Why I signed the ‘Coalition for Marriage’ Petition – by Lizzie Schofield

A week or so ago I shared a link on Facebook to the Coalition for Marriage Petition. Its aim is to preserve the ‘traditional’ marriage unit of one man and one woman. It’s a cause I support, and many of my Facebook friends oppose. I wanted to write this article is to outline in more detail my reasons for doing so.

Firstly, I don’t like the term ‘traditional’. ‘Traditional’ marriage means polygamy to someone living in Saudi Arabia. Nor is tradition always right; it should be subject to scrutiny.  Secondly, there are lots of arguments in support of marriage that I won’t go into here, for example, the benefit it affords children and its role in procreation.  I broadly agree with these views, but they have already had considerable airtime.

Christian convictions

My primary reason for wanting to preserve marriage stems from my Christian convictions. I became a Christian when I was 23, after much investigation. I didn’t do it lightly. Sexual ethics were a sticking point. I myself had had sexual relationships. And yet I concluded Jesus must be who he says he is – God incarnate and Saviour – and therefore his teaching on sex and marriage was authoritative (though I didn’t like it much at the time.)

Jesus’ identity?

Jesus’ identity is of critical significance. If he is God and Saviour of the world, what he says matters profoundly to all of society. If that is not true, then what Jesus says is irrelevant. Perhaps not irrelevant. But no more relevant than your and my opinions, and the opinions of psychologists, campaigners and politicians.

Here is Jesus on the subject of marriage:

“Haven’t you read,” he replied “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’, and said ‘for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two will become one flesh?’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, man must not separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6)

Marriage is exclusive

He asserts the complementarity of both genders: ‘male and female’, ‘mother and father’, ‘man’, ‘wife’. Sex today is considered an appetite or a function, but Jesus highlights the profound bond it creates: “no longer two, but one flesh.”  This bond is for life: “what God has joined together, man must not separate.”  If Jesus’ blueprint for marriage sounds exclusive, that’s because it is exclusive. It excludes all pre-marital and extra-marital sex, co-habitation, bigamy, polygamy, as well as homosexual relationships. It demands absolute chastity without and absolute faithfulness within.

Tough call? Absolutely.  

Jesus himself says marriage is a calling not everyone can accept. (Mt 19:11)  God is also referred to throughout. “The Creator made them male and female”; “what God has joined together, man must not separate.”  So it is not just a calling, but a sacrament; a gift from God.

Legally equal

In the UK, our concept of marriage stems from our Judeo-Christian heritage. Some atheists decide not to marry on the grounds that it is in origin, a religious institution. Now you don’t have to believe to get married: both marriage (religious and non) and civil partnerships come with exactly the same rights and responsibilities. They are equal in the eyes of the law (which I think is fair and right) but for reformers, this is not enough.

A new definition?

People recognise that “I’m married” has a different ring to “I’m in a civil partnership.” (“I didn’t ask her to ‘civil union’ me” reads a placard from oneUSdemonstration.) Why not re-define it so no-one feels left out?  Because then it would not be marriage according to how Jesus defined it.

Is Jesus a killjoy and out of date on sexual ethics?

In all this we need to consider the person who spoke these words as well as what he said. Although his teaching underpins much of our society and culture, Jesus wasn’t a holier-than-thou moralist. He healed the sick, gave sight to the blind and raised the dead. No-one is beyond reach of his transformation and forgiveness. And I know from experience, he is trustworthy.

Lizzie Schofield used to work with Jon Kuhrt at the youth homelessness charity Centrepoint about a hundred years ago. She is married to Rob and is currently looking after their three daughters aged 7, 6 and 4.

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12 Responses to Why I signed the ‘Coalition for Marriage’ Petition – by Lizzie Schofield

  1. Why does Jesus get to define marriage? Marriage existed long before he was on earth. Why should all the non-Christians have to comply with Christian morals of marriage anyway?

    • Becky says:

      the bible says that Jesus was there at the creation of the world, in spiritual form, he created the world , including us, he then later became a man and spoke to us directly to save us and took our punishment of all sins now, in the future and in the past. Done and dusted, all it needs is our response – a thankyou or rejection. Both views will have a consequence in this life and in the after life.

      • Jonno says:

        Hey Becky, did you give any thought to answering the questions being asked, instead of just typing some random opinions based on an ancient text?

        Permit me to rephrase the question: Most people don’t believe in the truth of the Bible or the divinity of Jesus, so why should the ideas in the Bible have absolute authority when we decide how we arrange our society and create our laws in the twenty first century?

        [Oh, and really nice way to show you have moral high ground, when instead of giving a good reason to do as Jesus tells us there is a thinly veiled suggestion of punishment if we don’t, both in the this life and after death. Once again, for those who don’t believe in Jesus this is as compelling as being threatened by Santa Claus.]

  2. I think the main issue here is that you are assuming christian ownership of marriage as an institution, when it has a diverse heritage and acts culturally as a state recognition of relationship validity outside of religion. I can never understand the wish to impose religious views on others: they are individual (no two people have identical religious beliefs, even if they share a religion). Unless you would be happy to live in a society where another religion (not Christianity) decided the rules for your behaviour, how can you expect others to tolerate the same?

    • Jon Kuhrt says:

      Thanks for the comments to Lizzie’s post. I know she is away so I thought that I would comment on some of the questions raised.
      I think Rhiannon has raised a key question about Christian ‘ownership’ of marriage. I would agree that Christians do not ‘own’ it but there is no doubt that they are ‘stakeholders’ – the church has been the place where most people choose to get married for centuries and continues to be chosen as the institution in which people, whether Christian or not, want to marry. so as stakeholders in the institution surely its OK for them to make comment and opinion around a change to the thing they have been a part of? Isn’t this is why the government started a consultation process on the changes – to get people’s opinions?

      Whether you agree or not, the Christian faith is not one which can be removed to a private sphere – as was argued in another post here https://resistanceandrenewal.net/2012/02/14/baroness-warsi-secularism-and-putting-faith-in-the-mixer/ Authentic faith leads people to views about society – not to enforce views on others – but to have opinion about the common good.

      I am not a spokesman for the campaign and I know what a massively sensitive subject it is worth saying that the coalition as I understand it is not just Christian – it is made up of a wide range of people who don’t want marriage redefined.

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  4. Hi latentexistence. Non-believers don’t have to comply with Christian morals: they can still make a life-time committment outside the church. (Personally, I think the best definition of all these unions is ‘civil partnerships’.) Yes, there was marriage before Jesus was around; but the concept of marriage has for centuries been inextricably linked to the church. I don’t think it’s the job of politicians to re-define it.

    Hi Rhiannon. I don’t think I’m imposing my morals on anyone; if anything this proposed change is being ‘imposed’ on me (though I recognise it’s a consultation at the moment) by those with a secular world view. In any case, marriage is a choice, not an imposition: if you dislike the idea of relgious morals, you don’t have to get married in a church.

    cheers all

    • frugallancaster says:

      Hi Lizzie, I would like to respectfully point out that if you dislike gay marriage, you needn’t attend one. Please remember as well that secular merely means separation of Church and State; something some Christians support.

  5. frugallancaster says:

    Hi Lizzie, People are at perfect liberty to express the opposite opinion and express their opposition to gay marriage. That said, some incredibly prejudiced and dangerous views – ideas that homosexuality equates to bestiality and paedophilia – have been expressed by people within this coalition.

    For that reason, even if I were against gay marriage I would not support this group or their petition.

    Please bear in mind that the proponents of this petition have also broken the law by encouraging school pupils to sign it, which is counter to section 406 of the Education Act 1996.

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  8. James says:

    In response to frugallancaster, homosexuality (to be clear; I mean actual homosexual activity) doesn’t equate to bestiality or pedophilia (or incest, polygamy, etc), but they all fall into the same bracket of sexual immorality – which by the way includes adultery (if the law was changed such that other sexual partners were allowed ‘within’ marriage, that would also be a redefinition of the marriage institution, and no doubt would face strong opposition as well).

    But I would point out that, for millennia, “homosexuality” was actually known as sodomy or buggery; only relatively recently has it been redefined as a “-sexuality”, implying a set orientation. You’ll find what I’m suggesting hugely offensive no doubt, but there are also those who wish to redefine “bestiality” as “zoosexuality” (if you do a little googling you might be surprised how many people there are who actually claim their sole sexual attraction is to animals), and also “pedophilia” as “pedosexuality” (look up the North American Man/Boy Love Association – a tiny part of the population would support it, but then the same could be said regards homosexuality some centuries ago – imagine if the negative stigma was taken away from pedophilia as it gradually has been from homosexuality).

    Obviously there is the debate over consent in those particular cases, yet from a secular moralist’s viewpoint it’s not impossible to justify either of them. An animal’s consent is not considered 99% of the time anyway (hence why we can buy them, sell them, chop them up and put them in burgers, etc) and “consent” is an alien concept to the animal world anyway. As for pedophilia, there are occasions when the “child” seems to give consent – but then, what is a child? Age of consent varies from country to country, and there is no objective division between a homosexual relationship and a pedophelious one (something the likes of Bill Andriette or Samuel R. Delany would gladly tell you)

    To be clear, none of this is my position. I believe strongly in traditional Christian morality, which has been at the core of our society basically since Constantine initiated Christendom in 312 AD. And indeed I believe that the only truly objective basis for morality can come from God – otherwise, what is actually right and wrong? You might complain that the pedophile doesn’t have the boy’s consent, but what is objectively wrong about that? Certainly you can come up with some sort of anthropocentric moral argument from YOUR point of view, but it’s never going to be truly authoritative unless it comes from a higher source than human beings.

    Basically, the fact is that if marriage is redefined to include homosexual partnerships then those arguing for inter-family marriages and polygamous marriages ARE one step closer to getting their wishes as well. For me one man + one woman under covenant of God is marriage; that is the definition. So whether the government says one man + one man, or one woman + one woman, or two men + one woman, or one man + two women, is marriage, it’s irrelevant. For me PERSONALLY, it would just devoid the word of any meaning.

    But yet, as a member of SOCIETY, I do not want marriage to be redefined because, while I can continue to think what I like, the bedrock of the family structure will have been destroyed. That is the real issue here, not that I am offended because my religion says homosexuality is immoral, but that institution protecting the ideal family structure is being tampered with.

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