Barnabas Network International | Online Resources for Churches

The debate about same-sex marriage has reached critical mass in our country as the political party currently governing our nation has voted to change its policy and now officially supports same-sex marriage. The next step is to legislate to change the law that currently limits the meaning of marriage to refer to one man and one woman.

Sadly, some of the speakers at the Labour Party conference who advocated this radical change to policy and law were less than gracious as they labelled opponents to these changes as "bigoted", "hateful" and "prejudiced". I'm not surprised by such attacks but I am saddened at the lack of integrity.

I'm reminded of the preacher who had pencilled in his notes "Shout here...argument weak"! Are the arguments of the same-sex marriage supporters so weak that the best they can do is attack and slander the character of those who hold opposing views?

Frankly I'm just a bit weary of being castigated by those who don't like or agree with my views. Especially when they allow for only two categories - agree with them or be labelled as the enemy.

For example, if you are not in agreement with the homosexual lobby, then you must be homophobic. There are no other options or categories available. For them, it is just that simple. Well, I want to call that for what it is; a narrow-minded approach that does nothing to encourage respectful communication and understanding despite disagreement on the issue at hand.

Just because a person speaks negatively about the issue of homosexuality does not indicate that they are homophobic: i.e. has an inordinate fear of homosexuals or their lifestyle. Nor does it suggest that he or she hates homosexuals. They may not understand and/or they may communicate their convictions poorly but to slap the label of 'bigot' or 'prejudice' or 'discriminator' on them is a sure way to close down communication.

I have long since learned that it is not issues that divide people; it's attitudes. Words like 'bigot' etc. betray an attitude that is not open to rational discussion. It is the attitude of a closed or narrow mind. The issue may be the trigger but the attitude is the tool of divisiveness. While ever we focus on the issue to the exclusion of the attitude we will always be polarised.

The issue of gay marriage is not going to go away any time soon. We can call each other names and maintain "the great divide" that is clearly there or we can choose to listen to each other and maximise the possibility of understanding if not agreement.

Since our starting points in this debate are very different I don't hold out a lot of hope that we will reach the same destination. But I believe that we can listen and learn from each other with respect and dignity.

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