L-IG

A constituent on same-sex marriage

Last year, the Australian Parliament agreed that its Members of Parliament (MPs) should seek the views of constituents on the question of same-sex marriage.

Have you given your local MP the benefit of your view?

I urge you to respond to those set in authority over us and to share your view on the nature of marriage in a polite, well-argued way.

Below I share the letter I sent my local Member, in my capacity of Senior Minister of St Michael’s Cathedral in Wollongong. I would encourage you to use your own words and the arguments you find most persuasive. You might like to be briefer than me!

At the end of my sample letter, you will find links to the articles I have found most helpful on this topic in recent times.

Dear X,

I hope you are well, and again assure you of the prayers of the people of St Michael’s for you and your fellow parliamentarians in the onerous work you do.

I understand 24th August is the date set aside for MPs to give feedback from their consultations on the issue of same-sex marriage with their constituents.

In what follows, I speak as the representative of the people of St Michael’s Anglican Cathedral. Being the Cathedral Church for the region, I also speak more broadly for many Anglican Christians in the Illawarra. As such, I would also be very glad of the opportunity to speak with you face to face about this matter. I can be contacted via the numbers mentioned below.

Firstly, I openly note that Christian views are shaped by the Bible. We accept the Bible as God’s Word to us, though we understand other Australians do not accept it as such, and respect their right to a different view. Nevertheless it is still important that our parliamentary representatives be accurately informed about what Christians believe.

In brief, I note the words of Jesus concerning marriage, recorded in the Gospel of Mark 10:6-9:

“But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”

Here Jesus quotes from the first pages of the first book of the Bible, Genesis, which records how God created the world. Jesus clearly understands marriage to be a heterosexual union—between one man and one woman—for life. And from the universal creation context of Genesis, this understanding applies to all humans in the world, not just Israelites, or believers.

I also note from the context of Genesis that the creation of humans as male and female and their union in marriage, is intimately linked to childbearing (to “be fruitful and multiply”, Genesis 1:28). As the Anglican Prayer Book puts it, “In marriage a new family is established in accordance with God’s purpose, so that children may be born and nurtured in secure and loving care, for their well-being and instruction, and for the good order of society, to the glory of God.”

Secondly, in speaking into the public arena, I do not expect non-Christians would automatically be persuaded by the biblical account. However I think it wise for them to hesitate before dismissing the morality of the Judea-Christian worldview, which has been such a positive force for good in our world, and is one very significant influence in shaping Australia and its laws.

However, I also argue that defining marriage as an exclusive, heterosexual union for life is good for society, based on reasons that others might accept, independently of religious commitment.

To begin with, these days many people instinctively claim all discrimination is wrong. But further thought indicates that actually we discriminate all the time.

For example, on the basis of age, children are prohibited from certain activities. On the basis of gender, men cannot claim certain benefits that apply only to a mother. Someone not born in the United States is not eligible for election as their President, and so on.

In other words different situations may justify different treatment. I argue that marriage between a man and a woman is a situation different from a same-sex union, and this can justify some differing treatment in certain respects.

Whether we think our biology has come simply from evolution or by design, most people agree we would be foolish simply to ignore our biology. In particular, and allowing for the exceptions of medical technology, it still requires a woman and a man to produce children. That will (and should) remain the case for the vast majority of circumstances.

Here is an obvious and undeniable qualitative difference between a same-sex union and a heterosexual union. The former can never produce a child. The latter has that potential inherently. Here is a reason to treat such unions differently.

Most people would agree that it is still preferable for a child to be raised by a mother and a father, with the complementary strengths and natures they bring. I acknowledge that there are exceptions for various circumstances, such as single parenthood. I also admit that individual homosexual parents may prove to be very good parents. Nevertheless, our society should encourage the ideal that, wherever possible, a child ought to have a father and a mother. Here is an additional reason to privilege marriage between a man and a woman.

In fact, one might argue that the State has no business legislating in regard to a whole range of personal relationship matters (including sexual relationships, with the exception of abuse). The reason it legislates in regards to marriage is to encourage high standards in regards to the protection of children, and because the family is the building block of society.

I realise these arguments are not accepted by all people. I am aware of some of the objections to them. On request I could supply further argumentation with footnotes, but this is not the place.

I conclude by saying that the fact marriage—between a man and a woman—has been almost universally recognised across cultures and through history as existing as a special category—deserving special treatment—should cause us to pause before removing that special treatment.

Personally I think a relationships register to ensure just treatment in regards to inheritance, property rights, default powers of attorney, and so on, is an appropriate method for recognising same sex unions. However I think it should be extended towards other types of union people may wish to register, such as single brother and single sister who live together all their life, or two single women who have lived together in a non-sexual relationship for many years.

One last comment regards process. The ALP went to the last election on an unequivocal platform stating there would be no change to the definition of marriage in Australian law. Should the ALP change its platform in this matter, it should openly take any new policy to the next federal election and submit to the will of the electorate, rather than having its MPs break this clear promise by trying to alter the law beforehand in the current Parliament.

Yours sincerely,

Canon Sandy Grant

Senior Minister

St Michael’s Anglican Cathedral, Wollongong

Further reading

  • The latest, very thoughtful, briefing from the Social Issues Executive of the Anglican Diocese of Sydney (to which I belong), on the topic of responding to same-sex marriage proposals, which contains links to previous briefings and other helpful articles
  • A lengthier philosophical case for traditional marriage, made without religious appeal, by the editors of the National Review (a conservative American journal)
  • A short and strong opinion piece against same-sex marriage, made in an Australian tabloid newspaper, without raising religious perspectives
  • Australian-Canadian ethicist Margaret Somerville’s article in The Australian explains why we should prioritise children’s rights over those of same sex couples in this debate (ignore the headline which does not represent her article fairly and is inflammatory)
  • John Piper’s article on this topic, recently written in light of his US state (Minnesota) legislature’s decision to send to a referendum an amendment to make it explicit that marriage is only recognised there as being between one man and one woman

34 thoughts on “A constituent on same-sex marriage

  1. Sandy,

    Now that we are quoting the OT we should also tell MPs that God is ok with polygamy (Abraham, Solomon) and cohabitation with non-married people (Solomon and his 300 “girl friends”). If we leave this out MPs might think we pick-and-choose selective verses. After all Jesus said that we should not chance even the jot and title of the [even marriage] laws of Moses’ time.

    Jesus knew that we in the 21st century will have gay marriage arguments and did not think that the gay issues were worth mentioning. So let’s follow Jesus’ advice “do to others what you would have them do to you”. If you don’t want the government to limit your freedoms and limit your behaviour, then don’t do that to others. If non-Christians gays get married it does not hurt you, so Christians should stop shoving their dogma down non-Christian throats. Remember how early Christians fought for equal rights until they got them and got to power and started to take away the rights of non-Christians.

    BTW I like your “morality of the Judea-Christian worldview”. What ever the “Judea-Christian” worldview is, surely you don’t want to go back to ten commandment laws and stoning people. And how is this “such a positive force for good in our world”??

  2. There is a big difference between having a belief and trying to force everyone else to follow your beliefs.  The church should stop trying to influence the private relationships and morality of people who happen to be gay, and want to get married!

  3. Thats the problem with freedom isn’t it? I’m free to do, think and believe what I want, and you’re free to do and think and believe what you want..until our freedom’s collide. Then what?

    Sandy put forward the Christian view of marriage in a clear and thoughtful way, that’s all, he is not “shoving dogma down your throat”. You are free to put forward your view of what marriage means, or what our society is starting to think marriage means.

    If our Government is trying to lead our country well on complicated and sensitive issues, they need to understand clearly what people think, and this is what Christians think. You can argue all you want that we are “wrong”, but then again we can argue the same, and we just get nowhere. And then it’s not constructive in any way.

  4. Hello friends, and my apologies for being slow in replying. I’ve had the great honour of conducting a funeral for a much loved congregation member today.

    And I don’t have much time now, before Parish Council tonight.

    But going in reverse order…

    @ Callan: thanks for pointing out that I was only doing what the Parliament asked for; their MPs to obtain the views of constituents. And there seems to be no reason this Christian view should be censored!

    @ Karl: do you think the conversation is helped by using the language of ‘force’? Is that really a fair description of the way I wrote?

    In particular, I reject your characterisation of me or the church trying to force people to follow our beliefs. As I preacher I know it is impossible to force other people to accept beliefs they don’t believe. I am certainly not arguing for some sort of government mind control on this issue.

    Instead I am arguing about the legal definition of marriage as it applies in our nation, and therefore about which combination of people should be eligible to apply to be married.

    On the other hand, it is possible to persuade in various ways about beliefs and actions; I would hope valid arguments, with worthwhile evidence, kindly expressed could be one of those ways.

    Callan, I also think your second sentence contains a confusion of categories. You accuse the church of wanting to influence private relationships and morality of gay people who want to get married.

    The confusion I see hear is between private and public. A person’s sexual relations are normally private. But marriage can never be private. In Australian law, there must always also be a celebrant and two witnesses. And it is a legal arrangement which brings public benefits and responsibilities. And that’s what the debate is about – a public institution.

    In fact, if you bother to read what I said carefully, you will see that I suggested that

    the State has no business legislating in regard to a whole range of personal relationship matters (including sexual relationships, with the exception of abuse).

    Perhaps not all Christians agree with me, but at least do me the courtesy of actually engaging with my arguments, rather than misrepresenting them.

  5. @ Peter

    Now that we are quoting the OT we should also tell MPs that God is ok with polygamy (Abraham, Solomon) and cohabitation with non-married people (Solomon and his 300 “girl friends”).

    I have not heard any Christians endorse polygamy or concubinage. Can you cite any examples? The Old Testament regulates but never endorses polygamy. The Law (Deut 17:17) criticises the idea of an Israelite king taking many wives. Above all, Genesis 2:24 makes it clear monogamy (and heterosexuality) is the norm. Jesus reinforces this ideal and the New Testament rejects polygamy for church leaders. There is no inconsistency here. (Also see Glenn Davies’ helpful article.)

    Jesus knew that we in the 21st century will have gay marriage arguments and did not think that the gay issues were worth mentioning.

    After Matthew’s parallel to the Mark passage above, in Matt 19:10-12, Jesus makes it clear that in his view, the only alternative to heterosexual marriage is celibacy. He anticipates some will not be able to marry and others will chose not to, and (in the oway of speaking that sounds old fashioned to us) being a eunuch (i.e. celibate) is the only alternative.

    Of course, his Apostles clearly and explicitly list homosexuality as a sin alongside many other sins, sexual and otherwise (Romans 1:24-32; 1 Cor 6:19-21).

    If you don’t want the government to limit your freedoms and limit your behaviour, then don’t do that to others.

    However there are circumstances when most of us believe it is appropriate to limit our behaviours and even our freedoms, for example, speed limits, ages limits for various activities. This is especially appropriate where my freedoms might adversely impinge on others.

    If non-Christians gays get married it does not hurt you, so Christians should stop shoving their dogma down non-Christian throats.

    I am arguing that such a redefinition of marriage will hurt society in general, and in particular will not be good overall for children, who normally do best when raised in a household with a mother and a father (best of all if biological), cemented by marriage. I am persuaded that evidence from the social sciences tends in this direction. (For example, see Bill Muehlenberg here and with footnotes here in a pdf (scroll towards end).)

    The pejorative and inflammatory language of “shoving dogma down throats” neither helps the tone of the discussion by promoting respectful engagement, nor, I believe accurately represents the way I have made my comments.

    BTW I like your “morality of the Judea-Christian worldview”. What ever the “Judea-Christian” worldview is, surely you don’t want to go back to ten commandment laws and stoning people. And how is this “such a positive force for good in our world”??

    I am guided by the morality of the Ten Commands, but do not want to live under the Law of Moses, since I think Jesus fulfilled the Law, and in addition, the people of God are not gathered as a socio-political nation today.

    Further, I do not think the Christian worldview and heritage in the West is solely responsible for all good things we experience in modern western societies, but I think many historians and others would argue it is a very significant contributor.

    But I doubt there’s much point debating this further. If you don’t think much of it, would you prefer to live in a country like North Korea, or China, or Saudi Arabia, or Syria, or Afghanistan that are not currently troubled by the influence of such a problematic Judeao-Christian worldview?

  6. Callan,

    As the saying goes “Your Freedom Ends Where Mine Begins”. In a fair world you don’t have a freedom to dictate if gays can marry, just as gays don’t have a freedom to dictate if you can marry.

    Of course Sandy is “shoving dogma down your throat”. Christians get all upset when Muslims in Islamic countries make laws from their holy writings against Christians, but when Christians make laws based on their holy book against non-Christians, Christians don’t see any problem with that. Is this the best ethics Christians can offer? What happened to “do unto other..”?

    And what is about Christian to go after a small minority group. Why don’t you push to make marriage illegal (unless adultery) like Jesus commanded you (Matthew 19:9)? Of course this would affect many Church goers, re-married people and would be really unpopular.
    Why do you Church leader constantly rant against gays, but I never hear them wanting to push making non-adultery related divorce illegal? Where is the integrity? So why don’t Christians apply marriage laws to their own community according to their own New Testament before you start forcing your dogma to non-Christians?

    BTW I don’t only argue that you are “wrong”. I argue that Christians are inconsistent. Once you see that you’ll realise the ethical problems your position inherently has.

  7. Sandy,

    Thanks for taking time to answer my comments.

    I have not heard any Christians endorse polygamy or concubinage. Can you cite any examples?

    Please read some news. Go go Google-News and type “polygamist” and you’ll get thousands of recent articles. You can also read some history; many protestant churches were ok with polygamy in central Europe after 30-year war after male population was decimated.

    The Old Testament regulates but never endorses polygamy.

    So God is OK with it as long it is regulated (by whom?) and his favourite people were polygamists. Matt 19:10-12 does not address gay marriage. You are reading in to text what is not there. BTW why don’t you try to get Christians to follow Matt 19:9 if you are passionate about the word of God?

    homosexuality as a sin..

    Let’s be clear here. The Bible refers to the act not being one. Still no block to gay marriage.

    There are circumstances when most of us believe it is appropriate to limit our behaviours and even our freedoms, for example, speed limits, ages limits for various activities. This is especially appropriate where my freedoms might adversely impinge on others.

    This is a red herring. You list issues that might harm others where you don’t explain how gay marriage somehow cost you or harms you. You of course currently enjoy these alleged benefits and cost savings, and you are not ready to sacrifice any of that for someone else’s freedom or benefit.

    For example, see Bill Muehlenberg…

    I like it when a Christian apologist asks you to refer to another Christian apologist’s material. I wonder if you read material outside your Christian circles (you did know about wide spread polygamy either). So if you have a good peer reviewed study showing that two parents / single parent raising kids is better than two mothers raising kids, please let me know. I promised to read it.

    But Sandy let’s be honest. You don’t care about harming (or not harming) someone, you are just arguing from your interpretation of your holy book. Even if all the studies would show that gay marriage is beneficial to everyone, you would still be against it just like Bill Muehlenberg.

    I am guided by the morality of the Ten Commands…

    Luckily our society has evolved away for this Iron Age morality. Now we tolerate (more or less equal rights) non-Yahweh believers and don’t count women as property… Our society has moved to better and more tolerant moral systems. Come on Sandy, join us. Let’s tolerate the difference. Gay marriage has not destroyed societies where it has been allowed.

    If you don’t think much of it, would you prefer to live in a country like North Korea, or China, or Saudi Arabia, or Syria, or Afghanistan that are not currently troubled by the influence of such a problematic Judeao-Christian worldview?

    Hey, you missed Uganda where Christians are pushing for legal killing of alleged homosexual people. Your article was about a local issue, so I addressed a local issue. I lived in China, plenty of superstition there but what’s your issue with it? Notice how your list contains countries filled with god/magic/supernatural beliefs, and are run by religious laws (or god himself in North Korea). Have you noticed how in Europe countries with less Christianity have higher standard of living than more Christian countries. Less religion is good for society. And what is this “Judeao-Christian worldview” anyway?

  8. The old chest nut raises its head again.  I think one of the problems Peter and others have is the difficulty in finding both a concise and persuasive way to articulate their point to a public audience.

    In part this stems from the need to try and cover so many bases to an unsympathetic audience.  The reliance on the ‘religious’ view from doctrine.  The appeal to other evidence.  The veiled references to the end of the world if gay marriage occurs.  Appeals to world views of one kind or another.  The suggestion that the label ‘marriage’ is perhaps a whole lot more than it may appear (to a parliament lead by someone who is unmarried).

    I think to describe it as thinly veiled religious dogma dressed up as reason would not be too unfair.  Or to describe the entire process as throat shoving.  But the description does not matter to Sandy or anyone else, just the effect of the correspondence.

    If the point is to persuade the pollies that you are against gay marriage, given that they probably only care about the potential vote gain or loss of the legislation, no finely nuanced argument is necessary.  Just say you are against it because Jesus told you so, or the bible did.  They don’t really care about the rationale, just about how you may vote.  So Sandy Grant’s letter will strike home.

    Sad really, as it would be better if ethical or moral principles were higher priorities for the parliament.  Such is the outcome of our fine system based on Judeo-Christian values (I loved the appeal in Sandy’s letter to take the decision to the electorate.  Noting the current government’s pre-election commitment not to have a carbon tax, and the fact that the current prime minister so values marriage that she is not married, surely such an appeal cannot be serious).

    If you are talking to the general populace, if you want to actually persuade them, a new form of argument would be necessary.  While I would hope Sandy could think of one, I have not seen much evidence of one that would be in any way persuasive to the broader populace.

    If you want to just demonstrate against the prevailing mood, repeating tried and true religious dogma while adopting an intensely pious expression will do it.  Lead me to the stake. 

    But eventually, bit by bit the balance on the politician’s ‘vote calculator’ will swing and the argument will be over.  Unless the public can be swung over by a different argument, one not based primarily on religious dogma.  It does not appear right now that such an argument exists.

  9. Hi Peter, thanks for the response, it’s helpful for me to try and nut our my views.

    <blockquote>As the saying goes “Your Freedom Ends Where Mine Begins”. In a fair world you don’t have a freedom to dictate if gays can marry, just as gays don’t have a freedom to dictate if you can marry.<blockquote>

    This is where I get confused and feel that there is inconsistency for this argument, and please show me how you think it is not inconsistent. The world is not relative, there is truth and there is non-truth, you’ll agree with me there I assume. So please just run with me on this:

    In a world where the God of the bible is real, then him being God means he rules. Would you agree? But God is either real, or he isn’t he’s not a little bit real, or real for me but not the person over the fence. And so in a world where God isn’t real, actually it doesn’t matter what I do at all. And so my freedom extends to wherever I want it to extend. If I don’t want it to end it doesn’t. And same goes for every other person, creature, or whatever.

    The problem I have with the quote you posted is freedom then is relative. What’s it dictated by, what decides where and when it ends? In the latter world above, the former, God is in charge, and we are all slaves of either Sin or of God, and in the latter freedom is whatever I want to make of it.

    In terms of following the Law – Christians are not under the law, we are under grace. We are no longer judged by the law, however the law shows us how to live well, that is by loving people (please don’t bring up stoning as a defense for that – if Israel lived properly there would have been no need, but sin requires punishment, cos God takes it seriously, serious enough to sacrifice his son for it) – and Jesus tells us that actually giving due honour to God, and to people fulfilled it all.

    Why don’t we ‘love’ our homosexual neighbours by saying ‘yes go ahead get married’. It’s not that we hate them or want to hurt them, they are people like everyone else, but as long as we live in a society as ours and have a voice, and understand from God’s Word what it means to live well in the world, we will keep that voice out there. It’s not that we are trying to brainwash or conform people, it’s because we think it’s more loving than alleviating the current pain.

    In terms of Divorce (i think thats what you meant earlier) and why don’t we make it a law? Good question, I’m still doing some thinking on that I have some views but they aren’t forming well, anyone else feel free to put forward a view.

    Also Peter, can I ask you what your views of marriage are? What is it? What is the purpose, what is the reason we have it?

  10. Bah! I’m sorry about the blockquote (or lack of it), I’m very terrible at this whole blogging thing sorry!!

  11. Callan,

    please show me how you think [Your Freedom Ends Where Mine Begins] is not inconsistent.

    Maybe you need to show why this is inconsistent. People should be able to decide for themselves who to marry. At the same time any privately run and funded organisations should not be forced to marry anyone.

    In a world where the God of the bible is real, then him being God means he rules. Would you agree?

    Large portion of our society does not believe that the God of the Bible exists, so the laws should be agnostic about this God’s laws (especially when His followers do not agree on ~any of these laws). Same goes with Allah or Hindu gods’ laws.

    And so in a world where God isn’t real, actually it doesn’t matter what I do at all.

    Well this is just non-sense theistic strawman. Just because Christians constantly claim this it does not make it right. You should check out non-theistic ethicists or basic human psychology.

    And so my freedom extends to wherever I want it to extend. If I don’t want it to end it doesn’t.

    Because your premise was completely wrong you arrived to a wrong conclusion. (Hint: why are non-religious countries the safest please to live in?)

    The problem I have with the quote you posted is freedom then is relative. What’s it dictated by, what decides where and when it ends?

    Think about how we get our freedoms. From where did slaves got their freedom? From where did women get their right to vote? Who gave Christians their freedom of religions and who took those away in some places? Who can take away your freedom of owning a gun? Inserting God here does not answer anything…

    We are no longer judged by the law, however the law shows us how to live well, that is by loving people (please don’t bring up stoning as a defense for that…)

    See, even you can see that some parts of the God’s law are so horrible that you don’t want to talk about. By picking&choosing; good bit Christianity can create an ok system, but we can do much better. Societies will benefit if privileged people like me (white, married, middle class, male) lose some to women, GLBT, non-Christians and marginal groups. We do know how to permanently get rid of poverty (and inequality) in the world and the answer is not in a holy book.

    can I ask you what your views of marriage are?

    It is a contract, purpose to share life and the future. People should be able to marry who they want (adults, both agree, no parent-child marriages). I do think teenagers are too young to marry, but I’m not sure if that should be a law. Polygamy / polyamery; I’m ok with provided laws and marriage contracts support it. Monogamy seems to be better for the society, but individual rights should win.

  12. It amazes me that secularists and atheists prohibit Christians from appealing to our Book.* They keep appealing to theirs, even though it is constantly updated according to the zeitgeist, whatever seems right, and whatever feels good. All they have is the “logic” of a darkened mind.

    They fail to understand that the secular public square is simply the front porch of the Christian church. That is the only place where there is true tolerance. And when the church is silenced, true tolerance and truly free speech and public debate will be silenced.

    Free speech is not necessarily hate speech. And over the past few years it has become very apparent that atheists and secularists leave Christians behind in the dust when it comes to sanctimony.

    For three or four decades, since the beginning of easy divorce, all the supposed “freedoms” have done is tear down good boundaries, especially the ones around the children—in the name of unbridled lusts.

    It’s not that difficult to join the dots between the breakdown of traditional marriage and the damaged, dysfunctional and confused young people we now have to sort out.

    Sorry, guys. There’s a time and place when Christians stand up for the rights of the helpless—in our culture it is the born and unborn children—and say “back off.” We love you. Jesus loves you. But you need to repent.

    *Peter, you really need to do some homework on the Covenant structure of the Bible. There is a development from childhood to adulthood. Many of the restrictions of our childhood no longer apply. The New Covenant doesn’t spell everything out for us because Christians have the Spirit of God to guide us, with the wisdom of Christ. You can keep pointing out the supposed inconsistency of the Mosaic trainer wheels, but you’d do better paying attention to the New Covenant motor bike.

  13. Peter, had my day off yesterday, so will try to make some replies today, although there’s a lot to get through…

    In your comments to Callan, partly about me, you used words of Christians like “dictate”, “shoving dogma down your throat” (of people like me in particular), “ranting”.

    No doubt these descriptions are true of the way some Christians conduct themselves. I personally have rebuked members of congregations I have served for aggressive, rude, hateful language when expressed against groups such as gays or Muslims. I spoke out publicly against Fred Nile when he campaigned for a ten year moratorium on Muslim migration.

    I expect to be rebuked myself if I rant, force or try to shove dogma down people’s throats.

    I will leave it to readers to decide whether that is the case here, or in my other conduct.

    Readers may also like to muse on how it reflects on the people flinging these epithets around.

    However I think the use of pejorative language like this to describe peaceful and courteous advocacy of a particular view is wrong and inappropriate.

    By describing such advocacy in the way you do, you are effectively implying no one should ever campaign for particular moral standards to apply across the board in a society, because that would be shoving your views down the throats of those who disagree.

    Two other things about your comments to Callan.

    1. In this debate, Christians are not making laws against non-Christians. They, like many other interested citizens are seeking in a lawful way to influence their parliamentary representatives. The federal parliament does and should make the laws for Australia.

    2. “Do unto others…”, which you cite, has never meant leave people alone to do what they want, and it is a naive reading in the extreme to think that’s what Jesus meant by it.

    Its application does not mean indulge other people’s views without challenge. For when we think about it, if there’s the possibility we may have made an important, or even life-threatening mistake, we would like to be challenged on it.

    I think its application would means in debate treat your opponent the way you would like him to treat you, with kindness, not venom, without straw-manning him or her, etc.

  14. Peter, on polygamy, I did exactly what you asked in google news. I discovered the recent articles about polgyamists were all to do with Mormon offshoots, with the exception of one case of a Jewish sect in Israel. The Wikipedia article on the topic confirmed it is an issue in Mormonism (mainly some of its offshoots today). Mormonism, denying the Trinity and so on, is not Christian in any way recognisable or acceptable to the Christian denominations. Simple as that.

    The Wikipedia article also showed that there is some debate among Christians about how to handle already existing polygamists who convert (just as the Davies article I referred to did).

    You claim Matt 19:10-12 does not address gay marriage and that I am “reading in to text what is not there”. I claim that to answer a question about the topic, Jesus is teaching on the fundamental nature of marriage, going right back to the way God created the world. This has implications for all variations from this ideal. And the alternative he puts up to heterosexual monogamous marriage is celibacy.

    As far as we know, Jesus also said nothing about bestiality, or rape, but it would be absurd to say that silence means he would have no view on them, or that what he does teach has no implications for those things, especially when the rest of the Scriptures clearly identify such things, as being immoral.

    On divorce you asked me

    BTW why don’t you try to get Christians to follow Matt 19:9 if you are passionate about the word of God?

    Unsurprisingly, you know little about me. I have consistently taught that I believe the Bible says remarriage is not normally an option after divorce.

    I (and a number of my colleagues) have politely (and hopefully pastorally, although it is always fraught) refused to officiate at the remarriage of divorced Christians who are seeking to remarry outside what I understand to be the scriptural exceptions (innocent party of adultery or desertion by a non-Christian spouse).

    Re. the Bible teaching homosexuality as a sin, you write

    Let’s be clear here. The Bible refers to the act not being one. Still no block to gay marriage.

    Not 100% sure what you mean here. If you mean a person with some same sex attraction can marry a person of the opposite sex, then certainly that is a possibility (and has of course, occurred). I am sure it would need great care and commitment.

    If you mean on the basis of the Bible two celibate gays would be eligible to marry each other, and continue celibate, I think you are being disingenuous.

    In rare cases a marriage may not be consummated, perhaps because of illness or misadventure, or very advanced age of parties. But sexual union is at the heart of marriage.

    Anyway, I am glad that you admit the Bible clearly identifies homosexual acts as sins, even if it seems you don’t agree with the Bible on this. It is a more honest reading of the Bible, than the gymnastics required to say it is not against homosexual behaviour in all forms.

    You list issues that might harm others where you don’t explain how gay marriage somehow cost you or harms you.

    My argument is not primarily that gay marriage would harm me. Rather I suggested it would harm some children.

    I also believe it would harm society in general by so redefining what marriage is that it actually continues to weaken marriages in reality.

  15. @ Peter, re. my referencing Bill Muehlenberg, you said

    I like it when a Christian apologist asks you to refer to another Christian apologist’s material. I wonder if you read material outside your Christian circles

    .

    Fair request. I have on my computer (before you asked) a copy of the Victorian Law Reform Commission’s Assisted Reproductive Teachnology & Adoption: Final Report. This includes a section in the main body and an appendix regarding outcomes for children of same-sex couples, and concludes there is no overall negative pattern found, at least in the case of lesbian couples. It briefly notes there are methodological challenges in the area and also notes a lack of sophistication in studies regarding male homosexual couples, which should give a little cause for caution, but not, it seems, to the paper itself.

    The paper did not note that the main summary article it relied on by Ruth McNair came from someone who was already well known for advocating a certain direction, in favour of same-sex adoption, itself a possible conflict of interest. In its appendix on the topic, the only study which it said should be treated with caution because of other factors, was the Sarantakos 1996 one (published in a peer revwied journal) which found

    Children of married couples are more likely to do well at school, in academic and social terms, than children of cohabiting heterosexual and homosexual couples.

    . The summary appendix did not note methodological problems in several other studies which found no difference, such as lack of control group, self-selection, self-reporting and so on. I wonder why it only noted methodological difficulties in studies which differed from its own conclusion, but failed to make it explicit about studies which agreed with its conclusion.

    Perhaps it would be fairer for me and for others to admit this area of research is fraught with difficulty on all sides. Certainly caution is needed, just as much by Bill Muehlenberg as by Ruth McNair.

    I refer people to Andrew Cameron’s quite wise and cautious comments in his Social Issues Briefing #85 on the topic of same sex adoption in NSW.

  16. @ Tom, a short response from me to your comments, since it seems to me you largely share your opinions rather than construct arguments. Thank you for sharing your opinions. It would also be good to have arguments constructed or evidence adduced.

    I will limit my comment to your astonishment that I might be serious about the ALP taking any revised platform on this topic to the next election rather than possibly supporting legislation before the next election directly opposite to the platform they took to the last election.

    Be astonished all you like. I am simply interested in politicians keeping their promises and was just as critical of Mr Howard breaking his foolish never ever promise over the GST. At least he took his revised policy to the electorate.

    One difference with the carbon tax issue is that it was clear the ALP intended some sort of mechanism to address the climate change issue at some stage, just not preferring the carbon tax option at the time, and previously preferring an ETS style solution. So it was not as if they were doing the complete opposite to what was expected.

    Nevertheless it is still a broken promise, and rightly to be critiqued, and for which for all the possible good intentions in the world, PM Gillard has lost some credibility over.

    Should the ALP to change its platform and then move to support same-sex marriage before subjecting themselves to the electorate would be diametrically opposed to what they unequivocally promised before the last election and hypocritical. Hopefully they won’t do that.

  17. @ Peter, I am glad Callan asked you for your view on what marriage is.. You replied

    It is a contract, purpose to share life and the future. People should be able to marry who they want (adults, both agree, no parent-child marriages). I do think teenagers are too young to marry, but I’m not sure if that should be a law. Polygamy / polyamery; I’m ok with provided laws and marriage contracts support it. Monogamy seems to be better for the society, but individual rights should win.

    Thanks for being straightforward.

    I’m not sure whether a ‘contract to share life and the future’ is an adequate definition of marriage. It could refer to various non-sexual relationships, of business or friendship. It appears to lack some commitment to the current life-long aspect promised in marriage (whether civil or religious), since ‘future’ ≠life-long. It’s also hard to tell on this basis whether you’d rule out incestuous marriage between adults, nor do I know the reasoning why you set your age limit (which sadly not all people agree with).

    But perhaps to be fair, you were providing only a brief answer.

    It is certainly significant that you identify your preference for individual rights over communal welfare.

    I appreciate the candour of your answer.

  18. Mike,

    It amazes me that secularists and atheists prohibit Christians from appealing to our Book

    Stop playing a victim. Nobody is prohibiting you from appealing to any of your books.

    …the front porch of the Christian church. That is the only place where there is true tolerance.

    So true tolerance is pushing for laws that non-Christians have to follow Christian dogma. Not to forget that Christian Church and their ministers enjoy special tax cuts and not available for non-religious organisations and people. And your “place of true tolerance” is the only place which by law is allowed to discriminate when hiring people. Many “true tolerance” Church ads for IT or non-religious type of work state that people have to agree to their statement of faith. Your “true tolerance” is discrimination with tax dollars. Please stop your “true tolerance”.

    It’s not that difficult to join the dots between the breakdown of traditional marriage and the damaged, dysfunctional and confused young people we now have to sort out.

    Just check what is happening in North Europe and you’ll see that your panic assertion has nothing to do with reality.

    There’s a time and place when Christians stand up for the rights of the helpless—in our culture it is the born and unborn children—and say “back off.”

    Yeah, let’s save all unborn children, but if those kids grow up gay let’s take their rights away in a name of “true tolerance”.

    Peter, you really need to do some homework on the Covenant structure of the Bible.

    I have noticed that when I disagree with Christians they claim that I have not done my homework. I guess you tell Jews, Muslims, Catholic, Christadelphians, Mormons and JWs that they have not done their homework either.

    You can keep pointing out the supposed inconsistency of the Mosaic trainer wheels, but you’d do better paying attention to the New Covenant motor bike.

    I guess you are just re-inventing the wheel. But hey, you should pay attention to the book of Mormon. Their covenant is like jet airplane and Samuel the Lamanite’s prophecy proved it.

  19. Sandy,

    Thanks for your reply

    I expect to be rebuked myself if I rant, force or try to shove dogma down people’s throats. I will leave it to readers to decide whether that is the case here, or in my other conduct.

    Your readers are mainly Protestants who agree with you and they think that I’m misguided and ignorant. They don’t think you are forcing your view to anyone. Just like Muslims in Saudi-Arabia don’t think they are forcing their view on non-Muslim as they are only applying the will of God. You need to be the outsider who feels the pain of the law to understand this. Your readers aren’t outsiders.

    By describing such advocacy in the way you do, you are effectively implying no one should ever campaign for particular moral standards to apply across the board in a society, because that would be shoving your views down the throats of those who disagree.

    No. I’m advocating evidence based decision making, not in-group dogma based laws. No evidence changes dogma based views. I just can’t see any evidence of gay marriage harming people or society. If a study would show great harm to society from gay marriage I would have to reconsider my view.

    [Christians], like many other interested citizens are seeking in a lawful way to influence their parliamentary representatives.

    Same argument is used in Uganda, Iran, Saudis and many other countries to openly kill gays. Again, you have right to do it, but you should help marginal groups even if it costs you.

    “Do unto others…”, which you cite, has never meant leave people alone to do what they want

    Then don’t complain when Muslim Brotherhood go after Copts in Egypt. Sure you can challenge their people’s views, but you (and your rich Christian lobby) are trying legislate other people’s rights. There is a big difference.

    re: polygamy,  Mormonism, denying the Trinity and so on, is not Christian in any way recognisable or acceptable to the Christian denominations.

    So Jesus’ believers who don’t believe like your 500 year old denomination they are not Christians?? Come on now, first century Christians did not believe in Trinity either as they did not think that Holy Spirit is God. Mormons are Christians believe it or not.

    Jesus also said nothing about bestiality, or rape,…

    It really bothers me when gay marriage is discussed Christians always bring up bestiality and rape. It seems to be a Christian reflex, just like it was when inter-racial marriage was discussed.

    I have consistently taught that I believe the Bible says remarriage is not normally an option after divorce.

    So if this is the case why don’t you mention this to your MP when the nature of marriage is discussed? Why don’t you push this on public forums and legislative area as passionately as gay marriage issue? Minority group is just so easy go after…

    My argument is not primarily that gay marriage would harm me. Rather I suggested it would harm some children.

    So are you ok with gay marriage if they are not allowed to adopt?

    I appreciate your summary of regarding outcomes for children of same-sex couples. It looks like there seem to be no real harm to kids. You don’t see to have evidence to back up your fears (They study of 1996 is quite old.)
    However just google:
    “Children of Same-Sex Couples Do as Well as Other Children”
    and
    “Kids of lesbians have fewer behavioral problems, study suggests”
    and
    “Children Of Lesbian Couples Are Doing Well, Study Finds”
    and
    “Study: Children of Lesbians May Do Better Than Their Peers”

    I find your fears baseless. Kids of gay couples are doing find and better than kids of single parents. The question is do you accept the facts and will facts change your option.

    RE my view of marriage:
    I think divorce is sometimes the best options so I would not force a life long promise. I’m against incestuous marriage between adults based psychiatric analysis of kids who to those kind of relationships. I think teenagers generally are not mature enough for marriage. Teen marriages have also the highest divorce rates. On the other hand if we let teenagers to join the army… during my army basic training camp most kids were not old enough to drink beer or marry a girl, but were pretty good with automatic weapons, RPG and multimillion dollar battle tanks.

  20. Hi Sandy, I am sorry that I named you Peter previously. 

    I don’t agree that I need to construct arguments and point to evidence.  If we were in a court with rules we could worry about evidence.  And in a forum like this how could this evidence be tested anyway?

    Should I find someone who agrees with me and quote them?  That won’t persuade someone of another view and would take a lot more time. 

    I think what is more important is that Peter legitimately reflects a view regarding the church’s opposition to same sex marriage, not one that can be argued away. At the least it suggests failures by the church to engage the people that actually count in the process, the public.  People like Peter.  Who won’t be won over by such arguments.  His tone is not promising.
     
    Yes I confess, I didn’t conduct any market research of my own as to the public view, tut tut.  So I refer you to opinion polls reported in the press regarding views to gay marriage.  And if the court pleases, refer to the views expressed by Peter.

    If I am allowed, I quote another person’s opinion:

    ‘If the Gospel is to challenge the public life of our society it will be by movements that begin with the local congregation in which the reality of the new creation is present, known and experienced’ (Newbigin The Gospel in a Plurarist Society page 232).

    I would add to that, perhaps not just by writing to parliamentarians.  Visting patients in an AIDs hospice?

    Not as much fun as writing what could be seen to be self righteous letters I am sure.

  21. Peter you write

    Your readers are mainly Protestants who agree with you and they think that I’m misguided and ignorant.

    Yes, probably the majority of readers here are evangelical Protestants. I don’t think you are misguided or ignorant, perhaps strong-minded and self-certain, as clearly you think hard and have quite extensive knowledge about a variety of things. Of course, it’s not possible for me to be sure what others think unless they reveal it.

    They don’t think you are forcing your view to anyone. Just like Muslims in Saudi-Arabia don’t think they are forcing their view on non-Muslim as they are only applying the will of God.

    Once again, I reject the use of the language of ‘force’. I am attempting to persuade, peacefully and politely, without threat let alone violence, by putting forward arguments and evidence, which you or others may consider better or worse.

    I also reject the comparison to non-democratic Islamic theocracies. I strongly advocate for freedom to practice religion for all religions and for none. I will accept what the Parliament decides, so long as it does not make me disobey what I believe God wants of me. For example if it mandated that I must preside at same-sex marriages, I would resign as a marriage celebrant, rather than comply.

    In my view none of this qualifies as force by any reasonable understanding of the word. However if you wish to persist in using the word, I won’t bother to respond further, as I think it would become pointless.

    You need to be the outsider who feels the pain of the law to understand this. Your readers aren’t outsiders.

    In regards to understanding the pain of the outsider, that’s a good reminder. I am not as good at that as I could be. Both groups – the homosexual community and the evangelical Christian community – feel like an attacked minority at times, and it is not at all nice to be vigorously opposed and attacked and sometimes even abused for your views.

    Of course feeling pain because your view is denied does not make it correct. White supremacists apparently feel very aggrieved and pained when their views are rejected. Neither their pain nor their minority status makes their view objectively more worthy of consideration, any more than my Christian view, which according to Tom, is now in the minority and is often vilified, should be considered correct because of that.

    However I repeat what I said earlier: I reject hatred, aggression, abusive language, and any violence directed towards gay and lesbian people, and will continue to rebuke it when I see it.

  22. I would just add to the previous response that you asserted

    you should help marginal groups even if it costs you.

    Yes, defend a marginalised group if they are in danger or being unjustly treated, even if you disagree with their views. However that does not mean you have to roll over and agree with their views.

    At a personal level, I repeat that I publicly opposed Fred Nile when he called for a ten year moratorium on all Muslim migration to Australia, even though it did not make me popular with a lot of people in the conservative Christian community. I also advocated that a relationships register for same-sex unions was a good way to ensure property and inheritance rights etc, again when this view was unpopular in significant parts of the Christian community. 

    Peter, you also wrote

    I’m advocating evidence based decision making, not in-group dogma based laws. No evidence changes dogma based views. I just can’t see any evidence of gay marriage harming people or society. If a study would show great harm to society from gay marriage I would have to reconsider my view.

    Later you wrote

    I appreciate your summary of regarding outcomes for children of same-sex couples. It looks like there seem to be no real harm to kids. You don’t see to have evidence to back up your fears (They study of 1996 is quite old.)

    You then told me to google for various studies. However, as you acknowledged above, I have already given you evidence that I have read a variety of material from different sources, not all sympathetic to my views as a Christian.

    What you have done is fail to engage with my pointing out that the whole area has methodological challenges and most of the studies I’ve seen (or seen summarised) have methodological challenges.

    In particular you ignored the fact that Victorian ART and Adoption report and the McNair summary study it relied only mentioned the problems with the study that did not go the way it wanted, and did not critique the lack of such things as control groups, or self-selection and self-reporting in studies it cited as approving its views.

    You give no evidence of having checked whether there are methodological flaws in the studies you want me to google for.

    You simply ignored the peer reviewed study which reported a result you did not like by saying it was old.

    You criticised me for citing a Christian apologist, presumably because it shows a failure to account for bias towards one’s own views, but failed to engage with my point that Ruth McNair is a well known advocate for gay and lesbian rights and same-sex parenting.

    She is free to advocate for her views and her work should be assessed on its merits in each case, but it would be naive in the extreme to assume someone like her is free of bias, whereas a Christian advocate is full of it.

    Peter, has postmodernism taught you nothing? I challenge you to be more reflective on the strengths and weaknesses of your own position and ask you what you are doing to account for your own biases.

  23. Peter, on polygamy, you assert that Mormons are Christians, which I deny.

    Sociologically you might be right, although I think it would be like saying Buddhist are Hindus, because part of Buddhism’s origins are in Hinduism, and they have some of the same practices and use some of the same terms or concepts at points. It is not an analysis that helps assess either religion on its own terms.

    Spiritually it is not Christian. No branch of Christianity – not Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant – accepts Mormon theology because it is not trinitarian. Yes, there are heterodox offshoots of Christianity, which head in various directions, like all religions.

    But it is crazy to tar the mainline orthodox branches with the strange and rejected beliefs of the offshoots which have moved far outside of orthodoxy. Clever debating tactic, but just inaccurate. Christians do not support polygamy.

    About Jesus’ words on the essence of marriage – heterosexual, monogamous and lifelong – and the argument you make from silence that he has no problem with homosexuality, I pointed out that we would not apply this argument from silence to other sexual activities the Bible identifies elsewhere as sinful.

    Rather than engage with this argument, you simply dismiss it because you don’t like me mentioning other activities. Fair enough, but it exposes the weakness of your argument from silence.

    You accuse me of being inconsistent by being slack about Jesus’ words as they apply to divorce and remarriage. When I point out that as a matter of fact, I try to apply them as I understand them, rather than say sorry for your presumptuousness, and agree that at least I am being consistent with my views, you decide to criticise me for not raising the issue with MPs.

    Once again, your way both of jumping to conclusions and changing the goalposts comes to the fore. Firstly, I have encouraged politicians for their attempts to strengthen marriage for example, via better funding pre- and post-marital enrichment and counselling services. I have also read with interest academic proposals to review the divorce laws and think there could be some merit in further consideration in this area, but I have not studied it much.

    Secondly, the issues of defining marriage itself and what to do in the case of breakdown are not identical. One is to do with the essence and ideal of marriage, its very nature; the other is to do with retrieval ethics for the sad situations when relationships break down. The latter has implications for the former, but the former debate is more fundamental, dealing with the essence of the institution.

    Lastly, there’s a very good reason that the focus is on one topic now and not the other. The reason is that there is no live and realistic proposals to change the laws on divorce and remarriage, but there are proposals to change the laws on the definition of marriage. The discussion always focuses on the place the actual debate is occurring.

    I think I have tried hard to engage with you, Peter, and it may be time to draw this to a close, although In guess something new may be raised.

    It’s a difficult discussion and the debate of a blog lacks the tone that face to face discussions can bring, and in my better moments I am sorry for my sharpness at points in debate. Bye for now.

  24. Sandy,

    I strongly advocate for freedom to practice religion for all religions and for none.

    No you don’t. This is a lie (note: I’m not saying that you are lying). You want your freedom of religion, but if gays want their spiritual or religious or non-Christian marriage you are against their freedom. You want to make sure others don’t have their freedom of religion, but they should follow instructions in your holy book. Let people outside your denomination marry as per their beliefs. I wonder why you can’t see this.

    I publicly opposed Fred Nile…, even though it did not make me popular with a lot of people in the conservative Christian community. I also advocated that a relationships register for same-sex unions was a good way to ensure property and inheritance rights etc, again when this view was unpopular in significant parts of the Christian community. 

    And this shows your strong character. Thank you for sharing publicly your unpopular views.

    What you have done is fail to engage with my pointing out that [gay adoption studies] has methodological challenges and most of the studies I’ve seen (or seen summarised) have methodological challenges.

    Ok, studies have problems I admit. However you claimed there is harm, but according to studies I see no harm. Show me and yourself the harm!

    You simply ignored the peer reviewed study which reported a result you did not like by saying it was old.

    Just point me to a peer reviewed study that shows kids of gay parents are worse off than kids of single parents and I’ll shut up. Otherwise I assume your claim that gay marriage harm kids is wrong as I have not seen any evidence.

    RE Mormons are Christians: I think it would be like saying Buddhist are Hindus, because part of Buddhism’s origins are in Hinduism.

    No. Buddhists don’t identify themselves Hindus. Mormons believe in Jesus and identify themselves as Christians, true Christians if fact. You don’t have a standing to claim that Mormons are not Christians just as I don’t have a standing to claim you are not a Christian. I claim that your (or Mormon) theology (right or wrong) is nothing like first century Christians had, but you are still a Christian.

    But it is crazy to tar the mainline orthodox branches with the strange and rejected beliefs of the offshoots which have moved far outside of orthodoxy.

    Funny how 500 year old denomination claims orthodoxy against 180 year old denomination. Meanwhile Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches are shaking their heads. May I recommend you to read the eyewitness James, the bother of Jesus, and perhaps Didache or study early Christian art showing women leading ceremonies before claiming “orthodoxy”.

    Rather than engage with this argument, you simply dismiss it because you don’t like me mentioning other activities.

    Yes I do get upset when gay marriage is discussed, Christians always bring up comparison to bestiality or rape.

    I know Jesus was against gay marriage as per Jewish laws. However Jesus instructed his followers (the lost sheep of Israel) about marriage laws. It is not clear to me why Jesus would have limited the marriage right of non-Christians. Jesus would probably have left them alone (Mark 6:6-11).

    If you truly advocate religious freedom you’ll let people get married if it is according to their religion. And you don’t get to judge other people’s religions.

  25. Hi Sandy

    You said:
    “Perhaps it would be fairer for me and for others to admit this area of research is fraught with difficulty on all sides. Certainly caution is needed…”

    While caution is, of course, always advisable in interpreting research, I hope that by this you do not intend to imply that the results of the body of research on outcomes for children with gay or lesbian parents is equivocal.

    There are now a very large number of studies which address this question and these have been subject to numerous systematic reviews.  Major relevant professional bodies in the US, Canada, the UK and Australia have produced position papers on the subject.

    One couldn’t have a passing acquaintance with this literature and professional opinion and in good faith contend that there is any longer reason to think that children with gay or lesbian parents fair any worse than those with heterosexual parents.

    If you are interested in exploring the literature, I suggest you could start with a quite a thorough, though readable, review prepared for the Australian Psychological Society.

    http://www.psychology.org.au/Assets/Files/LGBT-Families-Lit-Review.pdf

    Cheers
    Brian

  26. One couldn’t have a passing acquaintance with this literature and professional opinion and in good faith contend that there is any longer reason to think that children with gay or lesbian parents fair any worse than those with heterosexual parents.

    The problem with any academic study (especially in the current cultural climate) are as follows:

    1. There is no broad agreement about what constitutes “harm”.

    2. There is no agreement about what constitutes “doing well” (for example, is this in economic terms, spiritual terms, or moral terms).

    3. Even notions of what doing well in spiritual or moral terms – and what each of <i>those</i> terms mean – is also contested)

    Unless there is agreement on the meaning of the terms, then, yes, any study is necessarily “equivocal”.

    It is no good on saying that secular understandings of those terms are correct, since Christians (and most other religious viewpoints) fundamentally contest secular notions about what these things mean.

    And, I’m not even sure that there is a single agreed <i>secular</i> notion of what these things might mean.

  27. Thanks David,
    Could you direct me to any large (or replicated) controlled studies which demonstrate that the children of gay or lesbian parents do worse than their heterosexually parented peers on measures which Christians do not contest?
    Cheers
    Brian

  28. In conclusion, Brian, Peter, your comments about the research have had me thinking. I think you are right that Christians are not simply neutral in our expectations in approaching the claims of research. That is, for reasons of my pre-commitments (i.e. I am convinced of the claims of Christ, and believe that the Bible is the authoritative Word of God), I approach the issue expecting certain outcomes, and it will take an extra weight of evidence to shift me the other way. As you see, I will be extra sceptical of claims to go the other way and so on. And I will probably maintain my biblical view even if the utilitarian view suggests there is no difference in outcome from the alternative. However at that point I might have to admit that I cannot rely on current research confirming my views.

    And now I think I really must draw my comments on this topic to a close for the time being.

  29. Sandy,

    You said:

    I think you are right that Christians are not simply neutral in our expectations in approaching the claims of research. That is, for reasons of my pre-commitments… And I will probably maintain my biblical view even if the utilitarian view suggests there is no difference in outcome from the alternative. However at that point I might have to admit that I cannot rely on current research confirming my views.

    Thanks for being honest. This is why many people think there is no point arguing or try to reason with religious people as facts don’t change their mind. All the best.

  30. Peter, that’s not all I wrote, but my prior post seems to have got lost in the spam filter or something.

    However I saved it and post it below out of order.

    @ Peter, I think the request for research comparing children of same sex couples to children of single parents is something of a red herring for this debate, since we are talking about marriage which involves two people in a partnership not single people.

    @ Brian, I have read the literature review study you mentioned. It certainly reports that

    The research indicates that parenting practices and children’s outcomes in families parented by lesbian and gay parents are likely to be at least as favourable as those in families of heterosexual parents

    And it seems there is no doubt that is where many of the studies it cites are headed.

    I have a few matters to give me a little pause.

    1. It seems that most of the authors of the review study and most of those acknowledged as assisting with developing the document are involved with advocacy in the area of gay and lesbian matters in social studies, psychology and more widely in society. This raises a similar caution of bias as I raised about the McNair study.

    If we are wary of pre-existing bias among Christians, we must also be aware of pre-existing bias among advocates of the gay or lesbian lifestyle, to which they can be just as blind as Christians.

    2. The paper itself gives evidence of “begging the question” (i.e. assuming its conclusion) at various points, basically stating that there should be no discrimination on this matter. The basic stance of the paper is that there should be no problems seen about same-sex marriage or parenting. But this is the issue allegedly being investigated.

    For example it is reported (p7) that the APA called in 1975 for the repeal of all discriminatory legislation against gays and lesbians. However this is in advance of almost all the research and certainly of the higher quality research in the area of parenting being contested. There is a good argument to say the APA’s moves were politically motivated at least in part, rather than solely evidence driven.

    3. Although the review study reports an improvement in the sample sizes and controls in more recent studies in the area, it does not give very much detail whether there are still any of the well known methodological weaknesses in the area. Have all the issues such as self-selection, self-reporting, sample size, controlling for other factors and so on been satisfactorily addressed? Despite the peer review publication, so far this is not clear to me from the paper, all the more so, when the peer reviews referred to come from people who may well share (or be required to share) the same starting presuppositions.

    4. This is certainly the case with male homosexual parenting, where the paper reports there is not much properly controlled research into this area. For example to claim similar parenting practices, it relies firstly on a self-reporting study on a small sample size.

    5. As David pointed out, there are presuppositions that are not shared by all people, for example, that corporal punishment is necessarily problematic, or that two parents should equally share parenting labour and tasks. This second assumption would certainly be contested where only one parent works.

    6. Another example of perhaps an unconscious bias in a certain direction is the way the paper reports that “in many [my emphasis] countries, including for example, Belgium, Canada, The Netherlands, South Africa, Spain, and parts of the United States of America, people are now able to marry the partner of their choice, regardless of their gender” (p6).

    Apart from the fact the authors clearly consider this to be a good thing, thus showing their presuppositions or bias, this is an objectively inaccurate statement. There are only about ten countries (and limited states of a couple of other nations) that have legalised same sex marriage out of over 190 nations around the world. It’s a clear example of rhetoric trumping accurate reporting of the facts.

    So there is a clear consensus (though not universal) being reported in the research saying there’s no problem with same-sex parenting.

    But I would be more confident in this conclusion if more evidence that the various proponents of this conclusion had shown more awareness of their own biases, and gave more details of addressing the wide number of potential methodological problems, and did not assume or overstate conclusions where this is lacking.

  31. Sandy,

    You said

    I think the request for research comparing children of same sex couples to children of single parents is something of a red herring for this debate, since we are talking about marriage which involves two people in a partnership not single people.

    If you advocate that kids should be taken away from single parents you have a point. Otherwise you comment is nonsense. If same sex couples’ kids are better off than single parents then same sex couples’ parenting standard is acceptable to you.

    Why are you still complaining about research methods, biases, conclusion and evidence? You already said that your pre-commitment to Bible will overrule any result that contradicts your view of the Bible. You expect certain outcomes and if you don’t get those you will not accept the results. No study or evidence Brian shows you will change your mind.

  32. Peter, I wonder if I might request you to read my comments more charitably, or at least more carefully.

    At the top of my last post (in terms of appearance), I explained that I had actually written this post you referred to prior to the one before it. However it got caught in the spam filter and even my attempt to try again had the same thing happen and the comment was not ‘released’ until afterwards.

    Even if you are not willing to read carefully, I will ask other readers (if there are any left), to note:

    (i) I have tried to represent the general clear direction of the claims of the research on the impact of same-sex parenting.

    (ii) I have raised some question marks of method and over-stated conclusions that make me pause before simply accepting the claims.

    (iii) I have suggested (and given brief evidence) that Christians are not the only ones who have strong opinions before they get to the evidence and research and arguments, and have critiqued the fact that the researchers’ pre-existing biases are not always disclosed, nor properly managed.

    (iv) I have openly admitted my pre-commitments, right from my original letter to the MP.

    (v) In my last post – in terms of my logic (not in terms of how it appears above) – I try to disclose the impact my beliefs about the Bible have on me in this issue. I said it this makes it hard to change my mind.

    (vi) I have also said that if I become convinced the evidence on same-sex parenting showed it was not problematic then I would not rely on that current research confirming my views. Rather I would be relying on my views of the Bible as God’s Word (also contestable on the basis of evidence and debate, but that’s a debate for another place).

    (vii) Clearly my concerns about methods and bias in research means I am not at that point yet.

    Peter has not actually engaged with those concerns about method and bias, but has simply dismissed them because he alleges I won’t listen to evidence.

    Does anyone else think this has an overtone of the ad hominem argument, as a way of avoiding some legitimate issues I have raised?

    Does anyone else believe Christians are the only people in this debate with biases?

  33. Sandy,

    Sorry, I should have been more charitably. You are expressing your views honestly.

    Peter has not actually engaged with those concerns about method and bias, but has simply dismissed them because he alleges I won’t listen to evidence.

    I dismiss your concerns about method and bias because no evidence/data/study could convince you to support gay marriage. You will never change your mind because you have your Bible. There is no point talking about evidence with people who are not ready to change their view.

    “If someone doesn’t value evidence, what evidence are you going to provide to prove that they should value it?” – Sam Harris

    Does anyone else think this has an overtone of the ad hominem argument, as a way of avoiding some legitimate issues I have raised?

    I hope it is not ad hominem to dismiss your argument based on that you would not accept any result against your presuppositions. Truth can only be found if you accept that you could be wrong.

    Does anyone else believe Christians are the only people in this debate with biases?

    We all have our biases, no doubt (I wish I knew all mine).

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