zaterdag 27 oktober 2007

Gay marriage, liberal consensus and the corruption of power

Currently, a reform of the Swedish marriage law seems underway, and the law seems to be set to be redefined as gender-neutral - that is, in principle inclusive of gay marriage. A coalition of Catholics, Evangelicals and Pentecostalists have set up a counter-campaign under the title of "Bevara Ă„ktenskapet" (preserve marriage). Among other things, the coalition has bought advertising in the Stockholm subway.

Response to the campaigning poster - which I, even though I travel the Stockholm subway almost daily, have not seen but which I understand depicts a little heart and the words "Father Mother Child" - has been astonishing. The union of subway drivers and personnel have complained about the offensive posters, as have the Left and Environmental Parties. Also, the RFSL, the Swedish foundation for the Gay, Lesbian and Transgendered, have been wondering out loud why such offensive, hateful and discriminating behaviour such as disagreement with them is even allowed. Unsurprisingly, supporters of tolerance and inclusiveness have taken to hacking the websites of the offending Catholics and Evangelicals and tearing the posters down. Perhaps that's why I didn't see any around.

I'm not surprised by the actions of the Swedish Left, which has very strong censorious tendencies. The Left has been in power for most of the past sixty years, and has gotten too used to representing social consensus - which, in Sweden, is still largely social-democratic with a very odd mixture of social liberalism and moral conservatism (the moral conservatism of the Left mainly directed at non-politically-correct expressions of sexuality). It tends to respond with rage to views that fall far outside its own. If Swedish politics is to develop into the same direction as Dutch, Belgian and French politics - where all icons have been torn to the ground and smashed - the liberal-left political consensus here in Sweden is living on borrowed time. Which is not wholly a good thing (political discourse in the Netherlands has its own set of problems).

I'm more disappointed in the stance of the RFSL. I really expected something better of them. Power, it seems, corrupts - even the best.

I'm not against gay marriage as such. I would tend to strongly oppose any inequalities between gay and straight partnerships - such as those dealing with inheritance, and even adoption. This said, legal redefinition of marriage is not something merely abstract, not something that happens in a political vacuum. The family is the primary social institution where the next generation of citizens is socialized - and the piecemeal dissolution of that institution over the past thirty years or so, with increasing divorce, one-parent families, the obsolescence of such family rituals as having dinner together at a table, and all that, may have bad consequences as well as good ones (such as the growing economic and social independence of women). And the issue of gay marriage is not independent of such concerns.

And I, for one, would like to listen to such concerns, and be able to make up my mind about them, without the unions, or the Left party, or the RFSL intervening to shield me from such views! The freedom of the Evangelicals and the Pentecostalists is my freedom as well. And, sadly, it seems the RFSL is its enemy.

My advice, however, for social conservatives and Christians opposed to gay marriage is this: withdraw. You're fighting a rearguard fight, to retain a legalistic remnant of a religious society which has long ago passed into oblivion. Let the state call "marriage" whatever it wish. Meanwhile, resacralize marriage in your own communities, in your own churches, and treat it as your faith tells you to. Be like the Christians under the Roman Empire, pay your taxes to the Emperor and go on building a society within a society. My advice would be the same to Christians not opposed to gay marriage, or to other religious and non-religious groups who regard marriage as something worth saving, whether it is for straight, gays, polygamous unions, etc.: do not fight for your religious or ethical footholds in secular society from the outside. Instead, work in the interstices of secular society, fight for your values from within.

Geen opmerkingen: