I had intended to write something considered prior to yesterday's so-called 'equal marriage' debate in Parliament. However, other matters, travel and squeezed time militated against it. Now it is done (but is only the beginning of the parliamentary route) I find myself bothered by phenomena rather than content… if you see what I mean. I am waiting to go into a radio studio, so this will be brief.
1. Yesterday's debate was remarkable for the category errors flying around. Apart from the fact that the legislation was being pushed through without having appeared in any manifesto was interesting enough, but the confusion of 'equality' with 'equity' seemed insurmountable. Words such as 'equal', 'inclusive' and even 'marriage' carry the heavy weight of assumptions that seem to go unchecked.
2. It is not good to make law and change institutions on the basis of highly emotive language and criteria. Serious deep thinking should underpin such change – regardless of the view you take on the outcome. If yesterday's debate was evidence of an education system that teaches people how to think, then we clearly have more problems than we thought.
3. Language has entered Humpty Dumpty land. Listening to some people – in Parliament and in the e-world – it would appear that the word 'inclusive' now includes only those people/views deemed acceptable for inclusion. Anyone who levels any argument against what is proposed is a 'bigot'. Opposition to gay 'marriage' is equated with 'homophobia'. 'Conveniently ignoring gay people' is the criticism of any inconvenient argument. This has loud echoes of any rational criticism of the Israeli government being reduced to 'anti-Semitism'. Equally, language that attacks those in favour of yesterday's motion on the basis of their sanity or moral integrity says more about the speaker than the object of their venom.
4. We seem to have entered a sort of la-la-land in this and other public debates where 'being hurt' is the worst thing that can happen to us. Like with women bishops in the Church of England, too much of the debate (and response) is weighted emotionally to what will cause to whom the greatest or least 'hurt'. As if hurt can be avoided. In the grown-up world that isn't la-la-land we know that any decision 'hurts' those who disagree with it. The fact that people won't like a decision is almost irrelevant to the argument for deciding in a particular way. Someone always gets 'hurt'. But, going back to the Church of England's debates, a 'yes' can't be a 'no' – you can't both have women bishops and not have women bishops. But, being swayed by the hierarchies of victimhood, we end up trying to have 'yes/no' and think we are being 'pastoral' or just nice to each other. Of course, what the lack of clarity does is make the 'hurt' worse and the muddle more destructive.
5. A question. Why don't we invite MPs to publish the correspondence that has so offended them – from proponents and opponents of yesterday's legislation? It is absurd that some MPs decided to vote for/against legislation because they were so offended by the nature, content and tone of correspondence received from opponents/proponents. The fact that some horrible Christians write horrible and unchristian venom to people with whom they disagree shouldn't surprise anyone. You should see what bishops get sent to them and the language in which it is framed. (I once got an email that described different ways I could take my life – which I should do because I am a disgrace to humanity and the church. It was signed: “Yours in Christ”…) Get over it! Clearly, people behave badly from every side and being accused of homophobia, hatred and inhumanity doesn't go down well even when you know rationally that it is nonsense.
The debate will continue. I think – which I am allowed to do – that yesterday's vote was a massive mistake – for reasons to do with marriage and not with sexual identity or partnerships. Unlike some others, I find myself surprised to find in Roger Scruton and Philip Blond's Respublica paper a case that I have yet to see dismissed. I think the cultural and societal impact of this move will only be calculated once the cultural loss has accumulated.
Now for the deluge of vitriol.