How not to persevere: a case study from the Church of England
The Church of England has hardly been shy of expressing an opinion on same-sex marriage, having fought against it tooth and nail, describing the very idea as an outrageous imposition which destroys marriage as we know it. But this week, having been soundly defeated in the Lords despite some outspoken criticisms of the bill, the good old CofE has suddenly started to make rather more accommodating noises.
Obviously, I welcome the fact that the church has belatedly recognised that they’re fighting a losing battle, and that the will of both houses is clearly in favour of the legislation. But if it’s a vital issue of morality and fundamental definitions of terms they believe are Christian ones (as they’ve consistently argued), it would be utterly bizarre to relax your opinion and stop fighting based on a simple matter of popularity. It makes me wonder what Bible they’re reading.
Their version of Hebrews 12 probably runs like this:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Unless it looks like a waste of time or the clear will of the people is against you, because it’s not sin if lots of people are doing it. Get with the times!
Ephesians 6 must say this:
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore if people don’t agree with you, you’d better give in and let them have their way, because the powers of darkness really don’t like stubborn opponents who don’t know when they’re beaten.
And Luke 6 must run along these lines:
Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and mock you and curse you as evil because you follow the Son of Man. But don’t push it, because that’s not nice and sinners have feelings too. So once you’ve had a reasonable dose of mockery and hatred, just stand aside and let them have what they want without any unnecessary fuss. Too many blessings would be greedy.
Of course, there’s an alternative. It might be that when they bring their religious beliefs into the debate, they’re casting around for anything they can find to support their reactionary, conservative opinions and that this isn’t nearly as much of a religious issue as they claim. Either way, it doesn’t impress me.