileged, and who bare a great responsibility for our marginalization, to tell that minority what tolerance or bigotry means.

    Please stop telling queer people whether they are oppressed or not. Please stop telling a minority to shut up when they robustly denounce your support for laws which will determine the circumstances of their lives. Being called a bigot, homophobe or a hater because you you believe your bible should define the civil laws which regulate our lives is not oppression. If you want to find out what oppression is, ask a queer.

    Your arguments are as credible as a white person telling a person of colour what they should or should not find offensive, or telling them that racism against white people is actually a thing.

    • Dear Pat,

      Thanks very much for taking the time to respond. I’m sorry that you didn’t find what I wrote helpful. I’m not going to try to second-guess what may or may not have happened to you and/or to others you know and love, but let me just say this: in so many ways, you’re absolutely right. Homosexual people have been badly mistreated in myriad ways. It’s terrible. And not being gay myself, I can only imagine what that must be like.

      I really hope not to have contributed to that. If you can show me more clearly how or where I’ve done that, let me know and I’ll retract what I’ve written. But at the moment, I think that if you carefully re-read what I’ve written, hopefully you’ll see that I’m actually acknowledging some of what you said. Maybe you’ll see that the last thing I want is for any person to be marginalized or mistreated on the basis of their sexuality. If that didn’t come through clearly, I’m sorry, because that’s genuinely what I believe.

      However, that doesn’t mean that I am being intolerant or oppressive simply by expressing a contrary view – does it? Yes, opinions can be expressed in an oppressive way. But what I tried to do in my imaginary speech was to show that it’s possible to disagree with someone about this issue while still being genuinely concerned about their welfare, and having a real love and respect for that person. Given all the emotion around this issue and the mistakes that have been made, I agree that it’s exceptionally hard to do that. But I don’t think it’s impossible. I believe it’s possible to love someone without agreeing with everything they believe, say or do.

      Thanks again for responding, and all the best.
      Geoff

  7. I’m a christian. But I thought the bible was not to be taken as the literal word of God, because otherwise we should be killing homosexuals. I thought men wrote the bible (inspired by God), and therefore it has mistakes, which is why we now focus on some parts (Jesus) more than others (the ‘old’ testament). I feel your premise is build on a foundation of sand.

    I do agree with your comments on tolerance.

    • Hi James,

      Thanks very much for reading and for your thoughts. You’ve raised some really big questions, and it’s not really possible to respond to them properly here. But for now, let me just say a few things.
      (1) My views on same-sex relationships and marriage aren’t based on a few isolated verses from the Old Testament, but from reading the entire Bible as carefully and consistently as I can. There is a wealth of material in the Bible – Old Testament and New Testament – that informs our views on marriage and relationships.
      (2) The belief of most Christians through the ages (and today) has been that the Bible is indeed inspired by God himself, which therefore puts it into a different category to any other writing. I would argue that it is, indeed, free from error and mistake. I know offering that statement without any explanation might raise lots of questions, but this isn’t the place to go into the details of how Christians believe that works and why this can be the case. I hope it’s enough to say that there are very good, deep reasons to believe this, and it’s not simply a desperate attempt to cling to some ancient document that happens to suit my purposes.
      (3) We have to read the whole Bible in context, and the New Testament and the Old Testament are to be applied to our lives today quite differently. That’s why the idea of ‘killing homosexuals’ (or even mistreating people on the basis of their sexuality in any way whatsoever) should be totally anathema to Christians (or, hopefully, anybody anywhere).

      Thanks again for interacting,
      Geoff

      • Hi Geoff,
        I disagree with point (3) in your reply to James. Jesus clearly said that his followers should follow the *entire* OT law, to the very letter (Matt 5:17-20). This means Jesus wants his people to put practicing homosexuals to death (Lev 20:17). I regularly hear Christians making the very same argument that you do here, but none of them can take Matt 5:17-20 into account. By saying you don’t think homosexuals should be put to death, I think you are setting aside one of the OT commands here, in opposition to Jesus’ teaching. You said in point (1) that you want to read the entire Bible altogether, and not simply cherry pick a few isolated verses. I think this is a good thing. So how can you say that “‘killing homosexuals’ … should be totally anathema to Christians”, when Jesus’ words in Matthew 5 are so emphatic? You’re emphatically saying the opposite! Of course I know there are other Bible verses which disagree with the message of Matthew 5:17-20, but that doesn’t mean we can ignore this powerful passage. If the Bible is the word of God, we must engage and respond to this record of Jesus’ words. How do you respond?

        Thanks for taking the time to respond to the many questions which have popped up in the comments. It’s been very interesting to read them!

      • Hi there,

        You raise an important question, and Matthew 5:17-20 is definitely a tough passage. However, when we come across hard passages, one of the principles that I’ve found helpful is to:

        (a) Make sure you’re reading the passage in context
        (b) Make sure that easier passages and bigger theological principles are helping you to interpret the harder passages correctly

        Reading Matthew 5 in context, the key point seems to really be about Jesus’ fulfilment of the Old Testament law. And yes, he does say that not one word of the law will pass away, etc – but as you keep reading the rest of Matthew 5, he does something very interesting: he starts to show that obedience to the law must go deep, beyond the superficial level of obedience that the Pharisees (v. 20) seemed to be content with. Real obedience and real righteousness means understanding that the purpose of the law was / is to drive us to deep, heart-felt obedience. That’s what it means to be a disciple of the one who has fulfilled the law.

        Therefore, because there are so many other things going on in this passage, my tendency will be to reserve judgment on whether or not Jesus is commanding obedience to every single aspect of the law in exactly the same way as it was expected under the old covenant.

        If I start to use principle (b) from above, I think things become a bit clearer. For example, Mark 7:14-23 (especially verse 19) is helpful, because it is clear from that passage that Jesus declares all foods clean, and hence we can’t say the Old Testament law has to be obeyed in exactly the same way as it was under the old covenant. You might say that it’s just one specific area of thought, but at least it allows us to look back at Matthew 5:17-20 and say that Jesus can’t be saying that the law is to be obeyed precisely as it used to be.

        Moreover, to highlight another example, if you read through the whole New Testament, you’ll see that circumcision (a massively important OT concept and category) applies differently under the new covenant when compared to the old covenant. So again, I can take that principle and use it to help me understand the slightly more difficult-to-interpret words of Matthew 5. And I can rule out the idea that Jesus is saying the that his disciples must obey the Old Testament law in precisely the same way as Israel did as they lived under the old covenant. It leaves lots of big questions about how the Old Testament law applies to Christians today, but I think that’s how I would at least start to answer your statement.

    • Hi Geoff,

      Thank you for your responses, and also for DRC.

      I understand the points that you make, and I’m glad that your reading of the bible leads you to not think that homosexuals should be killed. However, I have a problem with the ‘context’ argument:

      i.e., – the things that today we (reasonable people) would not consider doing were appropriate at the time of the old testament, such as:
      — owing slaves
      — killing homosexual
      — having our daughters marry the person who raped them

      Not all cultures during this period were behaving in this way. That is why I feel that it was men who wrote the bible, and they at some times had their own agendas (power, control of women etc). These are immoral things. In my view, at no point in history should it have ever been O.k to own another human’s life, kill homosexuals, etc.

      I also feel that it is a disadvantage to our position (as Christians) that we have so many different interpretations. As DRC mentioned, the notion of “cherry picking” is a fair criticism of the diverse range of Christian views that exist. I may be cherry picking some parts, and you also. That is why we may be disagreeing on some of the points here.

      Who is right? Well, that depends on who interprets the book correctly. The Westboro Baptist Church, who I’m sure we both disagree with, are offering an interpretation of the bible that can be cherry picked. We can say they are crazy, but who are we to say we have the right interpretation.

      Whilst conversation to better understand the truth may be enjoyable, it can lead to problems, such as hatred (Westboro), denying human rights (possibly your view), or granting unworthy rights (possibly my view).

      With all this confusion and potential for misinterpretation, I sometimes wish the bible was clearer or just stated that “it is a guide to truth”.

      Thanks again,

      James

      • James, for the Bible to be clear on essential issues, it doesn’t mean there won’t be disagreements. The Bible expects there will be for different reasons: false teachers, people with bad motives, some parts are difficult, etc. This should remind us to be careful and humble as we interpret the Bible because we will be held accountable.

        The issue of homosexuality however, is not as unclear as some make out. The Bible seems to be univocal in both the OT and NT.

        But we should still be careful when applying the OT law. We still uphold and apply the whole law as DRC says above, but we should do this as it has been fulfilled by Christ. And that’s the difference.

        In the OT, the Kingdom of God was to be established in national Israel. Judgement on many sins was immediate. The problem was Israel was just as guilty. Since Christ, we live in an age of grace and mercy. Judgement will still be applied to all sinners, but it is delayed. The kingdom is now and not yet.

        This is why homosexuality is still wrong, but we don’t “stone the sinner” because we deserve the “stoning” just as much.

        As to your other issues, when the law speaks of slaves, it is a mistake to have images of slavery in Americas history in your mind.

        The law you are referring to (in Deut 22?) about rape, was to make the man take responsibility for his wrongdoing, rather than forcing a woman to marry someone she didn’t want to. Once a woman lost her virginity, it would have been very unlikely she would get married or bear children (two of the highest values for ancient Israelite women). She would of not been provided for, and may have had to even sell herself into prostitution. In all likelihood this law would have made her think God was kind.

        Blessings

  8. The reason this speech wasn’t heard in parliament is because it is outdated and wrong on a most fundamental level. As a Member of Parliament, you most likely have to represent an electorate, and especially in a diverse country like New Zealand, that representation includes many different people of many different faiths, including many New Zealanders that have no faith at all. By driving home the fact that you oppose this bill due to your own personal religion is a slap in the face to those who follow a different set of religious beliefs. I am proud of our Government for looking at this issue from a secular point of view, as is the way a state should be run; and when viewed from a secular stand point, recognized that the only change that this bill introduces into society is that the love between any two people is just as valid and legally significant as any other couple. While I am a man of faith, one of the most important parts of New Zealand society is diversity and the embrace of difference; and to me, that includes the acceptance of many different religions and life styles. Gay men and women may ‘creep me out’ on some levels due to cultural differences, but that doesn’t retract even in the slightest the fact that they are humans, they are New Zealand citizens, and until yesterday, were denied a right every other New Zealander had.

    The religious argument really falls flat on its face when you realize just how ridiculous it would be if represented staunchly in Government. Imagine a bill banning pork, because it is an abomination in the eyes of Muslim and Jewish New Zealanders. You, as a Christian, would most definitely fight for your civil right to consume the meat of any animal regardless of religious belief, for those religious tenants are not part of who you are. Indeed, it only makes sense for Government to represent ALL religions, and for the people of New Zealand to then make their own choices with the freedoms given to them by a just and secular Government.

    Please learn to accept the differences of others. You may not like gay people but it is not your place to dictate how they live their lives. It is the role and purpose of this Government to appoint equal rights and privileges to ALL of it’s citizens, and it is the role of us citizens to do what we CHOOSE with those rights. If you don’t like gay marriage, don’t marry a member of the same sex.

    God Bless

    • Hi Lee,

      Thanks very much for your reply, I appreciate you taking the time to read and to share your thoughts.

      I agree with quite a bit of what you said, but I do have one question for you: Why should someone’s point of view be excluded because it is based on their Christian faith (or any other faith, for that matter)? Atheists and agnostics have a worldview that profoundly affects their opinions on a whole range of issues. While the connection between their worldview and their political opinions may not be as explicit or as obvious as the Christian’s (or the Muslim’s, or the Buddhist’s, etc), there is still a very real connection at a foundational level. So why are the opinions of the secularist more valid or permissible than the Christian’s, or the Muslim’s, or the Buddhist’s?

      The answer can’t be based on who shares their worldview, can it? I don’t share the worldview of the secular atheist, but that doesn’t mean I have a right to tell them their opinions have no place in public life.

      If we head down this path, aren’t we in danger of introducing a form of cultural elitism and superiority where, for all our talk about tolerance and democracy, we actually exclude some people from having a say in our nation’s future and our public life?

      Thanks again for your thoughts, God bless you too.

      Geoff

    • Hi Lee,

      On reflection, there’s one more brief comment I wanted to make in response to what you wrote. You used the phrase, “You may not like gay people…”. I need to point out that’s not where I stand at all – not even close. You may not have intended it, but it’s not really a fair thing to have said, or implied. In fact one of the main points of what I wrote was to show that my view on ‘same-sex marriage’ is no reflection on whether or not I ‘like gay people’.

      I hope you don’t mind me pointing this out – I think it’s too important not to.

  9. Geoff
    Firstly thank-you for writing this. A friend shared it on Facebook this morning and it has been going round and round in my head all day! My own faith in God, frankly, is fragile at best and that it is sustained at all is testament to the lives and testimonies of my church friends and family. The more I read the bible the more trouble I have with it, and I cannot bring myself to demand that other people’s rights, or the denial thereof, should be dictated by my beliefs.

    The main reason I’m glad you wrote this is because, as you say, Bible-believing Christians have done more harm than good by their lack of love. We need as many voices like yours as we can get to try and mend some of that harm.

    One thing that really did rankle though, I have to say, was this:
    ‘Although it sounds patronising to say it, let me affirm that you are welcome in my community and my society, and you have so much to offer us.’
    It doesn’t just sound patronisng it sounds downright arrogant. Given the general tone of this “speech” I am assuming that it was unintentional, but, to me anyway, it really does come across that way – it is not your, or my, community or society to allow or deny admittance too. It is LGBT peoples’ community and society too, when other members of it tolerate their existence or not.

    • Hi Christine,

      Thanks very much for your comments, your feedback, and especially your honesty. On the line about LGBT people being welcome as part of our community, I take your point. I contemplated removing that line for the very reason you mentioned. But I decided to include it because I think sometimes the perception (or even the reality) is that anyone who opposes ‘same-sex marriage’ want to reject the right of homosexual people to play any part in society (or something like that). Put another way – I decided it was worth the risk of being misheard in order to affirm something that I think may be important for some people. But I apologise for not finding better words to convey that.

      On your comments about church life / the Bible, etc, just a couple of comments. First, I’m thrilled to hear that godly family and friends have been an encouragement for you to persist in your faith. Second, can I gently and humbly encourage you to remember that it really should come as no surprise that the Bible’s message sometimes sounds strange or confronting to us? If it really is God’s word to us, we should expect that (since we’re far from perfect), sometimes God’s word will force us to reconsider our own beliefs and practices (on an individual or a societal level). Like any relationship, it won’t always be perfect agreement. But it’s much better to allow God’s good word to shape and correct us than to reject it whenever it gets awkward. Please bear with me for wading into a big topic when I don’t know where you’re really coming from – but I hope you’ll take the point I’m making in the spirit it’s intended.

      Thirdly, and most importantly, isn’t it great to remember that despite whatever doubts we might have, Jesus is 100% reliable, will never let us down, and (if we continue with him, however faltering we may feel) he will also hold onto us! I’ll pray for you, and thanks again for commenting.

  10. Hi Geoff, just want you to know that I have been praying for you as you answer the questions put to you. I think God has given you widsom, patience and great love…as I see it evident in your answers so far. Maria

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