These posts on post-Christendom are based on a recently published paper of mine, ‘Sex, Truth and Tolerance: some theological reflections on the Irish Civil Partnership Bill 2010 and challenges facing Christians in a post-Christendom culture’
I’m proposing 6 themes of Christian realism related to doing public theology in contemporary culture: this is the fifth.
Realistic assessment of each piece of legislation
Some groups opposed the Civil Partnership Bill because of its supposed threat to religious freedom. Catholic Bishops went as far as to say that ‘This Bill is an extraordinary and far reaching attack on freedom of conscience and the free practice of religion.’ Others thought this an unnecessarily exaggerated fear and would be interpreted as a self-interested pretence to oppose the Bill.
But the main reason many Christians opposed the Bill was a perception it would undermine marriage and be a stepping stone to same-sex marriage. And it is obvious that the CPB is intensely disliked by many sections of the homosexual community since it is perceived as discriminating against certain citizens on the basis of their sexuality. Only full equality in marriage will be acceptable.
The EAI statement frankly acknowledged this reality but argued that the CPB was a reasonable compromise for homosexual and co-habiting couples to register their partnerships and gain the associated legal rights. It was a civil ceremony, explicitly not a religious one, which ‘does not challenge the traditional understanding of marriage in Ireland.’
Others disagreed. Which view is correct is open to debate. This is an area of ‘wisdom’ and ‘judgement calls’ rather than obvious adherence to biblical truth.
A question here is how can a minority Christian community ‘protect’ marriage within a plural democracy? Is protesting against such legislation as the CPB ‘where it is at’? Should the state be defending and promoting marriage for social reasons (such as the good of children) even if not for moral ones?