The Phenomenon of Man and the eruption of equal marriage

I’m reading Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s The Phenomenon of Man at the moment. I’ve been meaning to read it for over 40 years and have finally got around to it! He wrote the book in 1947 but it was published posthumously after his death in 1955. Rome refused to allow him to publish.

In the space between putting the book down this morning and preparing to pray, an idea relating the book to equal marriage suddenly jumped into my mind. De Chardin says that it’s impossible to search for and discover evidence for the moment when human beings became human, or when any species or moment of evolution arrived fully formed. The evidence is elusive for reasons he explains, as a paleontologist. There are times in evolution when the next step is suddenly taken, looking from the perspective of hindsight as if it was a leap from nothing to something entirely new – the human species suddenly arrived seemingly fully formed. I was reminded of the search for ‘the missing link’.

The link that I suddenly made this morning is that the evolution and arrival in human societies of lesbian and gay relationships which have taken on the quality of marriage has happened in a very short space of time. To many, it looks as if it has arrived from nowhere and for those of a conservative religious tradition, it looks like an eruption which shatters something fundamental to God’s design for human life and relationships. To de Chardin this eruption in a very short time scale is exactly what is to be expected and the way evolutionary development has always occurred. It didn’t occur to me until earlier this morning that, of course, this is how developments will occur now and in the future – and they will always shock and surprise those of a traditional or more fixed relationship with life.

From my perspective and the perspective of many (although not all) LGB&T people, the evolutionary development of equal marriage has taken some time to adjust to. Surely, I’ve thought until now, marriage was indeed what I had been taught, an institution or sacrament for heterosexuals and not for such as me, constrained by historical, ethical, theological norms and givens and above all, by God having decided and announced in the Bible that this is what marriage is. Thus has it been decreed.

Now it looks obvious to me that marriage is marriage for same-sex couples in the same way as it has been and is for heterosexual couples. Of course this is what adult, Christian, lesbian and gay couples have been creating in our relationships, even if we hadn’t dared think of them as marriages. Whatever name you chose for our relationships, this is the set into which same-sex covenanted unions fall – marriage.

For other Christians, working within the paradigms of orthodoxy, tradition, Biblical teaching and the fundamentals of Christianity, it’s a theological, logical impossibility, a category error. For those in this tradition, it’s an impossible leap of the imagination to accept the nature of the transformation that is taking place as lesbian and gay couples, with the authority of sexular governments, are entering into marriage.

It can look like an imposition of the secular state, an abandonment of Christian tradition and truth and a capitulation to ideas of equality and justice which have no basis in orthodox Christianity. That’s not how it looks to me, even though I was stunned when a conservative government introduced the equal marriage bill.

This morning it was obvious to me that this is the next evolutionary step in God’s creative process. Lesbian and gay couples have for 40 or more years (and for a minority, for much, much longer) been creating relationships which are equal to marriage in their quality. Now, seemingly from nowhere, such has been the speed of change, governments have begun to legislate for marriage equality for lesbian and gay people.

This is a critical time in human evolution, a period when the place of women and those of us with varying sexual and gender identities is being transformed in a dramatically short space of time. The process has been under way for a century and is not yet near fruition.

I can see why some conservative Christians so vehemently oppose the very idea of evolution. Once accepted, it makes anything possible, and it places God at the centre of the evolutionary process, which of course she is. Reactionaries want the security of unchanging truth. Teilhard de Chardin shows me that I am living through another evolutionary development that is transforming what were thought to be stable, unchanging truths.

The Men and Women in Marriage report will have an impact on an initiative which Changing Attitude is taking at the moment. We are writing to the twenty three bishops we believe are most sympathetic to the place of LGB&T people in the Church asking to meet them individually for a confidential conversation based on the pastoral opportunities the gifts of LGB&T people offer to the Church. The first conversation has happened, three more are in the diary and the next ten invitations have been sent. We will not be reporting on who or when we have met, nor on the content of the conversations, but we will issue an overall reflection on the conversations prior to the release of the report by the Pilling group in late Autumn.

To return to the flash of insight that came to me at 7am this morning – I still carry somewhere inside me that poisonous, insidious little notion that God might be angry with me because I am gay and sexual. Years of counseling and therapy never quite eradicate feelings so deeply implanted in childhood. There are Christians who want me to feel the impact of this poisonous little god in order to satisfy their allegiance or addiction to the tiny, inadequate god they worship, a god of petty values and laws, a polarizing, divisive, pernicious, ultimately impotent god. As Maggie would certainly not have said in these circumstances, given Clause 28 – NO, NO, NO NO.

This insidious little god is unhealthy for us damaging, poisonous at times, uncreative, diminishing freedom, dignity, energy and the flow of love.

Slowly in terms of my life span but with great speed in the evolutionary process, individuals and social groups, churches and societies, are finding the courage and freedom to detach themselves from this little god, opening more space for God in Christ, God of infinite creative energy, emerging in the universe, in the space-time continuum, and in particular hearts and souls and lives and imaginations, God of Jesus Christ and the Gospels and St Paul, inspiring us with the courage to break free and live with passion as adults, not co-dependent immature infants. Equal marriage is a quantum leap into a new, Godly paradigm.

Christ is risen! Alleluia!

Let the gospel trumpets speak,
and the news, as of holy fire,
burning and flaming and inextinguishable,
run to the ends of the earth.

Christ is risen! Alleluia!

Let all creation greet the good news with jubilant shout,
for the end of its travail has come.
death’s ancient grip has been released.

Christ is risen! Alleluia!

Death yields strange gifts to life,
it’s colours rich and deep and radiant,
life more solid and more real.

Christ is risen! Alleluia!

Glory shines through everything that is,
unconquerable is the power of love.

Christ is risen! Alleluia!

Embrace the living hope. Death has no final word.
In the resurrection of Jesus Christ is life in God for ever.

Christ is risen! Alleluia!

Out of the Silence … Prayer’s Daily Round
Jim Cotter; Cairns Publications, Harlech, 2006


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