The controversy surrounding gay marriage has now reached
a fever pitch in countries like Australia and the UK, as governments have begun
to move past debate and towards legislative change. While such intensity can
have the benefit of clarifying just what is at stake - on both sides of the
argument - it can also obscure some of the deeper, intrinsically related
So, in the UK, the arguments put forward by the coalition
government in favour of legalising gay marriage have been, appropriately, at
once liberal and conservative. In liberal terms it is seen as a matter of equal
rights; in conservative terms a matter of promoting the good of faithful,
long-term relationships for homosexual as well as heterosexual people.
Those resisting the change - mostly, but not entirely,
religious people - argue that the issue is being framed in the wrong way. For
them it is not a matter of extending the right, nor the teleological good, of
marriage to gay people, but rather of redefining the very thing in which
For centuries - indeed, for millennia - they argue,
marriage has been understood as a conjugal relation between men and women
linked to the natural bearing of children. Thus there is something monstrous
about the state even claiming to have the power by law to change the definition
of a natural and cultural reality which has historically preceded the existence
of the state itself.
Opponents also point out that neither the United Nations
nor the European Union regard homosexual marriage as a human right; rather, it
is seen as a matter that must be left to the judgment of civil law and, by
implication, to local cultural consensus.
Since a right to enter into heterosexual marriage is
recognised, this means that currently the ius gentium - "international
law" - recognises something specific about heterosexual union. The
implication here is that to deny gays the right to marry is not to infringe
their rights as human beings, because the right to marry only applies to human
beings insofar as they are male and female. By analogy the right to a pension
may be universal, but applies only to people over a certain age. International
law, meanwhile, remains somewhat more agnostic as to whether the right to marry
might be extended to gay people.
This leads to a crucial consideration. Historically, the
very idea of marriage has been shaped by public recognition of heterosexual
practice. It is precisely this fact which has often, at least until recently,
led many gays themselves to argue that it is not an institution appropriate to
homosexual practice. It is bound up with the securing of those kinship
structures - of both horizontal affinities and vertical generations - which
have always been central to the very constitution of human society.
Hence, marriage has to do with the "exchange"
of men and women between social groups and with the procreation of children
that secures the extension of lineages. Sometimes, and especially with the
advance of time (as in the case of Christianity), the personal union of man
with woman has also been granted a special symbolic value and has been seen as
offering a specially intense degree of spiritual intimacy.
Homosexuality has always existed in human societies and
sometimes has been tolerated or even made into an essential phase of cultural
development - as with the Baruya or in ancient Athens. But it has never
previously been linked to marriage - apart from parodic instances (as in
ancient Rome) or marginal situations where for various reasons (including those
of transgender) a male or female marital role is "performed" by
someone not of that gender.
So there is no reason to suppose that those opposing gay
marriage are necessarily opposed to homosexual practice as such. The issue is
rather: Why should it now be thought that an inherently heterosexual
institution should be extended to gay relations also?
Injustice and individual rights
Overwhelmingly the answer is that modern political
discourse tends only to recognise as public goods things that can be equally
appropriated by any given individual. It has great difficulties in
acknowledging public goods that can only be exercised by certain groups or by
individuals fulfilling certain social roles. This includes a refusal to
entertain notions of public rights and obligations that might pertain to one
sex rather than to the other, or to one sexual orientation rather than another.
The risk of this exclusive focus on individual rights is
that the needs and capacities of people in their specific differences, which
may be either naturally given or the result of cultural association, tend to be
overridden. And so it is that injustice can arise in the name of justice.
One example of this is the way that economic pressures
combined with liberal feminism have conspired to remove the notion of the
"family wage" thereby effectively prohibiting some women - or,
indeed, some men - from choosing to remain at home to bring up children and
engage in non-waged social activities for some years of their lives.
A similar consideration might apply in the current debate
over gay marriage. The deep reason for the reportedly rather inchoate and
intemperate wrath of Scottish Cardinal Keith O'Brien in the face of the
proposed alteration in marriage law is no doubt his sense that a supposed
"extension" of marriage to gay people in fact removes the right to
marry from heterosexual people.
This can seem like a perversely contorted claim, but its
logic is quite straightforward: the intended change in the definition of
marriage would mean that marriage as traditionally defined no longer exists.
Thus heterosexual people would no longer have the right to enter into an institution
understood to be only possible for heterosexuals, as doubly recognising both
the unique social significance of male/female relationship and the importance
of the conjugal act which leads naturally to the procreation of children who
are then reared by their biological parents.
In effect, if marriage is now understood as a lifelong
sexual contract between any two adult human persons with no specification of
gender, then the allowance of gay marriage renders all marriages "gay
marriages." Given such a situation, were it not for the space afforded by
canon law (namely, the possibility of church marriage) a resort to cohabitation
- which has hitherto been understood as "common-law marriage" - would
be the only logical path for clear-thinking Christians.
The loss of sexual difference
There are two other reasons for the current unprecedented
advocacy of gay marriage. The first is the decline of any public recognition of
sexual difference and so the significance of sexually asymmetric unions, which
I've already alluded to. The second, and arguably most important factor, is the
technologisation of childbirth, allied to the increased acceptance of the
adoption of children by gay couples.
Since the link between sex and childbirth is becoming
increasingly tenuous, heterosexual marriage is increasingly connected with
child-rearing rather than with procreation. In which case, indeed, why should
not gay couples sustain the same connection with an equal capacity?
Are these reasons good reasons? It is notable that even
the churches do not seem to dare to address the first issue of sexual
difference, despite the fact that they recognise the validity of childless
heterosexual marriage, that they have in modern times increasingly stressed
mutual affection as one of the goods of the married state, and that both
Augustine and Aquinas regarded marriage between man and woman as the most
intimate mode of specifically natural human friendship.
In the realm of public discourse, assertion of sexual
difference has become practically unspeakable, despite the fact that it is
implicitly assumed and indeed spoken of by most ordinary non-intellectual
people in the course of everyday life.
Moreover, there are crucial negative testimonies to its
persistence. It would seem that when it is denied that a woman's body or
biology has any psychic correlate, that then her purely physical difference
gets vastly over-accentuated and exploited. Thus children are increasingly
differentiated by gender to a ludicrous degree in terms, for example, of every
item intended for little girls being coloured pink and the ever-younger
adoption of sexualised clothes and make-up by adolescent and pre-pubescent
Indeed, it has been plausibly argued that the "young
girl" is now at once the prime commodity and the prime consumer of late
capitalism. Is it an accident that the according of only "human"
rights to women coincides with a new phase in their degradation?
Equally, the increased crisis of the masculine psyche
suggests that we cannot just remove by fiat the greater propensity of men
towards danger, risk, physicality, objectivity, transcendence and the need to
be in charge. Faced with the prospect of being out-competed by women possessed
of more personal skills, plus a stronger draw of physical focus (something both
natural and today artificially enhanced) in the ever-expanding service sector,
working and lower-middle class men are tending to retreat to the margins. This
suggests that we need to learn how to channel male aptitudes to social
advantage, rather than dogmatically to deny their instance, in the face of all
Therefore, the issue of sexual difference and
complementarity needs to be readdressed - however properly ineffable this topic
may be. For it would seem clear that part of what has made marriage work, and
indeed made it an exceptionally strong bond for millennia, is the asymmetry of
perspectives and roles. Now much of the latter is rightly contested in the name
of equality, but if it cannot be in certain subtle ways constantly and
diversely reinvented, then divorce is likely to be ever more on the rise.
Asymmetrical reciprocity of gender needs to be
reacknowledged as naturally rooted in bodily differences that, unsurprisingly,
have psychic equivalents. Thus allowing that all generalisations are of course
weak and constantly subject to exception, women tend to be actively receptive,
embracing and inter-personal. Men tend to be attentively active, outreaching
and object-orientated. The differences here are only hierarchical in the sense
that one sex tends to outshine the other in certain respects, and the other sex
in certain other respects. But cumulatively there is by nature an
This conclusion is by no means simply traditional since
it rejects the patriarchalism that puts men naturally on top. Instead, it newly
implies that just as we need men in the home, so we need women in politics,
business, the arts, academia and even the military. This prospect belongs to a
radical as opposed to a liberal feminism, because it suggests that a new public
role of women can truly make a difference.
If the household has always been a political unit (as a
male-female unity) then by contrast the "domestication" of the public
sphere due to the increased presence of women who are truly women - as opposed
to the fetishised passive functionaries deployed by late capitalism - should
result in its radical transformation into something more fully human.
We can thus say that there are good reasons to suppose
that sexual complementarity is crucial to the human order - just as it is
crucial to the natural order, and perhaps even to the cosmic order, as many
mythologies and religions have supposed. This is surely part of the reason why
heterosexual marriage has received special public recognition and
The logic of homosexuality
Can we say that homosexual relationships are of equal
importance in the constitution of society? They may indeed be of some or even
great importance - especially if we include the homoerotic and homosocial in a
more general sense - but surely not of equal importance. This is partly for the
simple reason that gay people tend to be in a small minority. But it also has
to do with the different logic of homosexuality.
As James Alison - one of the most subtle and profoundly
orthodox Catholic advocates of a theological recognition of homosexual practice
- puts it, it is rather like comparing soccer to rugby (or maybe the other way
round!): the rules as well as the objectives are simply otherwise. As a
Girardian, Alison might appreciate that this has to do with the triangle of
solidarity, rivalry and attraction.
Heterosexuals are in solidarity with members of their own
sex, who may also become their rivals, and conversely they are attracted to the
opposite sex. But homosexuals are at once in solidarity, rivalry and relations
of attraction to their own sex which - as Girard himself has argued - tends to
increase exponentially the contagion of mimetic desire and its resulting agon,
not to mention the augmentation of narcissism.
On the other hand, homosexuals are neither in a relation
of solidarity with nor attraction to the opposite sex, but may well sometimes
be in a relationship of rivalry. This means that there is a certain
constitutive alienation from the opposite sex built into homosexual logic. Of
course, there can, to some extent, be a solidarity of homosexual perspective
with the opposite sex, grounded in the fact that both share the same sexual
object - but notoriously this can often be contrived, fragile and particularly
subject to betrayal.
Does this structural analysis imply that homosexuality is
necessarily a sinister reality? Certainly not - but it does suggest that a
homosexual destiny is a particularly strenuous fate and ethical task. However,
where this yoke is genuinely assumed, then there are also perhaps special unique
gains which make a crucial social contribution.
Thus the coincidence of solidarity, attraction and
rivalry in the case of one's own same sex can result in a more complete
solidarity with it. Equally, the absence of either solidarity or attraction in
relation to the opposite sex can lead towards a valuing of their pure human
otherness for its own sake and a solidarity transcending gender difference
It is this doubly "angelic" potential of
homosexuality which arguably leads so many gay people to a notably advanced
degree of public dedication and transcendent creativity. Perhaps this is part
of the reason why so many gay people are attracted towards Christian ministry
However, this structural analysis does suggest precisely
why, for the ethically average, a heterosexual logic is more generally
essential to human unity. Most people are, and need to be, bound to their own
sex by simple natural solidarity of perspective, and bound to the opposite sex
by sheer force of physical attraction.
It is partly for this reason that marriage has been
publicly recognised as especially securing both the continuity of families (an
analogous extension of the "same" of gender solidarity) and the
alliance of one family with another (an analogous extension of attraction to
the other sex).
The same analysis also indicates caution about extending
marriage to gay couples. For it is arguable that more radical gays have a point
in suggesting that fidelity and longevity of relationships do not have exactly
the same imperative for a homosexual logic which tends, in its more sublime
form, towards a human solidarity in general.
This is not, of course, to deny that permanence and
exclusivity of gay relationships should not be encouraged, but it does suggest
that the breakdown of these relationships is not the same social catastrophe as
the collapse of a heterosexual marriage. This is partly because children are
more often involved, partly because it more often tends to pull apart families
linked through the marriage alliance, but also because the breakdown of a
heterosexual relationship has more the appearance of a symbolic catastrophe as
an instance of the failure of the permanent union of the two halves of the
human race which are necessary for its procreative continuity.
This difference is, in fact, today publicly recognised in
the circumstance that a gay civil partnership can be instantly dissolved on a
whim, whereas divorce remains somewhat more cumbersome and protracted.
And here we see one of the irresolvable difficulties of
redefining marriage: it would be intolerable to impose difficult divorce
obstacles on gay people, but equally intolerable to make divorce entirely
instant for heterosexual couples, since many marriages can be saved by allowing
a longer time for consideration and by the sheer weight of the difficulties
involved in legal separation. Yet to differentiate here in terms of sexual
orientation would be, in effect, to once more distinguish between marriage and
Children, kinship and the grammar of society
The second reason for the new advocacy of gay marriage,
alongside the flattening-out of sexual difference, is, as I've already
indicated, the rise of acceptance of gay parenthood, taken alongside the
increasing rupture between sex and childbirth.
Here both common-sense and empirical research suggest
that the optimum condition for children is to be brought up by two parents of
the opposite sex who are also their biological parents. Again this is a
generalisation, subject to the severe limits of all generalisations: in many
particular instances this is clearly untrue and in very many instances what
matters is to make the best of what is not the optimum. By just this argument,
it is surely the case that children are better-off being adopted by loving gay
parents than being left to languish in one of the many unsatisfactory
However, just as an orphanage does not involve a
collective marriage, so also the allowing to gay couples of a child-rearing
function does not of itself amount to an argument that they should be treated
as "married." For the latter requires traditionally the idea that a
sexual union leads to natural procreation.
Is this notion of any ethical relevance? One can argue
that it is, because it so intensely combines the personal with the biological,
and hence tends to prevent the "biopolitical" illusion which splits
humans up into a wild, natural component on the one hand, and an artificial
"cultural" component on the other.
In the one direction this can lead to fantasies about how
we are naturally violent or egotistic (Hobbes) or else, to the contrary,
naturally innocent (Rousseau). In the other direction this can lead to an
over-technologised society, disparaging of ecological limits.
Instead, we need to hold onto the truth that we are a
"cultural animal" - an animal whose nature it is to survive through
the invention of cultures which are very diverse, though not wholly diverse
from each other.
In relation to this assertion, it is useful to note how a
balanced reading of the ethnographic evidence requires a recognition that
marriage and the family are at once natural and cultural. It is true that this
evidence no longer upholds a "neoconservative" - that is,
conservatively liberal - understanding of the role of the family as the
"natural" prime social building-block.
Maurice Godelier and others have shown how the tribal
stress upon reproduction was linked also to a perpetuation of the identifying
rituals of the tribe and indeed of the whole society, which determined,
culturally, the exact patterns of kinship relations. Inevitably all this could
only be authorised by "religion," and many archaeologists are now
concluding - from the evidence of burial practices by both Neanderthal and
Cro-Magnon human beings - that religion is older even than spoken language.
All this can appear to place Christian apologetics in an
odd dilemma, for precisely the evidence which "downgrades" the family
at the origins reveals that humanity is above all homo religious and that the family
is less a natural than a religious reality from the outset.
However, this dilemma only appears to arise from a
neoconservative perspective. By contrast, a genuinely Catholic view will not be
surprised to learn that the family was, from the outset, embedded in general
ritual and social norms. Indeed, heterosexual exchange and reproduction has
been hitherto the very "grammar" of social relating as such.
Therefore the abandonment of this grammar implies a
society no longer primarily constituted by extended kinship, but rather by
state control and merely monetary exchange and reproduction. The diminution of
the role of kinship would here be of one piece with the decline of the role of
locality and mediating institutions in general.
For the individual, the experience of a natural-cultural
unity is most fundamentally felt in the sense that her natural birth is from an
interpersonal (and so "cultural") act of loving encounter - even if
this be but a one-night stand. This provides a sense that one's very biological
roots are suffused with an interpersonal narrative - which can become an image
for the idea that the natural world is the work of a personal creation.
Thus to lose this "grammar" would be to
compromise our deepest sense of humanity - and risk a further handing over of
power to market and state tyrannies supported by myths both of pure human
nature and technocratic artifice.
It is for this reason that practices of surrogate
motherhood and sperm-donation (as distinct from the artificial assistance of a
personal sexual union) should be rejected. For the biopolitical rupture which
they invite is revealed by the irresolvable impasse to which they give rise.
Increasingly, children resulting from anonymous
artificial insemination are rightly demanding to know who their natural parents
are - for they know that, in part, we indeed are our biology. But on the other
hand, this request is in principle intolerable for donors who gave their sperm
or wombs on the understanding that this was an anonymous donation for public
benefit -- like blood donation properly precluding any personal involvement.
The recipe for psychological confusion, family division
and social conflict involved here is all too evident and cannot be averted. In
this instance we have sleep-walked into the legalisation of practices whose
logic and implications have never been seriously debated.
From this it follows that we should not re-define birth
as essentially artificial and disconnected from the sexual act - which by no
means implies that each and every sexual act must be open to the possibility of
procreation, only that the link in general should not be severed.
The price for this severance is surely the
commodification of birth by the market, the quasi-eugenic control of
reproduction by the state, and the corruption of the parent-child relation to
one of a narcissistic self-projection.
Once the above practices have been rejected, then it
follows that a gay relationship cannot qualify as a marriage in terms of its
orientation to having children, because the link between an interpersonal and a
natural act is entirely crucial to the definition and character of marriage.
The fact that this optimum condition cannot be fulfilled
by many valid heterosexual marriages is entirely irrelevant, for they still
fulfil through ideal intention this linkage, besides sustaining the union of
sexual difference which is the other aspect of marriage's inherently
If this is a debate the Church is bound to lose - what
So far, I have tried to frame my arguments in broadly
"natural law" terms which can appeal to all human beings. Thus I have
tried to indicate how, when human nature is flouted, either insoluble dilemmas
arise, or else it reveals itself after all in a negative fashion.
Nevertheless, in the end the true character of human
nature is only recognisable if one ascribes to the notion of a created order,
and this is only likely to be done by people whose thinking already obscurely
anticipates that the God who gives in creation will also give the knowledge of
himself to rational spirits by grace.
In other words, the "nature" and the
"reason" considered by secular people, on the one hand, and religious
people, on the other, are not likely to coincide. Christians are likely to
frame the debate over gay marriage in terms of the true human good, the proper
goals that human beings should aim for. Secular people, on the other hand, are
likely to reject the idea that such goals can be objectively shared in common,
and to frame the debate in terms of rights and private utility.
For this reason the Church needs already to face the fact
that it is quite likely to lose this debate, even if it should still try to win
it. But if it does lose it, then how should it respond?
Here the question of whether marriage is primarily a
natural or a sacramental reality is of crucial importance. I have already
indicated how the ethnographic evidence suggests that it is simultaneously
both. And this is how it has been regarded in the Latin Western tradition.
A marriage is primarily a de facto reality made by a
consenting couple, without necessarily the involvement of either parents or
clergy. However, it remains nonetheless a symbol of the bridal unity between
Christ and his Church, which for St Paul is equivalent to the unity between God
and the Cosmos. (Clearly, the centrality of this symbolism rules out the
possibility of Christian gay marriage.) Consequently, while marriage was seen
as radically natural, it also fell within the purview of canon rather than
Thus one response to the adoption of gay marriage by the
secular state might be to revisit the implications of the historical rise of
civil marriage. The latter might seem further to "naturalise"
marriage, but we should surely not be surprised if it has meant precisely the
opposite drift towards contract and artifice, culminating in the advocacy of
marriage for homosexuals.
There is probably an implicit tendency in much theology
to align "the natural" with "the civil" - but in reality
the natural, the civil and the sacramental are three different dimensions, and
this is relevant to the consideration of how, theologically, to approach
marriage in the future.
For it is surely worthwhile for Christians at least to
tarry for a while with the more radical secular notion that really the state
has no business regulating human sexual relations at all. After all, if
marriage is merely a matter of right, contract and utility, then why should we
not revisit Schopenhauer's proposals for group marriages of four, or legalised
menages-a-trois? And why refer to sex at all? Do we not simply need legal
safeguards (for purposes of legacies) for any close human union? Indeed this is
one argument for the preferability of civil partnership over marriage as a
state legal entity.
I think that this radical position should be refused, on
the grounds that it is desirable that the state give every possible legal and
fiscal encouragement to marriage as a key institution of social bonding. And
for the same reason Christians cannot remain satisfied with the argument that
specifically heterosexual marriage remains possible for them through the agency
of the Church.
However, it becomes a useful foil in the event of the
universal advent of gay marriage. For then, instead of banging its head against
a cognitive brick wall, the proper response of the Church should be to deem
marriage under civil law a failed experiment and to resume its sacramental
guardianship of marriage as a natural and social condition.
Here we face the question of whether, after the
legalisation of gay marriage, the churches and other religious bodies can any
longer be considered by the state as legal marriage brokers - as they are today
in the UK but not in many other countries like France, where religious people
must undergo both a religious and a civil registration.
At present, Church and State divergences in the
understanding of marriage are tolerated with respect to divorce, and it is
expected that this will be the same with respect to the admission of
homosexuals to the married state. However, Catholic adoption agencies in the UK
have now been expected to comply with the allowance of gay adoption (which has
led to their closure) and by analogy there can be no guarantee that this
situation will go unchallenged.
It would seem likely that the status of the Church as
broker of state-recognised marriages will be questioned by many if they
continue exercise what will be perceived as unjust discrimination against gay
people. This possibility is much accentuated by the likelihood of a ferocious
debate within the Anglican Church about allowing gay Church weddings. Indeed,
this debate has the capacity to lead to eventual schism.
In order to seek to prevent such an outcome, it may well
be best if the Anglican Church were to move swiftly to permit the blessing of
gay civil partnerships in church. For this would render the strongest possible
theological statement of the view that it is possible to recognise the
legitimacy of faithful homosexual union without conceding that this is
tantamount to marriage - a view that is entirely logical and has many
historical precedents in different cultures.
The possibility of blessing same-sex friendships was
already mooted by the Russian Orthodox philosophy Pavel Florensky early in the
twentieth century, and while he made no mention of any homosexual character to
these unions, it could well be argued that this silence continues to be
advisable. For there is a certain sense in which physical love between members
of the same sex is not "sex," as this term clearly implies sexual
difference. Issues of acceptable modes of physical encounter (as in the case of
heterosexual couples also) should surely be left to individuals and their
The ground for supporting this stance must be the
probability that homosexuality indeed falls within the range of
"natural" human behaviour. While, as I've already argued, the example
of primate behaviour cannot be decisive for human norms, it nonetheless
presents another curious apologetic dilemma for Christians, insofar as the
presence of animal homosexuality would seem usefully to tell against any
dogmatic insistence that all animal traits must be directly and obviously
explicable in terms of evolutionary adaptation.
Perhaps, from a naturalistic point of view, animal
homosexuality is an accidental spin-off from procreationary drives, and
perhaps, equally, from a theological point of view, it can be taken as a
feature merely of a fallen cosmos. Yet it seems more plausible to argue that
homosexual behaviour can serve some purposes of social solidarity and that, in
the human case, gay people may tend to have a very specific social role to
perform within the created order, if they are able to negotiate positively the
logic of the homosexual condition.
This does not necessarily mean that no homosexual
behaviour whatsoever can ever be deemed pathological. It is rather always a
matter of judgement. For while there is much evidence to suggest that
homosexuality is sometimes an unshiftable orientation and that it is not
well-predicted by given social or family circumstances (suggesting a genetic
origin), it is also clear that in some cultures a majority can be initiated
into homosexual practice and possibly desire.
Therefore, it is reasonable to suppose that there is a
certain degree of cultural and psychological latitude in this respect, even if
there is no reason at all to suppose, after Freud, that we are all born with
natural bisexual propensities of equal weight. And given this likelihood of a
degree of cultural conditioning, it is also reasonable to argue that the
cultural bias must lean towards heterosexuality, both because of its more
readily negotiable social logic and its more basic function in binding together
For the Church to abandon this bias would mean embracing
a dubious theology separating soul from body by imagining ethereal souls
entirely free from their corporeal and so engendered connections. And any such
development would represent a retreat from the Latin development, after
Augustine, away from the excessive Platonism of some Greek Fathers (though not,
perhaps, Origen) who regarded embodiment and sexual difference as a lapse from
an original created perfection.
And currently it would seem that a large majority of the
British population share this bias, since, according to polls, a likely 70% are
opposed to any redefinition of marriage - thereby indicating their sense of its
centrality and specificity as an exclusively heterosexual institution. And yet
62% of the same population are in favour of gay civil partnership. These
combined statistics suggest that a majority is in favour of enabling gay
practice, but still regards this as significantly different from heterosexual
However, it may well be that in the UK as elsewhere,
liberal-metropolitan opinion will prevail against a common sense that is
actually in tune with a sophisticated (as opposed to half-baked) intellectual
consideration of the issue involved. In that case, the Church will need both to
continue to deny that the state has the power to change the definition of
marriage, and to offer a defence of nature under the embrace of sacramental
Here the major weapon in its cultural armoury is the
offer of a traditional Church wedding. Christians need to do all they can to
promote the attractiveness of this event - which should include the churches
getting involved in the offering of "total wedding packages." Such
packages would offer reception, transport, photography and so on, all at a good
standard yet at far more reasonable rates than their secular rivals. In this
way, a secondary objective might also be achieved of reducing the ludicrously
extravagant sums that are increasingly spent on weddings by people that can ill
afford them. Of course these packages need to be backed-up by better pre- and
post-marriage guidance than is offered elsewhere.
In a situation where marriage is becoming a less and less
popular option for heterosexuals, there must be a chance for the churches to
capture a greater proportion of the remaining marriage market, and further down
the line to start to demonstrate to cohabiters that the path of natural and
sacramental marriage makes much better human sense.
Thus the battle over gay marriage may well be lost, but
this does not mean that Christians must also concede the war over the future of
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