TBLA: Covenants and Parenting Bonds

I believe that there are two forms of relationship (not mutually exclusive) that can each be vehicles for the holy, and worthy of being blessed by the church.

The first is a Covenant, entered into for the mutual affection, aid and support of the parties concerned. This can be male and female, gay and straight, short and tall, of all different sorts. The important point is the nature of the relationship to be affirmed, which is for the relevant parties to decide, and that they wish the relationship to be affirmed and given support and substance by God.

The second is a Parenting Bond – that is, when two people come together and wish to form a family. This is (in origin) something which is only available to a male/female couple even where, for all sorts of other reasons, there are now other forms of parenting. I believe that the wider society has a strong and legitimate claim to be involved in this form of relationship, given the consequences of poor parenting upon that wider society, and that this form of relationship is therefore distinctly different to the first.

I believe that the wider conversations on this topic are bedevilled by a failure to distinguish between these two forms of relationship. It doesn’t matter to me which one gets called by the ‘m’ word, although I suspect a lot of hassle could be saved by keeping it for the second. That’s not a theological point though.

3 thoughts on “TBLA: Covenants and Parenting Bonds

  1. Rev. Sam: the church and state are already involved in the heterosexual pair-bond. Marriage, both civil and religious, is already available to this group; the law already requires that heterosexual couples who create children be responsible for them. (It also requires, in cases of failure of that responsibility, that adoptive parents be responsible for the children they adopt.)

    The only thing that’s happening now is a legal petition from a small group of people who formerly had no rights or responsibilities in this area to be provided with them. With the result that, when gay couples (for instance) adopt children, they be required to take care of them, too.

    The problem is that the church’s position doesn’t really make sense anymore, given the conditions of the world today. Gay people are no longer hiding, pretending they don’t exist – and straight people are no longer helping them do it.

    “Poor parenting” is already legal, and always has been. Parents have had, for a long time, total control over their children; corporal punishment was once tolerated and even encouraged. Parents can still abuse their children psychologically and emotionally – mostly unintentionally, in most cases! – with impunity.

    How and why will any of these things will change when gay couples can also be legally married? Marriage will still be overwhelmingly heterosexual; the laws around children and adoption won’t change; parents will still have control over their children until they reach the age of majority. Societal interest in all of this will continue to affect both natural parents and adoptive parents, in exactly the ways it does now.

    Caelius’ very incisive point the other day was that stable relationships are needed in the event that children are born (or adopted). That is the wider society’s only interest in the matter. Otherwise, you’re headed directly, as far as I can tell, towards state interference in the parent/child relationship itself; it seems to me that you wouldn’t want to go there, would you?

    It seems to me that all the arguments for the position you’re taking boil down, basically, to: “The heterosexual relationship is glorious!” But that’s not what’s at issue! What you’re really talking about is good parenting! I do believe the notion that society has an interest in good parenting is an already widely-accepted proposition. The question is: what does the definition of “marriage” – or distinguishing between two forms of it – have to do with this?

  2. Um, bls, I don’t think we’re disagreeing as much as you seem think we are… Most especially, I completely agree that “the church’s position doesn’t really make sense anymore, given the conditions of the world today”. I’m *in favour* of church blessings for gay couples etc – and if that is what is to be called ‘marriage’ then so be it. I’m just trying to insist on there being a difference when children are involved (and if that difference means not calling the latter ‘marriage’ then so be it). I don’t see the heterosexual relationship as especially ‘glorious’ – certainly I have no grounds for distinguishing between hetero/homo/othersexual relationships on that basis. The reason why the definition of marriage has something to do with good parenting is because, historically, the two types were run together. I think a lot of people are trying to defend one sort by resisting the other when there isn’t any need. As Wittgenstein put it, the task of the philosopher is to dissolve confusions. That’s all I’m trying to do – to show that what people who resist gay marriage are trying to preserve can be preserved without being antagonistic to gay relationships. That’s my two pennies anyhow…

  3. Sorry about that, Rev. Sam; I’m not quite understanding what you’re saying, then, I guess.

    Let me re-read and see if I can do better. Apologies!

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