Stanley Hauerwas On Gay Marriage

The problem with debates about homosexuality is they have been devoid of any linguistic discipline that might give you some indication what is at stake. [The denomination of] Methodism, for example, is more concerned with being inclusive than being the church. We do not have the slightest idea what we mean by being inclusive other than some vague idea that inclusivity has something to do with being accepting and loving. Inclusivity is, of course, a necessary strategy for survival in what is religiously a buyers’ market. Even worse, the inclusive church is captured by romantic notions of marriage. Combine inclusivity and romanticism and you have no reason to deny marriage between gay people.

When couples come to ministers to talk about their marriage ceremonies, ministers think it’s interesting to ask if they love one another. What a stupid question! How would they know? A Christian marriage isn’t about whether you’re in love. Christian marriage is giving you the practice of fidelity over a lifetime in which you can look back upon the marriage and call it love. It is a hard discipline over many years.

The difficulty, therefore, is that Christians, when they approach this issue, no longer know what marriage is. For centuries, Christians married people who didn’t know one another until the marriage ceremony, and we knew they were going to have sex that night. They didn’t know one another. Where does all this love stuff come from? They could have sex because they were married.

Now, when marriage becomes a mutually enhancing arrangement until something goes wrong, then it makes no sense at all to oppose homosexual marriages. If marriage is a calling that makes promises of lifelong monogamous fidelity in which children are welcomed, then we’ve got a problem. But we can’t even get to a discussion there, because Christians no longer practice Christian marriage.

What has made it particularly hard is that the divorce culture has made it impossible for us to talk about these matters–and many of you know, I’m divorced and remarried. It has made it impossible for us to talk about these matters with an honesty and candor that is required if you are not to indulge in self-deceptive, sentimental lies.

For gay Christians who I know and love, I wish we as Christians could come up with some way to help them, like we need to help one another, to avoid the sexual wilderness in which we live. That’s a worthy task. I probably sound like a conservative on these matters, not because I’ve got some deep animosity toward gay people, but because I don’t know how to go forward given the current marriage practices of our culture.”

Stanley Hauerwas, Faith Fires Back

If churches in the UK want to say anything at all to this society about their disagreement with the government’s proposals, let them first begin to practice Christian marriage. Christians are a people with an imagination big enough and a community strong enough to maintain a narrative which actualises an ethics otherwise impossible for the non-Christian.

Let’s pull the plank from our own eyes, please.

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3 Comments

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  1. A good article over all – and some good points. However if the only way a Christian earns the right to speak into a situation is to be doing that particular thing perfectly themselves then we are scuppered!! As a Christian I would never seek to put my experience into a situation but only ever what the Word of God says on a subject. That is my only reference point on any situation – not my imperfect actions.

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    • I’m unsure it would be possible for a Christian to say anything at all if perfection were the precondition for speech. Of course the Christian must expose himself to hypocrisy in order to speak God’s word at all. Then again it’s only hypocrisy if there is no repentance. I suspect if the Pharisees had known humility, then Jesus would not have been so damning of them.

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      • Not quite sure I understand your reply? Jesus didn’t have a problem with the Pharisees because they weren’t humble. He had a problem with them because they denied the truth of God’s word. I can think of many humble people – such as Ghandi – who still denied the truth of God’s word. The definition of true humility is just to declare the same thing as God says about you or about anything. If God declares me righteous – it’s an insult to God to say I am not righteous. If God says he sorted the problems of the sins of the world – then it’s an insult to God for me to say he hasn’t. If God says the practice of homosexuality is against his design for the human body, then it’s an insult to God for me to say it’s ok to do.I have no right to put an opinion that isn’t backed up by the whole of scripture. Note – scripture does NOT say that I should hate the person who practices that sin, because in God’s eyes that is no worse or better a sin than any other sin. And whatever is not of faith is sin. But to declare it morally ok when God’s word says it’s not is to disrespect God.

        And I totally agree with the article in terms of Christians don’t display Christian marriages- but that doesn’t mean we can then say we have no right to speak the Word of God into the situation until we get it right ourselves? We should be speaking the word of God into Christian marriage as well, not instead of.

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