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Erik is a public policy professional and owner of the online training course in democracy and civic action: www.3ptraining.com.au The Blog …explores ways to create a sustainable and just community. Explores how that community can be best protected at all levels including social policy/economics/ military. The Book Erik’s autobiography is a humorous read about serious things. It concerns living in the bush, wilderness, home education, spirituality, and activism. Finding Home is available from Amazon, Barnes&Noble and all good e-book sellers.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Gay marriage bill and the fork in the road

Greco Roman sexuality was fluid and celebrated in art.

Now that the dust is settling after the defeat of the gay marriage bill it is time for all parties to reflect.  For the record I did not support the bill, about which, more later.  However, before I am written off as a homophobic anti gay bigot allow me to indulge in a little heterosexual bashing.  Whose sexual conduct does the greatest harm over-all?

It was not long ago that a 12 year old girl in State care was prostituted by her mother and step father.  Perhaps 100 men paid for sex with her.  They got off on a technicality (it was dark apparently).  One prominent politician was prosecuted – the victim came to his home and it was not dark – but he also got off.  Apparently his med’s made him do it.  I like to think that if I took some medication that made me sexually incontinent I would do what every self respecting 15 year old boy in the country does and jerk off with a copy of the Myer lingerie catalogue.  I am fairly confident that no medication would cause me to rape 12 year old girls, but we digress.

The only positive thing about the whole sordid saga is that it is still considered shocking.  It was not always so.  In ancient Rome if you wanted a 12 year old girl or a 9 year old boy you just had to go to the slave market and buy one.  Indulging in prostitution was considered a religious and civic obligation which is why the State provided a temple prostitution service.  Paedophilia was socially acceptable as was bestiality.  Homosexuality was celebrated in art.  Promiscuity was OK and unwanted babies were left out to die.  Cruelty and violence were celebrated at the games – paid for variously by the State or wealthy patrons.  Indeed, so foundational was violence to the Roman identity that arenas were build as far away as Wales.  The entire social hierarchy depended on the crassest forms of class exploitation.

None of the Greco/Roman gods had a problem with any of this, nor on the whole did the classical philosophers so beloved of the new atheists (see Grayling et al).  Only Jehovah, the god of a small oriental cult, had a problem with it for which reason he and his devotees were considered intolerant, uncultured and bigoted.  

Dawkins et al imagine that an enlightened humanism will rise phoenix like from the ashes of Christianity.  Basically he imagines a Christian society without religion and with a more relaxed view of sex and sexuality.  Unfortunately Rome’s social policies were a lot more consistent with Darwin than Dawkins’ are.  Unsurprisingly, as the culture turns its back on Christianity, we are drifting back to the moral and social mores of Rome. 

We are rapidly approaching a fork in the road and it is high time the church stuck a sign in the middle saying ‘wrong way, go back’.  The question is ‘go back to where?’ When people today think of the church and sex they think of paedophile priests, and a social policy that kept women in the kitchen, gays in the closet, denied sex education and contraception to teenagers, then when they got pregnant put a pillow in their face and stole their baby.  Partly informed by these policies rape within marriage did not become a crime in Tasmania until 1986 – because the wife was the property of the husband.  This nonsense didn’t work then, won’t work now, and we can’t go back there.  Somewhere between secular debauchery and 1950’s repression there has to be an answer that results in happy well adjusted people and families.  If we (Christians) are to find it we are going to have to have a frank and (for some) painful conversation, and we are going to have make theology the servant of facts and evidence.  On the other hand, that is the conversation we need to be having with our teenagers anyway.  I intend to begin a conversation - but not on this blog.

Tag line: marriage equality, Greco Roman erotica, Christian responses to LGBT issue


  1. "Only Jehovah, the god of a small oriental cult, had a problem with it" <-- Except, the bible doesn't express any problem with it whatsoever. Sex with a 12 year old? Totally fine if within marriage. Rape within marriage? Never mentioned as a problem in either testament. Sexual slavery? OK with Jehovah and demanded by Moses of his followers (as long as the women and girls aren't Jewish).

    1. Hi Sophelia

      Thanks for this and apologies for the late response – I missed this post.

      The Bible is a narrative that starts at one point and ends at another. There is progressive revelation and progressive moral development throughout. We progress from Israel as a sovereign nation based on the law of Moses, to a universal spiritual kingdom based on the priestly intercession of Christ and lead by the indwelling Holy Spirit, by the end. It is these later believers that I wrote about.

      The OT is barbaric. Those times were, and the Exodus/establishment of a sovereign nation under Jehovah could not have happened if Moses had handed down a nice liberal feminist tract about universal rights. This of course raises some interesting questions about Biblical literalism, what is universal, and what is circumstantial.

      That said, just because something (like rape within marriage) doesn’t get a reference doesn’t mean that it is OK. The Bible does not (in my view) attempt a comprehensive list of offences and prohibitions; it tends more to address particular issues as they arose. In the OT these are mostly warnings to Israel against adopting the customs of the surrounding people e.g. infant sacrifice and temple prostitution. These overlaid existing community standards - a bit like Indigenous oral law/tradition is overlaid with the criminal laws of Australia.

      The OT prohibition on rape is found at Duet 22:25-29. The NT model of marriage is intended to mirror the relationship between Christ and the church. That’s a long topic but suffice to day it is not an abusive relationship. Pre-pubescent ‘marriage’ still occurs in the Middle East and probably occurred in Bible times, but if you are saying that girls were married off at 12 under the law of Moses I would like to see some evidence of that. If you read the history of the patriarchs from Abram to Joseph you will see that marriage was between adults and was consensual or semi arranged/consensual. This is not dissimilar to contemporary marriage custom in India were a marriage broker suggests candidates but the parties decide if the want each other.

      Moses demanding sexual slavery? That’s a stretch. You may be referring Duet 21:10-14? This is in the context of complete extermination of surrounding cities.

      The OT prohibition on sexual relations with children is found at Lev 18:10-11, 17

      Hebrews who sold themselves into slavery had to be freed in 7th year Duet 15:12-18

      Captured cities become subject to forced labour – basically paid tribute Duet 20:10.

      By the time of the NT believers were considered ‘free in Christ’ and slavery was seen as a pagan institution, although it did persist in various forms in ‘Christian’ societies to recent times.

      It would be an interesting exercise to place oneself in Moses’ position post Exodus and come up with a workable set of laws. If you feel inspired I would be happy to discuss!