Church of England obsesses about Gay Marriage

and why not!

I simply cannot believe that the Church of England can keep making the same objections against gay marriage when the whole issue is such a no brainer.

The Church obsesses madly about same sex people marrying into an institution that has been seriously breaking down since last century. Why?

The Church insists that the immutable meaning of marriage is for procreation and therefore the word can only apply to the union between men and women. The Church thinks that marriage as an institution would suffer if opened up to gays as it would have its meaning ‘hollowed out’ and reduced to the level of a ‘content free’, ‘consumerist’ agreement.  So I read in the BBC article today.

Well really! Pre-nuptial agreements, forced marriages, marriages of convenience for both accidentally pregnant, property transfer and political reasons aren’t consumerist aren’t they? Tell that to the solicitors drawing up the marriage conditions; and to the families arranging them.

Of course the Church is worried about its diminishing influence in public life and seems to seriously believe that we will all go to hell in a hand basket if we allow the man-made institution of marriage to encompass a few thousand homosexual men and women who want the same relationship rights that everyone else has access to.

While the Church wrings its hands about the unseemliness of gay marriage, it conveniently ignores the thousands of children who are born to unmarried parents and the parents who divorce from each other leaving children in single parent families.

Rowan Williams has had enough

I suppose the Church has difficulty actually stating its spurious religious argument that gay marriage bestows legality to what is fundamentally seen as against the word of god(s). And that is only because gays can’t produce offspring to keep the numbers of the faithful growing in the society.

Well – gays seem to want children as much as anyone else and are willing to adopt children often from less fortunate circumstances. Unfortunately some church-run orphanages seem to want to ban gay adoptions. Not nice.

On the road alone

Given that I am an active non lover of religion of any sort, my preferred position is that all marriages should be conducted legally through the Register of Births, Deaths and Marriages at minimal cost. The celebrations with all the trimmings and haute couture, be they of whatever flavour, religious or otherwise can begin after the legal ceremony.

The weird thing is that the proposed legislation has nothing to do with the Church. It applies to civil partnerships only. So what is it with the Church?

It calls itself the state church with the Queen as the Defender of the Faith. It was set up politically in the 16th century by a randy monarch and has outlived its carnal usefulness in this the 21st century. The only claim it now has is to silly, religious superstition in an effort to hold onto its diminishing wealth and power.

And that makes the Church look and sound like the anachronistic, sour mouthed, fear mongering and bigoted institution it actually is. Disestablishment is the only way forward.


Forced Marriage – honour-based abuse

The Prime Minister

In today’s news Cameron appears to be set to make forced marriage a criminal offence. The BBC Newsround headlines:

Forced marriage to be made illegal in England and Wales

My initial reaction was Hurrah! And then I thought – hang on, I am actually astonished that it isn’t a criminal offence already. This is 21st century Britain after all.

So I started scouring the news for details. I found that in Scotland, forced marriage has been illegal only since November 2011. Here is a definition as noted by the Scottish Government:

A forced Marriage is a marriage in which one or both parties do not (or, in the case of some adults with learning or physical disabilities, cannot) consent to the marriage and duress is involved. Duress includes both physical and emotional pressure. It is very different from arranged marriage, where both parties give their full and free consent to the marriage.

The Independent today has an opinion piece entitled:

Forced marriage – we can’t ignore the shocking truth

Apparently until now, forced marriage has been a civil offence only. The Government in England instituted a Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) which could use the force of the law but not prosecute the parents. This soft approach was to encourage victims to report knowing that their parents would not be prosecuted. This is about to change. We can only hope victims will still report to the FMU.

Last year the FMU dealt with 1,468 cases (78% are women and 30% of those are under 18). I don’t how many of the remaining 22% are disabled and/or gay men and how many are boys also being forced into marriage.

The statistics show that 56% of 2011’s victims had learning disabilities and some 10 cases involved gays or lesbians. And these figures are only the reported ones. There seems to be a whole underground in this country where honour-based abuse thrives.

Karma Nirvana has some 5,000 distress phone calls to its helpline every year. This is from their web page:

At Karma Nirvana, we have one clear aim: to stop the scandal of forced marriage and honour-based violence. No apologies. No excuses. No backing down.

If you’re here to tell us that we can please all cultures without causing the slightest bit of offence – well, frankly, you’ve come to the wrong place.

Jasvinder Sanghera

Jasvinder Sanghera the founder, is committed to the support of victims of honour-based abuse in Britain after her own experiences and the suicide of her sister.

We are aware that forced marriages appear to have more to do with eastern and Middle Eastern countries and the cultural norms and religions that survive there. But this is happening in Great Britain among immigrant communities. Some girls are sent back to where their families came from and forced into marriage there, often to much older men and/or male relatives. Some girls and women are subjected to constant rape and domestic violence. Some girls and women commit suicide because there seems no way out.

Along with forced marriage goes domestic violence, honour killings and female genital mutilation (FGM). None of these practices should be condoned by Britain or, indeed, anywhere else. Remember Ayaan Hirsi Ali talking about these things in Somalia in her book Infidel? A horrifying read.

And now we are aware that disabled people are being forced into marriage in this country. Over half of the cases reported to the FMU relate to disabled people. According to the blog DisabledGo News, half of the cases reported are from Pakistani origin and the rest from across many different ethnic groups. Some are forced into marriage to provide them with a carer others for residence and citizenship reasons.

Cameron is quoted as describing forced marriage as “little more than slavery”. Yes, Cameron, that is true. And now – how do we ensure that the practice doesn’t go underground? That’s a potential problem that I can see and can’t think of a solution.

Gay Marriage and its Political Passage

The sensible Rabbi Romain

How refreshing to read of a Rabbi making a public statement like this:

 Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, said that Christians and Jewish people who oppose homosexual relationships on biblical grounds were applying double standards unless they also believed in some of the more obscure commands in the Old Testament.

Richard Dawkins must be smiling in Oxford – he has been saying this sort of thing in every debate I have ever heard. Dawkins is as fierce an advocate of equality as I have heard. And, just quietly and inter alia, utterly scathing of religious privilege.

The good Prof. Dawkins

How intensely, wonderfully, fiercely and gratifyingly marvellous it is to hear the same Rabbi calling David Cameron out for being the elitist and snob that we all know Cameron to be.

Now, it may be apparent that I cannot abide the baby-faced, empty-headed Cameron but I will give him his due. He only makes decisions that will benefit him and his chances at future political success (a vain hope in my view). As well, he hopes to appease, smooth and otherwise chum his Tory mates. He is very able when it comes to feathering nests.

The lesser Cameron

In this case of same sex relationships, Cameron must have realised that even though homosexuals don’t amount to a big enough percentage of voters able to swing party fortunes in marginal seats, their supporters may. Some of his social class must have been in his ear, so to speak, and told him of the growing support of the privileged classes for gay marriage.

And so the Rabbi is probably quite correct in his assessment of Cameron’s motives.

Now, apart from the obvious political flavour to this debate that we shouldn’t even be having, there is the never ending, yawningly tired and ridiculous stance of the religious poking around in the public sphere. They are, by this time, hanging on by their fingernails to their waning support.

Rightly so too. This is the 21st Century and after all these thousands of years we must be developing some wisdom, surely! The following is attributed to Seneca the Younger sometime around 50 BC:

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.”

But I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Oh noes! Not another Jubilee!

Here she is. A clever woman, I think but with flaws.

My writing group came up with a prompt for our next session that was sort of along the lines of the Queen’s Jubilee. Maybe – Oh not another Jubilee. Or – Jump for Joy. Or – some prompt evoking the beautiful, balmy weather we had been having.

I probably won’t be able to attend that session but it started me thinking about all this Jubilee hoo-ha. Well, to be honest, I couldn’t really miss it. There are advertisements and colours everywhere. The kitsch is out in full parade in shop windows.

The ultimate in kitsch marketing.

This weekend Scotland celebrates, with the rest of the country over a three day weekend, the Queen’s 60th Jubilee with red, white & blue bunting all over the place and kitschy knick-knacks for sale in all manner of kitschy shops and other outlets. Doesn’t do much for me I am afraid except embarrass me on behalf of a country that has been rightly done over by the home country of said Queen.

I have started to read a book by A A Gill called The Angry Island – Hunting the English. Prior to this I read Jeremy Paxman’s The English: A Portrait of a People. I was hoping to build a comprehension of the English that isn’t solely based on its purported history, as written by itself. Being Australian, I only ever knew Britain as flowing from history.

Gill is determinedly Scottish and Paxman is a little bemused by the English and doesn’t really count himself as being one of them. So, I thought I might learn some enlightening stuff about this island. I thoroughly enjoyed Paxman’s urbanely intelligent and clever admonishments of the English and I have yet to finish Gill’s far more acerbic and blunt assessment. I like him as well. So I am adding to and amending my rose-coloured view of the British.

Interestingly, I read a novel called Small Island by Andrea Levy, the British born daughter of Jamaican parents. Her novel draws the inequalities, the prejudices and biases of the English (in this novel) with regard to the inhabitants of a country that gave a lot of its youth to the war effort and then emigrated to ‘the mother country’ and found something quite different from expectations. It was quite a sobering read.

I have always been a bit in love with British history. It seemed so rich and full of costume drama to this antipodean castaway girl. Scotland was probably even more evocative with its tales of derring-do and brave resistance against a greedy and bullying wealthy neighbour. The trials of the Pretender translated into song was romance to me! My reading was peppered with stories of Lorna Doone and Rob Roy and my heart soared! Then Shakespeare came into my life and lent me his plays. And I was in love again.

Just goes to show that things are not necessarily what they seem. I had not realised that the gorgeous royal pomp and ceremony harboured a great deal more subversive messages that tied a populace to its apron strings with hoops of steel.

Doing the done thing – at least voices are soaring.

What a mixed metaphor is that!!

I had naively thought that English royalty had started to pay its way in a modern world with taxation aplenty and a certain diminution in privilege. Then I discovered the amount of money from rents, the largesse from the public purse (still) and the loophole in the European farming subsidy that runs into millions of pounds for landholders again from the public purse, of which the Queen is one and her family members the others!

The English have bought into this pomp with gusto and I am a little bemused that the Scots have as well. Here we are looking down the barrel of Scottish Independence in a couple of years time while still waving the flag flanked on street corners as gilded horses prance past.

All that glisters may be gold!

Only done for the photo op – promise Mum!

Now we are going to celebrate, at yet another public cost of millions, the 60th year of the reign of a monarch that has had less to do with the management of the country and its outreaches than any other monarch in the history of the so-called British Commonwealth.

Not content with that, Britain is hosting the Olympic Games, again at a cost of millions and the displacement of many of London City’s less salubrious inhabitants. The Games as run these days bears little if any resemblance to the Olympic Games it purports to emulate. It is a political statement that enhances country separation and patriotism rather than global sense.

I have read that Queen Victoria was initially embarrassed and very much against any public celebration of her Diamond Jubilee. Once talked into it though, she apparently embraced the whole hoo-ha with gusto.

I wonder about this current Queen though. She must know she is an anachronism but probably has no idea how to end it all. At least she hasn’t abdicated yet. If and when she does, methinks the end of the Commonwealth will follow in fairly short order.

Ulema Council & Karzai hobble Afghan women (again)

In the middle of oppression, there is hope. I have written before above the cultures behind the wearing of the shapeless body and face concealing clothing. I have lampooned Lauren Booth adopting Islam (a capitalist westerner; loves photo shoots of herself doing ‘good works’).

Just prior to the Russian occupation of Afghanistan (1979 to 1989), in the midst of growing oppression of women in Afghanistan, there rose up a young woman known as Meena. She was, by all accounts, a remarkable woman who, with other women intellectuals, ferried women and children out from Kabul to Pakistan and an uneasy safety. She set up refugee camps and classrooms to combat female illiteracy and teach children in Pakistan. Their efforts were always fraught with raids by Islamist men. The women knew that education was the only way to break gender repression. The irony was that in the 1960s, girls and women, including Meena, were educated and intellectually productive members of life in Kabul.

Meena Keshwar Kamal

It didn’t last; it couldn’t last. Her head, once above the parapet after she addressed the Internationalist Socialist Conference in France in 1981 was in the sights of the then KGB and its Afghan agents, the Afghan Intelligence Service and the Islamist fundamentalists. She was eventually assassinated in February 1987 when she was only 30. Her activist husband had been murdered 3 months earlier. The whereabouts of their children is still unknown. Here is a link to Amazon where you can find her story written by Melody Ermachild Chavis.

The best known image of Meena

Meena was the founder of an organisation that became dedicated to equality and education for women and give a voice to the silenced women of Afghanistan. That organisation has grown stronger and more vocal over the decades.

 The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) is an extraordinary organisation that is more active today than ever before. Its struggle these days is against the ultra-fundamentalist Taliban, its repressive, anti-women and male-chauvinism orientation. It is highly scathing of the role played by the USA in Afghanistan.

Today in the BBC News online there is an article that, while worrying in its content, allows some hope to emerge notwithstanding President Hamid Karzai endorsing the further oppression. Karzai is widely perceived as a puppet of America.

 ‘After a council of Afghan clerics issued restrictive guidelines for women, later embraced by President Hamid Karzai, young Afghans streamed to social media sites to lampoon the rulings, reports BBC Afghan’s Tahir Qadiry.

“It’s outrageous,” wrote one young Afghan on his Facebook page.

“The next thing they’ll be saying is that Afghanistan needs to be divided up in two – one half for men and the other half for women.”’

What is heartening is that there are cartoons lampooning the mullahs and their edict. This would not have been possible earlier.

Lampooning and satire can work. The mullahs need to be caged!!

Here’s another article stating that:

‘Afghanistan’s top religious council has said women should not mix with men in school, work or other aspects of daily life. The Ulema Council has also said that women should not travel without a male relative.’

In a country where women can be jailed for being the victim of rape, this step by the Ulema Council is so retrograde that after 10 years of gender gains in Afghanistan, one can only hope that a modern backlash may finally have some political clout.

Same Sex Marriage in the UK

It would be really pleasant to be able to ignore the teacup storms whipped up by the religious over issues to do with modern society. These storms take on the appearance of tsunamis and distract everyone from the serious business at hand in running a country. Like repealing very, very expensive loopholes in legislation that are abused by the rich including the Queen. But that’s another story.

Keithie O'Brien in colourful drag

Looking at this photo of The Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church in the dioceses of St Andrews and Edinburgh and leader of the Church in Scotland in all his gloriously coloured pomp and ceremonial robes and mitre, I hope I can be forgiven for chuckling at Tim Minchin’s naughty Pope Song and the cartoon video that accompanied it. The video and the song went viral during and after the Pope’s visit in September 2010. The clergy were unusually silent about our Tim.

Things must be moving too fast for religious dogma that is driven by age-old and static texts. Well, if not static (who reads original languages these days) then with essential tenets unchanged for millennia.

It is terribly hard lines for the Catholics in modern western society. Not only aren’t they allowed to hide the egregious and utterly inappropriate behaviour of a fair sized percentage of their clerics and other enforcers, they are having difficulty staying focussed on anything anymore. It’s raining in on them from all sides. The brickbats, slings and arrows just keep flying.

Cardinal Keithie O’Brien has made some amazingly silly and inconsistent claims this week over the intention of the UK government to legalise marriage for our homosexual community. He can be pretty offensive too.

Apparently the Roman Catholics in the England and Wales number about 5 million (hard to know for sure because of self identification). The population of England and Wales totals about 55 million.

It isn’t only the good Cardinal who has his knickers in a knot (maybe that’s the problem) but the Archbishop of Westminster, Most Rev. Vincent Nichols is on record with the same sort of complaint. At least he looks a little more like a person rather than a caricature, at least in this photo. Mind you, he can dress up too and looks quite like all other Archbishops.

Vinnie Nichols in his dog collar

There is a very good blog called Left Foot Forward with this article as a history lesson for the good Cardinal.

I understand that it would be very odd of them and the flurry of religious leaders on this island if they welcomed gay unions with open arms. Maybe they feel they have to stand up for their anachronistic organisations; after all they are paid by their churches and job loyalty ensures tenure of position.

Edit (7Mar) There are a couple of articles that I have found here from Stephen Hough in the Telegraph and here from the National Secular Society. Both articles are worth 50 of the articles from the religious.

My proposal is this:

The Registrar of Birth, Deaths and Marriages already registers births and deaths prior to any celebratory or funereal mourning ceremonies that may or may not ensue. Enable legislation that nominates the Registry as the sole registering body for all hatches, matches and despatches. Everyone who wants to marry can apply for the registration of their union with the registry and then go off and celebrate until the cows come home or they fall over, whichever comes first. However, it does create a level playing field for the registration of marriage. Make it secular first, religious afterwards like Births and Deaths.

Someone queried the white wedding and young girls’ desire to have the purported biggest day of their lives being lost in the greyness of the Registry.

Not so I pointed out. My marriage (ahem, the second formal one) was held at the Registry in St. Andrews (a pleasanter spot you’ll never find) with flowers, a new outfit, music and a delightful woman who conducted the process. During the war, many couples were married at Registry offices. Prior to the war and many moons prior to Christianity or Judaism and definitely prior to Islam, marriage ceremonies were held in fields, buildings, homes, beaches and in woodlands. All very charming and full of good cheer and well wishes for the couple, I am sure. In Perth, Australia, my son and his wife were married in King’s Park by a celebrant from the Humanists.

At St Andrews Registry Office - the old Mayor's Room

Why do the Christians feel they have the right to try to continue to punch beyond their weight and take the government to task on this issue? It seems to have something to do with their definition of the word marriage. They want it defined as in the umpteenth version or edition or translation of their holy book. The King James Version was published in 1611 and that is probably the one they use – very modern as things stand. Only 400 years old. And you should see who created it!! What a motley crew.

So what is the etymology of the word ‘marriage’? What’s more – what is the history of marriage itself?

Dear wiki:

The modern English word “marriage” derives from Middle English mariage, which first appears in 1250–1300 C.E. This in turn is derived from Old French marier (to marry) and ultimately Latin marītāre meaning to provide with a husband or wife and marītāri meaning to get married.

Long before that – it was just an agreement between two people. The female was not always consulted since she was seen as property to be traded. She had no rights until very recently. Marriages were arranged or forced. Some still are. These clerics need to get with the real world and stop being religiously myopic.

This again from wiki:

 Various types of same-sex marriages have existed,[40] ranging from informal, unsanctioned relationships to highly ritualized unions.[41]

While it is a relatively new practice to frequently grant same-sex couples the same form of legal marital recognition as commonly granted to mixed-sex couples, there is a long history of recorded same-sex unions around the world.[42] It is believed that same-sex unions were celebrated in Ancient Greece and Rome,[42] some regions of China, such as Fujian, and at certain times in ancient European history.[43] A law in the Theodosian Code (C. Th. 9.7.3) issued in 342 CE imposed severe penalties or death on same-sex marriage in ancient Rome[44] but the exact intent of the law and its relation to social practice is unclear, as only a few examples of same-sex marriage in that culture exist.[45]

Terry and Mark and their wedding and good on them.

And then what about polygamy and polyandry? What about all different religious faiths’ requirement or lack thereof?

The Catholics and Protestants on this island are so hidebound by tradition they seem to think nothing happened until their arrival. What a jolt of realism for them to have to adapt to, but adapt they will. Eventually and dragged kicking and screaming to the altar of modern realism. It will be secular.

Council Prayers & Political Abuse

I have to say I am very cross at the reaction of some British pollies and religites to a High Court decision that judged Council prayers to be not part of normal council business papers.

Well, of course they aren’t! What on earth have prayers to invisible gods got to do with the normal, practical and very mundane business of roads and fisheries, sewerage and housing estate planning, road maintenance and play parks?

Answer – nothing. When I look at overblown multiple-chinned politician fat-cats declaiming about religion in public life, I seriously go puce in colour.

It is all very well for Eric Pickles:

Eric Pickles - will end up in a pickle over this

to talk about tradition and its longevity in this country. It was Henry VIII who inaugurated the Church of England – that’s only about 500 years ago. Long before electricity and other trappings of modern life. I also watched Michael Langrish, Bishop of Exeter in which the Council of Bideford in Devon languishes talk about the Christian tradition that underpinned this country. What! Since Henry or long before – around Boadicea’s time.

The Bish of Exeter

What about Hypatia of Alexandria, about 1,500 years ago who was obviously much smarter than either Pickles or the Bishop of Exeter? She is quoted as saying:

Hypatia of Alexandria

No triple chin on this woman – she was brutally murdered by Christian fanatics in March 415. Yes, religious murders have been going on a long time. We seem not to have changed much in 10,000 years or so. There is a movie – Agora (2009). I haven’t seen it but it traces Hypatia’s life and death.

On Friday 10th February 2012, the British papers and the BBC TV news ran headlines because the High Court in Britain declared, in the person of The Hon. Mr Justice Ouseley, that there was no lawful place for prayer during formal proceedings of councils – that includes England and Wales. The rational amongst us were delighted as we belatedly ushered in the 21st Century. The churches, some pollies and the bishops spat chips. You would think that the world had come to an end. Talk about inappropriate reactions.

I was reminded of Cordelia Fine’s book – A Mind of its Own. This is a quote:

‘We can’t allow everyone with a common or garden belief to be defined into madness – there simply aren’t enough psychiatrists to cope.’

The word Ouseley used was ‘formal’ after all. That was all. It wasn’t as though councils were barred on pain of death from saying prayers. Those who wanted to commune with their invisible friend could easily go into a committee room and partake of their rites prior to the serious business of running the local area which is what they were elected to do.

But, no, the good Bishop and the Secretary plus others want the non-religious to be left out in the cold while they warmly look for non-existent guidance from above to help them know where to plant a new housing estate or where the sewerage should be routed.

So we have to deal with the religious so long as they don’t get too much out of hand. But I have to say that these guys are looking decidedly wonky at this stage of the proceedings. I will wait but will guess that Secretary Pickles will have his way.

One day we hope to usher the 21st Century in for good. Then maybe grown men and women will have eschewed fantasies and myths and embraced a potent and obvious reality that may allow our continued tenure on this earth. Religious beliefs certainly won’t.