Thursday, 2 August 2012

Memories of Martyrs

And now for something different.

Scotland is a country of martyrs. There have been, of course, Roman Catholic martyrs. But there have been Presbyterian martyrs also. And there have been Scots Episcopalian martyrs.

For now I'm not talking about people hurt during the very nasty sectarianism of the 19th and 20th centuries. I'm talking about people who were punished and executed for believing differently from those in power in Scotland. Whether you were Protestant, Episcopalian or Roman Catholic, it has been very bad news to hold different religious beliefs from those in power in Scotland. I wrote about one Catholic Scottish martyr here.

So perhaps you can imagine my worry about Scottish plans to redefine the institution of marriage. As it so happens, the Scottish government held a consultation on the institution of marriage. It purported to want to know what the residents of Scotland thought about changing the definition of marriage to include the union of one man to another and the union of one woman to another. Two-thirds of those residents of Scotland who responded, 67%, thought that the definition of marriage should NOT be changed.

Nevertheless, the Scottish government has announced that it will be changing the definition of marriage.

That's what democracy looks like in Scotland.

The day this was announced, British media published a video filmed four months earlier of a Scottish Catholic bishop speculating, in the context of the health risks of homosexual activity, on the early death (age 44) of a Scottish politician, an ex-priest who was an active homosexual. The partner, family and friends of the ex-priest/politician duly voiced their anger and dismay.

Not very subtle, British media. But very disciplined of you not to break the story the day the bishop was named the new Archbishop of Glasgow instead. Clearly you sat on that story until the exact right moment.

Sexual activity between adult men in private was decriminalized in England in 1967 and in Scotland in 1980. The fact that there was a delay in Scotland may be because Scotland was more socially conservative than England. And civil partnerships, which means state recognition of male-female, male-male or female-female sexual partnerships (they are closed to platonic friends or family members) as economic and social units have existed in the whole UK since 2004.

In Scotland, there were 1,047 civil partnerships established in 2006, 688 in 2007, 525 in 2008, 498 in 2009 and 465 in 2010, and 554 in 2011.

Scotland has a population of five million.

Those Britons nervous about civil partnerships were told again and again that this was a solution to the gay marriage debate. They were not told that this was a way to soften them up for a change in the definition of marriage. After all, civil partners have all the same legal rights as married couples. This includes immigration, as I noticed when I did all the paperwork for my Spousal Visa and my Indefinite Leave to Remain.

But the gay marriage issue did not go away, and indeed it is back with a vengeance--more on vengeance later--and the Scottish government has decided to go with it, despite the fact that 67% of those residents of Scotland who cared enough to make their voices heard said "No."

And this scared the hell out of me because now I am in the uncomfortable position of having religious beliefs different from those in power in Scotland. And so, incidentally, does my Free Presbyterian friend Cath, who could certainly list as many Scots Presbyterian martyrs as I could list Scots Catholic ones. Probably more.

Belief that marriage is not a union of one man and one woman but the union of one adult to another adult as long as they love each other in a sexual way is a religious belief. And the god being worshipped is Eros, which activists keep calling "love."

"Marriage," emoted Seraphic, blitzed on red wine, at a dinner party to a member of the Scottish National Party, "is not about love. It is about a man and a woman in an economic, sexual and social bond for their good, the good of children, and the good of society in general."

Actually, I don't think I put it as well as that, but that is certainly close to what I said to the Scottish government during their consultation, the one they are now going to ignore, except to worry about how to get the 67% to vote for them anyway.

And I was not very interested in the definition of marriage at that point anyway. I was interested in whether Roman Catholics and Free Presbyterians in Scotland are going to be able to dissent from the government's official religious beliefs about marriage without being punished.

And by being punished I mean sued, harassed, fired or threatened with imprisonment. Because, lo and behold, that is the kind of thing that has happened to Christians in Canada. And this is a particularly serious worry in Scotland where employment discrimination against Roman Catholics was practiced right up to the 1980s. And in fields where saying the wrong thing at an Edinburgh cocktail party can ruin you.

Now, to move from the civil rights worries of the Catholics and Free Presbyterians, I will say something brief about society.

Those who wish to redefine marriage keep talking about "love." "Love" sounds great, for surely only nasty, bitter people are not moved by love.

But there is less talk about what marriage does for society, and the role of married men and women, whether or not they have their own kids, as parents in, and of, that society. To deny that married men and women have a unique and important role in society--something we recognize with the word "marriage"--is to tell a serious lie about society and men and women.

Here are links to everything you would ever want to read about the marriage debate imposition in Scotland.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for eloquently explaining why secular marriage ought to line up with religious marriage - even if you aren't religious.

Beyond that, did you hear about the Chick-fil-A debacle here in America? The fast food chain doesn't even open up on Sundays, so that their employees can keep the Sabbath, but everyone acted all surprised to find out that their CEO donates money to support traditional marriage - and a few mayors denied building permits to the company as a result.


Mrs McLean said...

Oh, yes. I'm very much in touch with the Chick-fil-a situation! That was most definitely a case of people trying to have revenge on a Christian who simply believes in the traditional definition of marriage (which I believe is still law in most of the USA). But the great news is that other Americans have seen the boycott for what it is--an attack on Christians' freedom of speech and freedom of religion--and are showing exactly what they think of that.

okiegrl said...

I STILL couldn't get into a Chick-fil-a store today. Cars were lined up out to the street.

Maria said...

Aren't there any other faith groups out there who are being strong-armed into accepting gay marriage against their will? I hear a lot about Catholics and those of various Christian denominations but nothing about Jews or Muslims. Surely this is the sort of thing where we should be able to get support from other faiths!

Miss Doyle said...

Unfortunately Maria, most other Christian denominations are in favour of 'gay marriage' or run a very close second if they favour something akin to 'civil unions' instead.

Seraphic, you are right to point out that love has nothing to do with it.
In a legal sense, marriage has only ever had 4 caveats - that it should be one man and one woman (2), for life (3) to the exclusion of others (4).
Love isn't mentioned - why? Because they state has no authority to regulate emotions and feelings.
Which is why the argument used in favour of gay marriage is null and void - ie. 'but we love each-other, don't discriminate against our love'.
The state doesn't, and isn't.
One of the most popular catch cries in Australia right now (which is debating this issue at the moment too) is that being against gay marriage is the same bigotry used when white people couldn't marry people with other skin colours.
What a load of rubbish.
For more non-religious discussions about this issue - google Brendan O'Connor, he's a humanist and an atheist, but makes some great comments about this current debacle.

Joan of Quark said...

Miss Doyle, I'm in Australia as well, which is increasingly becoming a country where the state does exactly that: try to make itself responsible for people's emotions and feelings.

Feel bad? The state will help you find someone to blame.
Still feel bad? The state will pay for the pills and some of the therapy, and will help you get compensation to pay for the rest.
And still feel bad? The state itself will take care of you for the rest of your life.

I worry about sentimentality in Australia, because it's a hallmark of Nazism. The Nazis were hugely sentimental, and look what they managed to do.

Joan of Quark said...

PS WOO HOO! First girl to mention the Nazis! I win!

Mrs McLean said...

No, no, no. If you mention the Nazis, you LOSE.

Dear me, I think that may have been the first mention of the Nazis on this particular blog. On my first blog they showed up in my science-fiction-fantasy serial.

okiegrl said...


Since all of my kith and kin are on the Protestant side, I would like to point out that there are plenty of Protestant denominations that don't agree or support same sex marriage. Yes, the Episcopals (Anglicans), Lutherans, etc. now support it, but those denominations have been dying for decades in the US. The majority of US churches support traditional marriage.

Maria said...

Well yes, certain Christian denominations do support same-sex marriage. But my point is that we hear a lot about the nasty oppressive Christians who oppose it and nothing about the Jews or Muslims who presumably also do. Anyone have any stories about a Jewish employee who was forced to resign for his stance on gay marriage? I never have.

Melissa said...

They harp a lot on equality here in Canada. To wit, if you are opposed to same-sex marriage, then you don't think gays and lesbians are not equal to straight people. Horsepucky, I say! Homosexual people are absolutely equal to heterosexual people, it is their RELATIONSHIPS that are unequal. I really don't see why this is such a problem.

The day that two men (or two women) can lie down together one night, just the two of them, and use their love to create a tiny third person, that will be the day that we can say that a homosexual relationship is a marriage, equal to a heterosexual one. Until then, same sex relationships are simply NOT equal to opposite sex ones, and it is not discrimination to treat them differently.

berenike said...

There's nothing per se bad about someone being punished by those in power: that's one of the reasons we have states with ways of enforcing the law. Holding to a minority belief and being punished for this or related reasons by a power-holding majority, or by power-holders holding to a majority belief/thesis, does not make you right, nor the punishers wrong in punishing you.

People do act in ways that contradict their own supposed premises, and this ought to be pointed out when it happens, but as the playwright Christopher Shinn wrote somewhere, "I don't think we should give up our values to find common ground. Then it's not common ground, it's their ground and we're just standing on it."