Well, we come to the last of the Blog Posts issued in conjunction with releasing a new chapter of my essay. I have been thinking what to do next and I decided to approach a few of my gay friends to ask them whether they’d like to write something of their own stories, talking about their background stories, how they came out, and the reactions they received from family and friends, including their churches. As I know a significant percentage of the folks reading these Blogs and the accompanying chapters, are non-gay, and may not have any (known) direct contact with someone identifying as LGBTQ+, it’ll be helpful for them to hear something about what life is like, and, if the writer is someone with a faith, how they themselves came to terms with what have become known as the Clobber passages. To be fair, many of the writers I have approached are Christians, actively involved in churches, but not all. However, I hope that even if you are someone who identifies as LGBTQ+, it will be interesting and helpful to hear how others have faced their difficulties.
I remember learning early on that there is a widely used saying, “If you’ve heard one trans* person’s story . . . you’ve heard one trans* person’s story!” By that it is meant that because every trans* person has a different experience, you can’t assume that all other trans* persons will be the same, everyone is different. Realistically you can say the same is true about those who are LGB as well – everyone is so different and will have had differing experiences.
Before I get to the main reason for writing, if you like Tik-Tok you might like to check out the Tik-Tok Pastor, Brandon Robertson. This is not deep theology, but simply some fun videos with a message about some of what the Bible says, and especially about LGBTQ+ issues. You are not going to find a short video that sums up all of the theology I have talked about over the last few months, but you might find a few videos that are companions to a paragraph here or there! Have a look at: https://www.tiktok.com/@revbrandanrobertson?is_copy_url=1&is_from_webapp=v1
If you only take your theology from Martin Lloyd Jones, N.T (Tom) Wright, William Lane Craig or R T Kendall, that won’t be for you! 😊 But for the rest, take a break, but make sure you come back here!
If you like history with your LGBTQ+ themes, there is a podcast that is well worth a listen. It is a discussion about sexual issues including LGBT history, called “Contraception, consent & erotic connection: sex through history”. From my perspective it was fascinating, and it is a broadcast from BBC History where Fern Riddell discusses what we can learn from looking at sexual culture in the past: https://www.historyextra.com/period/victorian/contraception-consent-erotic-connection-sex-through-history-fern-riddell-podcast/
So, let’s focus our attention on our subject of marriage. In the essay I discuss the issue of marriage for those who are LGBTQ+, and I set the scene by quoting from near the beginning of Praise for “More Perfect Union”, which serves as the introduction to Bishop Alan Wilson’s book ‘More Perfect Union? Understanding Same-sex Marriage’. Dr Jeffrey John, Dean of St Albans writes:
Why should gay people demand marriage and not be content with the Church’s (belated and partial) acceptance of civil partnership? Because accepting civil partnership but not marriage is like letting black people on to the bus but still making them sit at the back.
(Kindle Locations 42-44). Darton Longman & Todd Ltd. Kindle Edition.
Part of me loves that analogy and part of me is a little uncomfortable with its historic reference to black segregation, but the analogy helps to make a clear point.
Whilst we like to stress how Biblical we are with our concept of marriage; ‘Christian Marriage’ is really a concept of fiction. The Bible strongly encourages us to see marriage as being from the heart of God, but it doesn’t ordain who you marry, or indeed, how many. That may seem strange, but there are eight types of marriage described in the Bible as acceptable. I give fuller detail in the chapter, but to summarise, there are the following types:
- One man and one woman (Gen 2:24) This is where some will want to stop the count!
- Man, and a deceased brother’s childless widow (Levirate marriage) (Genesis 38: 6-10 and many other places including Matthew 22: 23-27, Mark 12:18-23 and Luke 20: 27-33
- Man + Wife + Concubine(s) (Check out Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon and many others, and refer to the earlier section in the essay about Concubinary.
- A rapist + his victim (Deut. 22: 28-29). How do you feel about that? This is similar to Exodus 22: 16-17.
- Man + Woman + woman’s property. That is, any slaves his wife brought into the marriage (Genesis 16). The husband had rights to have sex with not just his wife, but her slaves.
- Male soldier + prisoner of war (Numbers 31: 1-18; Deut. 21: 11-14) where virgin girls get taken as prisoners of war and become the property of her captor.
- Polygany – Many examples in the Bible and we dealt with this issue earlier in the essay.
- Male and female slave (Exodus 21:4) – a slave owner could give a female slave to one of his male slaves. Note that the arranger of the marriage is the slave owner, and not one of the parties to the marriage. This might present a few problems, because both were no more than property of the owner, and the relationship of the new wife, would be not just the property of her husband, but of her owner as well, so both could legally have sex with her.
There is no room to wriggle and squirm saying that this type of marriage, or that, doesn’t really count. All these are legally binding, genuine, and accepted forms of marriage, in accordance with the Law of God, so can be regarded as God approved marriage. As for Arranged Marriages, most marriages in the Bible, were Arranged Marriages, even in New Testament times, because that was the culture of the day.
Marriage, and the marriage ceremony, has always reflected the culture of the day, and the culture of the part of the world where it takes place, it is simply that as Christians we have sought to celebrate our marriage in the presence of God – however, we understand that.
Marriage as we understand it today, is nothing like that of the Victorians, the Victorians nothing like the Elizabethans, the Elizabethans nothing like the Vikings (or to be fairer, the Christianised Anglo-Saxons), or the Romans, or right back to Biblical times – its form has always changed. There is no direct, straight line. A tribal marriage in Peru will be different to a tribal marriage in Nigeria, which will be different to one amongst a Native American Indian tribe. Then you can throw in those who get married in an Elvis Presley chapel, and if they all visit the UK, we will accept all the marriages as valid subject to the documentary evidence.
I was learning from an Iranian friend this week that an Islamic boy can marry at 13 years old and an Islamic girl at 9 years old! While it is unusual it nevertheless happens. I suspect that type of marriage would not be recognised in the UK till they are both of recognised age. If they then visited the UK after being married 10 years, I doubt if anyone would bat an eyelid, unless they mentioned how long they had been married.
Churchmen in in the 12th Century were debating “what makes marriage”? They ultimately concluded that all that was required was the freely given “Consent” of the two people concerned – and nothing else – no witnesses, no church, no consent of family, and it doesn’t even need sex. So, marriage could be ‘undertaken’ simply by the two people agreeing to marry away from anyone else. This was the legal stance of the church, but society often required more!
This idea of “Consent” was exchanged by any one of the following methods:
- “Words of present consent” (Verbal) from both parties – like each saying, “I marry you” or “I take you as mine”, and the parish priest did not have to be present. This was regarded as marriage for life and was indissoluble. It may have been easy to marry, but as it was indissoluble, you couldn’t get out of it, and there could be no excuses of “I was just joking”.
- “Words of future consent” – like both parties saying, “I will marry you” and then expressing your present consent by having sex (Verbal and Physical). Once again it was indissoluble.
- Finally, Gesture: Gift exchange – a man might make a gift to his intended and if she accepts it, she would become his wife. The gift would often be a ring. The giving of a gift was called a Wed – I wonder what that became!
Nowadays we have combined them all.
That fascinating information was found at: https://www.historyextra.com/period/medieval/lecture-medieval-love-marriage-sally-dixon-smith-podcast/
In the last blog I criticised the use of the expression “Christian Marriage”, because I don’t believe it brings glory to God. It is used as an elitist term that seeks to divide, which is not a Gospel principle. As I write in Chapter 15: My own suspicion is that God isn’t that bothered by what we individually, and societally think of as a marriage (who and how many we marry), but He is concerned by the truth, respect, honour, and faithfulness I give to my spouse, and she (in my case) to me. I believe it to be far more about the quality of the relationship and how we draw each other closer to God, how we change each other, than the specifics of whom I have chosen as my partner.
Although I have said I don’t believe God provides a restriction on the number of spouses, I DO believe that if the qualifier is the mutual quality of the relationship and how we draw each other closer to God, that will probably limit it to two people anyway. I’m thinking here about a situation where someone has two spouses’: How do you build up both spouses, and not allow jealousies to break in? How do you not have a (slight) favourite? How do you resolve arguments? We’ve asked some of these questions earlier in the essay. In practice, you can only have multiple spouses if one person dominates, and that’s not a gospel principle. Besides, the constraints of our society wouldn’t permit it anyway, so it’s a moot point.
Thus, we have this myriad of marriage types, all of which are recognised by God, so what constitutes marriage in God’s eyes. As I say in the chapter:
One site lays it out like this:
There are three commonly held beliefs about what constitutes a marriage in the eyes of God:
- The couple is married in the eyes of God when the physical union is consummated through sexual intercourse.
- The couple is married in the eyes of God when the couple is legally married.
- The couple is married in the eyes of God after they have participated in a formal religious wedding ceremony. [My emphasis – PJ]
My own view, as you will have guessed, is that when sexual intercourse occurs, “the two will become one flesh” and in God’s sight at least, the couple are ‘married’, regardless of any legal niceties.
So, in a sense, I guess if sex has not taken place before the marriage ceremony, the ceremony becomes the promise of marriage, which is consummated when they first have intercourse. However, as I say in the chapter: Much of the Bible’s teaching is related to intent and attitude and how our intentions towards others are so important, and on that basis, if it is purely on the basis of vows of commitment, perhaps the marriage is effectively taking place at the engagement, but solemnly recognised at the wedding. Anyway, that’s getting a bit complicated, so let’s leave it there! None of what I have said so far is exclusive to traditional male/female marriage, and indeed I see it as equally applicable to every type of marriage. In addition, I then go on to talk about the idea of Covenantal Relationships which again are equally applicable within all relationships involving Christian people who identify as LGBTQ+.
Essentially, I would encourage all Christian people in committed relationships to marry before God, as a sign that they see themselves as being in a life-long covenantal relationship. As I said last time, I don’t intend to start using terms like gay marriage or Christian marriage, I just want to promote marriage as a covenantal relationship, regardless of gender. In the chapter, I write that, if two gay folk wanted their official wedding to be recognised before God, I can’t see how there can be a problem. If there were a space made for a prayer to be said as part of the ceremony, or, if having left the official building or office, to go and take some pictures, I’m sure time could be made for someone to pray for, or “over” them. Alternatively, simply a minute or two of silence for each to quietly reflect and pray to God in their mind and heart. How would that not be in the presence of God? For me, I conclude that to be honouring to God, and why should it not? However, it would be far better to do it in a church, with clergy present, and the full symbolism of the occasion. I cannot see that preventing LGBTQ+ folk from committing themselves through marriage, as being anything but being unrighteous and dishonest.
I quote Tony Campolo an American, Baptist minister and strong advocate for social justice for over half a century. I have loved listening to him since I was a teenager. He said: “Now here’s the point that I want to make: I, as an evangelical, want to win people to Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. It’s hard for me to say, “I love you in the name of Jesus, but I am in favour of maintaining laws that deny you the basic rights that I enjoy.” If I love you, I want you to have the same rights and privileges that I enjoy. And if I don’t do that, I don’t love you, no matter what my language might in fact indicate. Love is more than just an emotional feeling. I hear people say, “I really love my gay friends.” But what does that mean? That you have a warm fuzzy feelings inside? Love is something you do. And it’s bringing justice to other people. You can’t say “I love you” if I don’t work for justice on that person’s behalf. And if I don’t love you, it’s going to be nearly impossible for me to win you to Jesus.”[My emphasis]
That seems like a good place to finish.
Next time I will be releasing the whole book/essay/opus in one document, which will be available via PDF. I was looking at possibly trying to get it converted to something like ePub, but the formatting looked terrible, and would have required far too much work to make it look right. As I say, the next blog will be the final in this current series, but then I will probably move to a monthly blog.
Just in case you haven’t already, to make sure you don’t miss a future blog, go to the Home Page and put your email address in the box where requested. Then follow the instructions.
I’m thinking that the Blog element, next time, will see me writing something about how to use the Bible, or at least how I have used it as I’ve tried to make sense of it while writing the essay and Blog posts. I don’t know how that will work at this stage!
As I said at the beginning, I have asked some friends to write something about their stories, their experiences, and their struggles with faith, and reconciling it all. Did they retain their faith, or has it been lost, or put on the backburner? I don’t know how quickly these stories will be submitted, but I’m hoping they won’t all wait for each other!
I don’t think I want to leave the website to gather dust, so if you want me to continue to write blogs, tell me what you would like me to look at. It may be that I choose to write shorter (hopefully) blogs about what LGBTQ+ stories are currently in the media, trying to look at them with a Christian perspective. For example, this week saw the release of “Pray Away”, the docu-film on Netflix produced and directed by Kristine Stolakis, about Conversion Therapy, but having so recently dealt with that subject, there seemed little point revisiting so soon afterwards.
As I frequently say, I always enjoy receiving helpful comments, so please feel free to get in touch. You will have a different experience to me, whether you identify as straight or queer. We all have different backgrounds and different ways of understanding, and different influences. Do your insights agree with my own writings? Where do we differ? What do you think? Have I missed something important? Tell me about your own experience, or your story. You can use the Contact page or email me on: firstname.lastname@example.org,
In the meantime, you can download the latest chapter here, or here, or from the Download page.