An open letter to the Church in NZ on Same-Sex Marriage

Dear fellow Church members,

This is an open letter about the Same-Sex Marriage debate to the Christians of New Zealand.

I have been a supporter of Marriage Equality for the LGBTI community in New Zealand for several years. To me it’s very simple, every person should have the right to be married to the person they love regardless of their sexual orientation. I believe marriage is a government institution; the church does not own it. Whether religious or not, we all have the same marriage certificates. A person’s faith or religious affiliation makes no difference to the legality or substance of their marriage. So if marriage is a government institution, there can be no discrimination.

I have had countless conversations around this topic in my role as a broadcaster working mostly in current affairs and talk radio. Something that has become blatantly obvious to me is that the position held by many opponents of Same-Sex Marriage, whether they are aware of it or not, has more to do with their opinion on homosexuality itself than with marriage equality. Many opponents of marriage equality come from a religious background, and they default to what they have been taught in churches about homosexuality as the basis for their position.

There seem to be three main lines of thought amongst Church members when it comes to Same-Sex Marriage.

  1. Homosexuality is natural and normal for a small portion of the population, therefore we are discriminating against this people group by not allowing them to marry.
  2. Homosexuality is not natural, and it’s a choice. Therefore there is nothing wrong with keeping a sector of society from marrying as you cannot discriminate against a ‘choice’.
  3. Whether we like it or not, there is already legislation that doesn’t allow discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation, so matter what we believe about homosexuality we must make marriage available to the LBGTI community.

For me I find myself firmly in third camp. For me the conversation about the legalisation of ‘gay marriage’ has not one jot to do with religion, religious beliefs or the church. It’s a legal certificate that is issued by the Government, not by the Church, and as a ‘Government institution’ all should be able to benefit from it. In my support of Same-Sex Marriage I don’t even need to go to the first or second point above as they are irrelevant to the question at hand.

I’d like the conversation to be as simple as that…but there has been so much mistruth and exaggeration in the media surrounding this conversation, that I think we need to address it. These are what I believe are the key misconceptions relating to this issue.

But if we give the gays marriage next people will want multiple wives

No country in the world that has legalised Same-Sex Marriage has gone onto legalise Polygamy, and in the countries where polygamy is legal you probably don’t want to be gay as you may literally lose your head for it. However there is a libertarian view where some would say that if three or four consenting adults want to live in that kind of union, then does it really matter? I find it ironic that many who would reject the government’s over-involvement in their lives, and fight for the freedoms they see as important to them, are happy for the government to be involved in other people’s lives and legislate their freedoms away from them, when they disagree with those freedoms.

If we let the gays get married next they’ll want to adopt

I am of the firm opinion that the best place for a child to be is in a loving family with their biological parents under the same roof. In fact I believe that research has shown that when that couple is married it is even better for said child. But to then assert as some are that ‘gay adoption’ would be the worst thing possible for the child, on that point I will depart from many. I think that a loving, stable same-sex couple is going to provide a far better environment for a child than some of the tragic cases that have unfortunately become all too common in the news here in New Zealand. We only have to mention a few names, such as Decelia Witika, James Whakaruru and Nia Glassie to remind ourselves that many of our tragic and deplorable child abuse cases have occurred at the hands of straight parents, step-parents or caregivers. Would a loving and stable same-sex couple have provided a safer home for those children? Absolutely.

The bible is clear, ‘No’ to Gay Marriage

This is where the debate gets heated, as there are many theologians who believe emphatically that the bible teaches against homosexuality and homosexuals. That is not my personal view, and neither is it the theological view of an increasing number of bible scholars. One point that many of my theologian friends agree on, even those who are very conservative on this issue, is that if anything the bible talks about a sexual act, not a sexual orientation. This can be interpreted as the bible saying nothing about homosexuality or same-sex attraction at all, only about specific sexual acts.  Where then does that leave the heterosexual couples who engage in those particular acts? This is a complicated and much fought over area of biblical scholarship, and deserves a post of its own another day. But if, like me, you see marriage as a government institution and therefore as a right for all, then biblical interpretation regarding homosexuality is irrelevant in this conversation.

How dare this PC Government ride rough shot over the voice of New Zealanders!

The majority of polls that have been taken regarding marriage equality have indicated that in 2013 New Zealanders are affirming the move towards Same-Sex Marriage. However there is an old adage that if you live by the poll, you die by the poll. So if you bank your argument on the fact that most New Zealanders support your position this time, what about when they don’t? People tend to use polls when those polls support their argument, and then deride polls and pollsters when they don’t. For the Same-Sex Marriage conversation in my opinion it’s an easy one. Human rights should never be based on mob rule. The government needs to do what is right for that sector of society irrespective of what anyone, even a majority, may think.

The Gays will force ministers to marry even though it’s against their religious beliefs

This was an ill-conceived tactic by the opponents of Same-Sex Marriage. We have been assured since the beginning stages of this legislation that the law would be amended so no one had to perform a ceremony that differed with their religious beliefs. But even more than that, what LBGTI couple, on their special day, would want to force a minister to marry them? As promised, the new draft of the law allowed ministers and marriage celebrants associated with a church to decline to perform Same-Sex ceremonies based on religious beliefs. Non-religious marriage celebrants will not be able to turn couples away because of their sexual orientation, much like they can’t turn a couple away based on their age, their ethnicity or any other discriminatory issue where their ‘personal religious belief’ is not a factor and I think that’s fair enough.

Churches will be forced to hire out their premises.

Now this one is true but in my opinion very misleading and yet another red herring. The reason it’s misleading is that this is current law. If a church hires out its premises to the public, they cannot turn away a gay person or couple who want to hold an event there. Yes obviously there are no marriages happening right now between two men or two women in a church so that would be a new addition to a current law. But if a gay couple came to a church who hired their hall out to the public, and that couple wanted to hold a civil ceremony to declare their love to one another and be legally joined, right now under current law, that church could not discriminate against a gay couple.

One of the unfortunate by-products of these public conversations is that many outside the church now see those inside the church as being the reason their LBGTI brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, or children cannot marry. They see the church, supposed to be the representative of Jesus on earth, as rejecting their family and friends. They often conclude, not unreasonably, that this means Jesus rejects the gay community.

The recurring catch-cry of those in the church in response to the above accusation is, “but you don’t understand Pat, we love the sinner, but we are called to hate the sin.” I am sure most of those in the church have heard that phrase before and I think it is time to set the record straight. The concept of ‘loving the sinner and hating the sin’ is unbiblical, in fact it is the opposite of what we are called to do. Dr. Tony Campolo points out that what we are actually called to do is “love the sinner and hate your own sin, and after you get rid of the sin in your own life then you can begin talking about the sin in your brother or sister’s life.” I think he is right. Jesus said of the men who were, by law, allowed to stone the woman caught in adultery to go ahead…so long as none of them had sinned. We are told to not worry about the speck of dust in our neighbour’s eye when we have a plank of wood sticking out of our own.  Just think about that for a second, imagine if that was the filter we ran our lives through. Imagine if we truly loved people around us, end of story, and saved our judging for ourselves.

Finally, I want to encourage my fellow church members not to worry. The concern and near- hysteria that has erupted in response to the Marriage Equality Bill, which looks set to be passed this week, is simply unjustified. If you do not support the LBGTI community’s right to marry that’s your business, but please don’t believe any of the ‘slippery slope’ arguments that have been thrown around. This is not the beginning of the end of civilization and it’s not attack on marriage, not on your marriage nor mine. It’s a bill that redresses an inequality by giving all people the right to marry, a right which should already be guaranteed under current law. In other words it’s a ‘wrong’ that needs to be ‘righted’.

Pat Brittenden is a broadcaster, blogger and commentator and the executive producer and host of elephantTV

Is it too late for Sarah Palin to be the saviour of the GOP?

The ‘War’ for South Carolina is happening as I write this post. The winner of the South Carolina Primary will be the GOP nomination to go up against President Obama in November’s election, how can I say this so confidently? Every single nominee for the GOP to run for President in the past, 100% of them, has won South Carolina.

In an earlier post I wrote why Obama will be reelected, I still believe that in fact the events of the last few days have done nothing but confirm my thoughts that America could never elect one of the two front-runners for the Republicans.

Sadly for supports of the Conservative right, your choice will either be Newt Gingrich, or Mitt Romney. Both who have demonstrated hypocrisy to an unbeliveable degree over the past week or so.

Mitt Romney is the GOP favourite at the moment, but more and more is being revealed about his financial past and how he has amassed his vast wealth and it doesn’t fit with the GOP narrative. Before we get into this let me state that I have no problems with a person becoming wealthy, I am not an ‘occupier’, I am not someone who thinks that ‘rich people are bad or evil’, but when your wealth becomes a problem to the message, then we need to figure out the disparity.

Mitt Romney is reportedly worth about a quarter of a billion dollars, which he amassed by forming a private equity firm called Bain Capital. What a private equity firm does is come into failing businesses, or purchase businesses with good potential for leverage and ‘streamlines’ them i.e. they make cuts, then borrow against them. The companies then tend to strip the companies, sell them on in parts and make a big fat profit. The issue that Romney has with all this is that GOP catch cry is “Save jobs and stop borrowing”, but his whole business credentials which he is using to say why he should be President, is one of laying people off and borrowing to make quick cash. That on top of the revelation this week that Romney pay’s ‘in the vicinity of 15%’ tax on the money he makes from investments makes this an embarrassing week for him.

P.A.Y.E in America starts at 10% and the most you pay is 35% depending on your income, but Romney’s income is made from his investments which classifies it as ‘capital gains’, hence Capital Gains Tax is applied which in America is around 15%. So Romney earns millions a year and pays the same percentage in tax as the guy driving his campaign bus. Romney said in the last debate the ‘top tax rate should be down around 25%’, yet he only pays 15%. Another catch cry of the GOP is we are taxed too much, well it would appear Romney is not.

Mitt Romney needs to stop trying to sell the idea that his is ‘working class’ and own that he is the richest politician in the run for President, and one of the richest politicians in America.

Now we move onto Speaker Gingrich.

With Rick Perry pulling out this week, and endorsing Gingrich as his candidate you might think Newt would have a jump in the poles, but the Romney camp is using the issue of ‘ethics’ to derail and momentum that Gingrich may be getting…and rightfully so. As I have already pointed out, Newt Gingrich seems to have a penchant to sleeping with women that are not his wife and you have to ask the obvious question that is we know about these ones…how many others are there?

Again you could argue that if it doesn’t impact his ability to govern then it shouldn’t matter…but it doesn’t fit with the GOP Christian, conservative, ‘family values’ narrative.

This week we find out that according to Gingrich’s second wife (of three) that he wanted an ‘open marriage’ where he could have a mistress AND keep his wife as well. All this while the Speaker is still standing up for the ideals of marriage “as the union of one man and one woman.”

For Gingrich, ‘the Gays’ are not to be married as it would be ‘an abomination’…but cheating, lying, and multiple hetero marriages is to be defended as ‘God ordained’ and ‘natural.’

All of this happening with many GOP supporters acknowledging that these two the ‘best of a bad bunch’ just confuses me when you have Rick Santorum with a great CV and actually world political experience on the sidelines along with Ron Paul who is really the only ‘real’ small government, less tax candidate. Ron Paul is what Republicans should be…if they weren’t hypocrites.

Finally, I have to admit to being a little intrigued about a very…very…VERY unlikely scenario. Even though she has said she would not run for President and it is contrary to my opening paragraph, I just wonder if we might hear from Sarah Palin as a late entry. The field is so weak, if she came out of the blue with her rock star persona, the ground swell might be there for a Sarah Palin nominee.

Now would it be a bad decision? Well it couldn’t be any worse than a choice between Romney and Gingrich.

Another example of ‘christian’ hypocrisy

As many of you know I don’t really understand what the word ‘Christian’ means these days but I want to correct something…I actually do know what the word Christian means, what I don’t understand is how people interpret it in so many different, and in my opinion, often inaccurate ways.

Let’s set the record straight. To be a Christian means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. To emulate him and become what some call little Christs here today. To be Christian means to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and to try to demonstrate the virtues that Christ demonstrated while here 2000 years ago.

So that means to act in a way that is contrary to those teachings, example and virtues would be ‘un-Christlike’ and in turn ‘un-Christian’.

I was in Auckland City today when I saw the latest billboard at St Matthew in the City…and how it has been defaced.

In case the above image is not clear to you, it’s an interpretation of Noah’s Ark, where the caption is ‘Welcoming two of every kind’, the twist is that all the animals are the same sex, two male lions, two female cows etc…and it’s advertising St Matthew’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender services on a Sunday evening. A fairly clever spin on the old bible story aimed at the community they want to attract.

What is written in orange spray paint over the from of the billboard, to the best of my deciphering is…Harvest Time Great Division! Followed by several scriptures. 1 Peter 4:17, 1 John 2Ezekiel 33, Matthew 13: 25-42 and 2 Timothy 3: 2-5. Now I have linked the verses above but this post isn’t about one person’s interpretation of scripture. I think we can safely assume by the look of the verses quoted that it’s someone pointing the finger at St Matthews and telling them to sort out their ‘sin’ and claiming they have the right to because of how they interpret the bible.

I come back to the idea of what it means to be a ‘Christian’. To me what is demonstrated by the person, or people, illegally defacing St Matthew’s property is ‘un-Christlike’ and therefore ‘un-Christian.’ Whoever is responsible for that is not following the teachings, example or virtues of Christ who told us to ‘love one another as I have loved you‘. Jesus Christ was a man who served ‘sinners’, who often chose to put himself below people even though he had every right to be treated like royalty of the day.

I challenge the person or people who wrote those unloving, judgemental words to attend one of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender services at St Matthews. I’m going to, what are you afraid of…that you might enjoy it? That those whom you pour scorn on don’t retaliate with some ‘righteous burning coals’…but with love? Are you worried that they may be more ‘Christian’ than you? That they may demonstrate more of the love, the teachings, the virtue and the example of the Christ than you? Maybe so.

I’ll see you at St Matthews tonight.

A City of ‘Destiny’

Last night TVNZ was scraping for news so as one of its lead stories brought importance to an issue…that isn’t an issue.

Destiny Church is buying some land and building a community there.

Sorry…is that it?

Like minded people since time immemorial have been living together, how is this…at its core…any different?

Ask the Catholics, Anglicans, Presbyterian in fact any other religious denomination how they would fund a new initiative from a present for their Vicar to a new swimming pool (I’m looking at you SHC), where do you think that money comes from…the members of the group.

I find it interesting that last night was TVNZ’t turn and today TV3 has it on their website and I am assuming that it’ll be a lead on 3News tonight.

I am sure John Campbell is a little annoyed that he is not on air at the moment to make the most of this non-story as usually Campbell Live embarrasses themselves by looking for issues that are not there when it comes to Destiny Church.

Now this is not to say that I am in full agreement or comfortable with everything that Destiny Church does, or everything they teach, but I have always been confused with the ferociousness at which the media sees a story when the words ‘Brian Tamaki’ or ‘Destiny Church’ are used.

Some ex-Destiny members are unhappy with their experiences there, others say that because of their experiences at Destiny they are alive today. That’s called life and everybody seeing things differently.

Whom would you rather live beside, a Destiny Church member, or a gang member? A Destiny Church member or a flat of 18 year olds? A Destiny Church member or a Satanic Church member?

To testify how this is a non-story, it was actually spoken about, according to TVNZ, on New Years Eve, and they only ‘broke’ the story last night. Surely if this was a real story of  interest and concern, it would have come out on Jan 1st…wouldn’t it?

TV3 has asked the question on their website Does Destiny Church’s influence concern you? of which most of the early comments are negative.

Why does TV3 ask these kinds of questions about Destiny, but not other areas of life…has anyone ever seen “Do the Greens influence concern you?” or “Does women’s influence concern you?” or “Does the Mongrel Mob’s influence concern you?” The answer is that those groups, or any other, are not as easy a target as Brian Tamaki and Destiny Church.

I am not concerned of the influence of Destiny Church, and I don’t think you should be either.

Why Obama will win again in 2012

The answer is simple. Barrack Obama will win in 2012 because of Romney, Perry, Gingrich, Santorum and Paul. For the sake of the GOP I hope this isn’t the complete list of candidates to take on Obama in 2012, I hope for their sake there is a dark horse hiding somewhere in the wings that may give them a fighting chance. Anyone of the 5 names mentioned above is an ‘own goal’ for the Republican party. None of them can shine a light on Barrack Obama, all of them have ‘issues’ that I don’t think the American public can overcome.

Ron Paul is a libertarian with the GOP catch cry of getting big government out of Americans’ homes. That is the catch cry of all GOP candidates but Paul takes it to an extreme. In fact if I am honest he is probably the only candidate who takes that belief to its logical conclusion. In FOX News debate late last year he made it clear that marijuana, cocaine, heroine, prostitution and gay marriage should be legal. He is consistent, incredibly consistent, but the problem with that consistency is that he will come up against a public that really deep down likes their hypocrisy. The public that doesn’t want Muslims to have the same access to mosques as Christians do to churches, the public that don’t want homosexuals to have the same rights to marriage as straight people and the public who deep down actually want the government in their homes, telling them what to do ala the Patriot Act. His consistency will be his downfall.

Newt Gingrich. Ironically Gingrich began to gather some support when Herman Cain stepped out of the running for infidelity issues, the GOP support then went to Gingrich who has a past of serious and multiple infidelities. He has been married three times; his first marriage was to one of his high school teachers. He had an affair on her, for a sustained period including while she was in hospital for major surgery. He said of this first wife that “she’s not young enough or pretty enough to be the wife of the President. And besides, she has cancer.” He then married the woman with whom he was having an affair on his first wife…and proceeded to have an affair on her with a woman 23 years his junior. This was all going on while he was he was in charge of the investigation against President Bill Clinton for perjury over his affairs. He then married again with the younger woman to whom he is still married today…or at least was at the time of writing this piece. How can a public trust a man who is untrustworthy with the person he is closest with in the world. They can’t…and won’t.

Rick Santorum is probably the person with the best chance of upsetting Obama is you put them head to head. He is a lawyer, 53 years old, has held numerous high level positions within the House of Representatives and the US Senate…but the problem is his name…well maybe not his name…but what his name means. You see in 2003 Santorum was support a bill to make sodomy illegal. When this bill was lost he compared homosexuality, amongst other things, to incest, bigamy and adultery. This incensed a gay rights activist who then set up a website to redefine what Santorum means, it’s pretty graphic but you can Google it and it’s still there as the number 1 and number 3 result. If you are of weak constitution thought you might not want to do it. In 2010 the activist offered to take the site down if Santorum donated $5 million to a group advocating same sex marriage. This did not happen. So whilst he looks a good solid candidate, I think the American public would be a wee bit gun shy of putting this man…with his newly defined name…in front of the world. Although it would be great for comedians.

Mit Romney is Mormon, now that may not sound like a failing to your and I, but to a religious country like America, where Presidents needs to be all about the baby Jesus, if Romney is selected there will be an aggressive advertising campaign to explain the difference between LDS and Evangelical Christian. I would go so far as to say that it would be a greater leap to elect a Mormon as President as it was to elect a black candidate, or as it would be to elect a woman. Mormons believe that Jesus and Satan are brothers; they also believe that women will be pregnant for all eternity populating their own planets. Mormons believe that God is an exalted man and we can all become Gods ourselves. Now I have no problem with Mormons, what I am saying is that if Romney is the candidate this is the information that will be broadcast to tell America why they shouldn’t vote for him.

And finally Rick Perry, just three little words for him, he’s a moron.

None of these men (and no I haven’t forgotten Michelle Bachman, I just think she is out of the picture) on their own, or as a candidate are necessarily bad, they may not be bad politicians, they are not bad Americans…but they are all bad choices to go up against Barrack Obama.

Barrack Obama is healthy, clean cut with a great marriage; he is young and vibrant and still have a solid base (30%-40%) of support. Say what you want about Obama, with the birth certificate tomfoolery, accusations of being a Muslim and even his lacking record in his first term are enough to remove him from the top job. It won’t be the margin it was in 2008 but there isn’t enough bad blood for a winning percentage of voters to back any of the top 5 Republican candidates. Not even an American wants to score an own goal in this economic climate.