Debating Marriage Equality

This post has turned out to be far longer than I expected it to be. There didn’t seem to be an obvious place to break it into two posts so I have left it as a single post. I apologise to readers if it is too long. If you do find it long and hard to read, please let me know and I’ll bear that in mind for future posts.

Recently here in limeyland there have been discussions and votes on changes to the law on marriage. The basic proposal is that same sex couples should be allowed to marry in the same way that heterosexual couples do. This discussion and vote has been inevitable since same sex couples were granted rights to a civil partnership some years ago.

By chance, I have been working on a project in London for the past month. This means that I regularly walk past the houses of parliament on my way to and from the client offices. On a few occasions there have been protesters and campaigners outside the houses of parliament making their feelings on the subject known. Living in a democracy, this is a right we have and I support that right. When people feel strongly about something, they should be able to make their voice heard.

With this specific subject it is pretty much a for or against, there isn’t really a middle ground where the two extremes can meet and discuss a workable compromise. This makes the campaigning very polarised. On one side you have those wishing to keep marriage for man and woman only. This is a utopian dream where life is perfect and there is nothing to upset the sensitivities of nice upstanding people. So far as I can tell, the strongly opinionated in this group belong to the religious in our society. I don’t recall seeing anyone making an argument for keeping marriage to man and woman who was not religious, or at least sympathetic towards religion. The basic argument seems to be that marriage was ordained by god as being between a man and a woman. Since homosexual acts are a sin anyway they shouldn’t be encouraged in law.

On the other side the argument is one of basic fairness. The current situation denies some couples the rights and protections that are available and expected by those who are able to marry. Interestingly, there are religious people on this side of the debate too. Which does beg the question, is the bible (or any other holy book) actually that clear on the subject?

In amongst the discussions some very unhelpful things have been said. I cringe each time I hear a phrase that implies that same sex couples are somehow less worthy of or less able to engage in a long term and loving relationship. There are also those who make the utterly disgusting association between homosexuality and paedophilia, there is no link, plus heterosexual people commit disgusting crimes too. Equally, I find the accusations of bigotry or homophobia of poor taste, the accusation may be true on some but certainly not all who object. Throwing insults is never going to be a productive way to have a discussion.

Part of the problem that I see with this debate is that the two sides are entrenched, there is no way to have the debate in a rational way. It will always become emotional simply because of the nature of the discussion.

 

 

On a personal level, I have no real investment in the subject. Whichever way the law swings, there is no obvious impact on my life. I have no one who is close to me who will be directly affected by the vote and eventual law change. What the subject does show is how my own views have undergone significant change over the years.

In my more devout days I would have been utterly opposed to the idea of allowing same sex relationships. Sex was for marriage and for man and woman only, anything outside of that was sin and should not be allowed in law. I was very much in the ‘hate the sin, love the sinner’ camp. Though I do see how that comes over as a patronising and, in some cases, devaluing sentiment. Over the years my attitude softened significantly. I am not sure how well it maps with my journey away from faith. There were definitely signs that my attitudes had become more liberal before I started to leave creationism and faith behind.

I think my change in attitude is down to my change in understanding. There was a time when I believed that gayness could be cured and it was just a sinful habit. This was reinforced by a couple people I knew of at the time who seemed to turn from straight to gay as young adults. The modern claim that they were born that way did not fit. I still don’t think it does for those specific cases, there is a lot of emotional trauma involved for each individual.

Science tells us that homosexuality is something that will happen and seeing it in other animals confirms the case. I’ve seen it suggested that homosexuality came about because of the curse from Adam’s sin; I would counter that this can’t apply if other animals demonstrate the same tendencies too.

The scientific discussions of sexuality cased me genuine confusion in those early days. As I got used to the idea that science was uncovering more and more about sexuality (and gender) so more and more I had to question my own assumptions on the matter. Leaving faith made following the science much easier.

As I look at the marriage arguments now, I can’t see any logical or moralistic way to object to allowing same sex unions. I think claims that it will lead to a breakdown of the institution of marriage are vastly overstated.

There is one part of the whole process that does leave me concerned though. That is the matter of using the weight of law to force people to fall into step. One example is that of marriage registrars and churches. The majority will very likely welcome same sex couples and grant them the wedding they want. There will be some who have difficulty with the idea and I think that forcing those people to step into line is not helpful. People should have the option to say, “I’d rather not bless this union because it makes me uncomfortable, please use someone else”. On a basic level, why would anyone want to get married where the officiator is there under duress and fear for being sued? Far better to find someone who is happy to bless it.

One of the sad things about the gay movement in the UK over recent years is the small numbers who have gone specifically into a situation knowing and expecting to upset someone and then they cry foul when the reaction they were intending to provoke came about. This is an underhand tactic which I do not approve of. Sadly it makes easy news and headlines and leaves naive people hurt and labelled as villains.

If someone is blatantly spreading homophobic propaganda, then that’s a different matter and they should be dealt with under anti-hate laws. Also, accepting that some people can’t help being gay also means accepting that some people can’t help being disgusted by it. Let’s all live and let live and not go out of our ways to create an issue where none needs to exist.

That UK law will be changed to allow same sex couples to marry is pretty much inevitable, but there will still be a fight over it and it won’t be a whitewash vote. On balance I would say it’s a good thing this is going to happen and I don’t think it’s going to break society. I do worry that small minded people will carry on looking for a fight over it.

As an atheist I find myself wishing there were more people acting Christ-like on the issue.

 

What Does Being Unequally Yoked Actually Mean?

Over the weekend my wife and I had a brief discussion about the meaning of being unequally yoked. The conversation came about because she had been reading Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, where in Chapter 2 he explicitly states “To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him.” (NIV)

The unambiguous message in the text is that it is not a valid excuse to leave your spouse just because they leave the faith. Yet, as I read about on the subject, it is clear that there are many marriages where one spouse leaving the faith while the other does not often creates a situation where divorce is inevitable. I think that is sad and it leaves me with the conclusion that my wife and I are in the minority.

What’s this got to do with Yoking?

Well, later on in Corinthians is another unambiguous instruction “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?  What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?  What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols?” (NIV)

The first sentence is clear; do not be yoked with unbelievers. Here is that same sentence in other versions:

  • Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. (NLT)
  • Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers (KJV)
  • Be not unequally yoked with unbelievers (ASV)
  • Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers (ESV)

I think the word ‘unequally’ dramatically changes the meaning of that sentence. Without it, the instruction is clear, don’t mix with the heathen; with it, is the implication that it is possible for a Christian to be equally yoked with an unbeliever. (I’ll skip over the question of whether unbeliever means atheist or just not a Christian but feel free to comment on that part if you wish to.)

‘Unequally’ has a bearing on the sentences that follow. One meaning implies that all unbelievers are wicked and nasty; the other that it is only the wicked and nasty unbelievers that should be avoided; unbelievers that are not wicked and nasty are okay. For me, it’s the latter that makes more sense because how on earth would it be possible to evangelise if Christians can’t mix with unbelievers? However, the insinuation that all non-believers are wicked and nasty is deeply unhelpful; even if it is not a correct interpretation, there are many Christians who believe it and there are many Churches where that message is preached.

It is highly unfortunate that a single word can make such a difference to this sentence and that it is missing in some modern translations. It is precisely this sort of thing that creates difficulty for the biblical literalist.

I had always been of the impression that the being yoked means marriage, but the context of this instruction does not implicitly state marriage and so I now think it means more than just marriage. More than that, I think it reads more appropriately as referring to a business type relationship. This item at Grace Central (http://www.gracecentered.com/unequally_yoked.htm) seems to agree, though it is not a completely thorough analysis. I do find the explanation of the original Greek very interesting, especially as it does seem to support my current position on the matter.

While there certainly does seem to be guidance towards avoiding marriage with a non-Christian, I think it’s a major stretch to assume that a marriage between a Christian and a non-Christian comes under the banner of being unequally yoked.

So What does it Actually Mean?

Well it doesn’t mean have no association with non-Christians whatsoever, despite the unfortunate language in some versions.

My thoughts are that it advises against close or dependent partnerships (not specifically or necessarily marriage) with those who would take advantage of you or have vastly different motives. This would seem to be good advice for anyone regardless of the religiosity of either partner.

The Evils of Contraception?

With some of the recent discussion on the Catholic attitude towards contraception I have found myself reading more than I care to on the subject. I’ve never been against contraception and I don’t think I’ve ever been taught that it was wrong either, something I am pleased about.

In my reading of articles defending the Catholic position on contraception there is one word that has cropped up again and again. Evil. Contraception, it seems, has been called evil by everyone from ordained priests to enthusiastic bloggers. Evil is a very strong and emotive word and not at all appropriate to the use of contraception.

Evil is the wilful act of doing harm to someone or something with no empathy for the victim. Evil is flying planes into buildings and killing many hundreds of people. Evil is repeatedly subjecting young children to physical violence and worse. Evil is kidnapping and torturing people. Evil is many things and many people has done evil to others over the course of human history and if one was so inclined the list of evils done by man could be very long indeed.

However, one action that most certainly does not belong on that list is the use of contraception by consenting adults for the purposes of sexual pleasure. Disagree with what they do if you wish, call some of the acts sin if that seems appropriate, but evil it is not.

I can forgive misguided but well intentioned individuals calling it evil, but when a man of the cloth speaks out against contraception and calls it evil, then my heart sinks. This attitude displays a staggering inability to see context.

I am thankful that this peculiarity is not widespread throughout Christendom, however, the Catholic church is large enough and influential enough that it still has a major impact in less educated parts of the world.

Stepping further into the bizarre, I have seen contraception take the blame for the increase in STDs, single parent families and a general increase in casual bonking. Certainly easy access to contraception makes the latter very easy, and an increase in the latter will lead to an increase in the former two. The main reasons for these increases are the changes in social expectation. Single parents are not frowned upon in the way they once were, divorce is much easier to attain and is not stigmatised anymore. Single women who find themselves pregnant are not rushed into a quick marriage. Lets not forget that casual sex and openly sexual relationships between non married couples is now the norm.

There is so much social change over the past 50 years that anyone who tries to nail the sexually related ills of the world on contraception can only be blinkered by their own prejudices. Contraception is a product that has become popular due to increased demand for such a product. High contraception use is a symptom and result of greater demand for a reduction in the bonk / baby ratio. It is absolutely not the case that people suddenly found themselves with a glut of contraceptives and had to come up with ways to use them.

Catholic Views on Contraception

I follow a variety of blogs, not all of them are on subject matter that I agree with the blogger, I typically follow them because I want to learn; either to expand my knowledge or to gain understanding on specific worldviews.

The risk with following blogs that are on a worldview is that there will be the occasional WTF! moment. Over the weekend there was one such post and it’s a major WTF! (http://redcardigan.blogspot.com/2012/02/contraception-extreme-analogy.html)

Full Disclosure

I’m not a catholic fan. Even in my Christian days I struggled with elements of the Catholic Church and its teaching. My difficulty went so far that at times I struggled even to accept that Catholics were Christians because if they were Christians they’d follow everything in the bible and not distort stuff horribly. In my years as an active Christian I crossed paths with other Christians from other churches and denominations and never were there divisive issues as there were with the Catholics. In fact, I can only think of one catholic I encountered in all those where theological differences never got in the way of friendship. I think any chance the Catholic Church had of gaining respect from me died when a friend married a catholic and the overtly catholic wedding felt even more unchristian and emotionless as a secular wedding held in a registry office. The communion was rushed and us non-Catholics were not permitted to take part, Christian or not. I left the wedding service trying hard to be happy for my friend but ultimately feeling unloved and rejected. So much for the family of God!

So why the WTF! ?

I am familiar with the claims that the Catholic Church is anti-contraception and I am aware that there is much criticism of it, especially with regards the effect that has on the spread of Aids in countries where Catholicism has great influence.

Aids isn’t the only disease that sexually active people should worry about. Chlamydia is a disease that is of concern in the UK, especially among teens and 20-somethings. One especially nasty side effect is the potential for girls to be made sterile.

What made the post I referenced stand out was the insane justification given to the no contraception rule. Calling the post an “extreme analogy” is not a defence against spouting idiocy, especially when its abundantly clear that the interpretation is held to.

The Potential for Life

From what I can gather elsewhere, and is repeated in the post I reference, the basic objection to contraception is that it interrupts the potential for life from the act of intercourse. There is so much wrong with this stance it’s hard to know where to start.

The most obvious objection is that it’s a blanket edict that takes no account whatsoever for the circumstances of the couple. There are genuine and valid reasons why a couple would not want to have child children and yet still enjoy a loving sex life. Mandating that they should not control that through contraception is not a blessing to the couple but a hindrance. It reminds me of this related and equally unhelpful attitude encountered by Christians; https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/05/09/a-christian%E2%80%99s-duty-is-to-procreate/

Much damage is done by the well-meaning zealot who holds so tightly to a perceived aspect of Godliness that they fail to see the wider context. For this type of person, the desire to dictate behaviour overrides the command to love and the result is that the religion of choice is seen by the outsider as a controlling and manipulative entity rather than a loving pathway to heaven.

Even if we ignore those objections for a moment, the potential for life argument is still flawed because it is arbitrary. Surely for a man ejaculate more than a single sperm is a sin because typically only one of the sperm gets a chance of life. Or maybe the menstrual cycle is a sin because of all those eggs that get flushed away. The obvious retort is that these are both naturally evolved and contraception is not. However, the catholic church approves of some methods of fertility assistance. If it’s okay to artificially assist in getting pregnant why is it not okay to artificially avoid it as well. Surely to reluctantly bring a life into the world because of what the church says is more of a sin than to responsibly avoid it.

Sex is primarily for procreation

Really?!

The teaching that sex as a pleasure is only a side benefit from God leaves me genuinely open mouthed in astonishment. The only possible reason the Catholic Church can uphold that is because to not teach it seriously undermines its contraception stance. It’s a message of necessity and not one of spirituality.

Evolutionarily speaking, if sex wasn’t something we did for the sheer pleasure of it, we’d have gone extinct by now. Way to go God!

Extreme Analogies

In her blog posting, Red Cardigan likens using contraception to partners withholding from each other and, worse, calls it the “language of hate and rejection”. I say it’s exactly the opposite; the use of contraception frees them both to fully enjoy intimacy and love without the need to be concerned about unplanned offspring. She also manages, bizarrely, to somehow draw a comparison between contraceptive use and bulimia as a method of weight loss. Let’s skim over the not so insignificant issue that bulimia is a state of mental imbalance and not a trendy method of radical weight loss.

This dieting comparison goes way beyond extreme and into the realm of obscene. I can see why this particular analogy was used; it’s to imply that forcing yourself to vomit after a meal is the same as stopping the man’s sperm get to the place where God intended it. The two are not the same. A more reasonable dieting analogy would be to compare contraception to having a stomach band fitted or just eating less of the stuff that makes you fat.

I’d like to propose my own extreme analogy, next time you have a headache, don’t take anything for it, let it enjoy its full potential, after all its God given and natural. What do you mean that’s a stupid thing to say?

The Curse of the Bastard

For the purposes of this post, bastard refers to those conceived out of wedlock.

In case it wasn’t clear from my last post (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2012/02/01/my-wonderful-godly-grandparents/), my parents were encouraged into marriage when my mother fell pregnant. I have no idea if marriage was already on the cards for them and it’s not really a conversation I wish to have with my dad. It might be something I ask him in the future, if the right opportunity presents, but I am certainly not going to raise the subject. I don’t consider it important to know at this time of my life, the answer to the question is not important and would change nothing.

I was in my teens when I realised the circumstances of my birth and it was devastating. I was still reeling from the effects of my parents divorce some years previously, dad had remarried already and there was much ugliness still between my parents, mostly driven by my step-mother. That period of my life was immensely difficult and stressful, so throw in a revelation like this and it just added more torment to an already unhappy teen. Predictably I then started to think that the breakup of their marriage was my fault and if I’d never existed none of this pain and torment would exist either.

Oh the wonderful ways we choose to torture ourselves!

The Christian Response

Years later, when I’d left home and was having my own young adult issues I would have counselling to help me recover from the poisonous relationship that had developed between my dad and I. I can’t remember if the issue of conceived out of wedlock came up during those sessions. I am sure it must have but I really don’t remember if it did. Certainly that counselling helped me.

What I really want to bring attention to is a more spiritual response that came up. It would have been within a year (two at the most) of the counselling and this dramatic event (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/03/28/the-dramatic-deliverance/).

It would be at a church weekend away and, for reasons I can’t fully remember, I ended up in a one on one prayer session with the visiting teacher who was running the sessions. He was very much an advocate of spiritual gifts. When the conceived out of wedlock issue came up (I can’t remember why it did) he flung open his bible and found a passage condemning those who were born out of wedlock and pronounced me cursed. I don’t recall the passage in question and I certainly don’t wish to look for it, if someone thinks they know which one it might be, feel free to suggest it in a comment.

What followed was some very intensive prayer, at the end of which I had to voice out loud forgiveness to my parents for their fornication. I was also instructed to tell my father that I had done so. I didn’t particularly relish doing that, but I obeyed a few weeks later, thankfully dad just nodded his acknowledgment of the information and nothing more was made of it. I’m can’t recall if I had to do the same with my mother, it would have been much easier with her so if I did I am not surprised I don’t remember, this sort of thing would not have been a difficult conversation to have with her.

When I look back on that event I now realise how insensitive this particular spiritual teacher was. I don’t think his treatment of my revelation helped me at all. I also don’t think it was particularly unhelpful either; it did put me through a highly emotional 40 minutes, for pretty much no result.

I know this kind of thing happens on church weekends all over the country, maybe even weekly in some church services. This does concern me as it leaves the affected person with the idea that they are cursed (or even possessed) by something evil and the only help is the casting out of said evil or the prayer to remove the curse.

No counselling or further emotional support is offered. Well for me it wasn’t, I can’t say that it never is elsewhere, but I do know that is not offered as the norm because in the mind of the Christian engaging in spiritual warfare the victory is in the conquering of the entity causing the problem. The assumption is that once that is done the associated problem in the affected is cured. This just isn’t the case and for Christians to put others through that sort of turmoil with no counselling backup is to risk causing major emotional damage.

I can see all that now, but at the time it was happening it just seemed the right thing to do. Cast out the evil demon or pray the blessing of Jesus on the curse really did seem like the right thing to do and counselling the path of the loser.

My Part Time Vicar Friend got Married Last Weekend

* warning: this post contains words of a rude and crude nature. It is not something I make a habit of in my normal language and this blog reflects that. However, in the context of this post, the swearing is essential.

 ** note: this is quite a long post and I am not sure what etiquette there is with regards to long blog posts and if they should be split into parts or not. If you have a comment or suggestion to make on that, especially if you think this post would have benefitted from being split, then I’d love to read it.

A good friend of mine is a part time vicar (PTV), he spends the other half of the week doing his day job. We’ve been friends for the past 20 years. We’ve not really seen much of each other in the last 10, partly due to us now being separated by many miles. This happens in long tern friendships, people move away, get married and their life changes. Some friendships disappear due to lack of contact, some manage to survive and some simmer along, never really going away, but also never managing to remain at the same level of quality.

That latter part defines this friendship well. PTV and I had a very strong friendship many years ago, we’ve both shared deep and personal things and talked the world away late into the night during varying stages of brevity.

We’ve both moved away from the town in which we met, both got married and both become parents. Our lives now revolve around very different people and places, but we’ve managed to retain a tender connection and it was a wonderful pleasure to see him get married last weekend and stag night three weeks ago.

PTV is most definitely the one person in my circle who I could tell about my current state of thinking towards Christianity and know for certain that I am still a valued friend and that I am not being judged. Maybe I will tell him soon, I am certainly entertaining the idea of confiding in him before being more open to my wife about it.

PTV’s first marriage ended traumatically and he is very critical of the lack of support his in-laws provided to the marriage. To his mind, the decision to terminate the marriage was made very early and his wife’s family simply took the view that termination was better than salvation. Her family is very wealthy and he stood no chance in a fight and so his only choice to turn belly up and surrender to the inevitable. He is especially bitter about not being given a chance to salvage the marriage; he’s not even sure what went wrong or what he could have done differently to prevent it.

Sadly, I was not around to provide support to PTV during those dark years, but he did have other close friends so he wasn’t totally without support, just without the support he needed most, which I could not have provided either. In hindsight I wish I could have been in touch with him regularly enough to help him, and I know that if he’d turned up on my doorstep I’d have accommodated him without question. However, that’s water long since flowed by and no amount of wishing can change the past, so its pointless trying.

Right now the future looks wonderful for PTV and for that I am immensely happy.

The totally Irreverent Stag do

It had actually been a few years since I’d seen PTV when I attended his stag do. Something that I hope never happens again. It was a good night out, which basically revolved around drinking in several pubs and finishing the evening around a pool table, by which time I was the only sober person in the group.

PTV likes his booze, and hanging out with him that evening reminded me of the days 20 years ago when we’d have parties round my flat on a Saturday, sing popular songs badly, get drunk and generally behave like the immature 20 years olds that we were. Then of course on the Sunday evening the same flat would be tidied up, the guitars would come out and we’d all sing good Christian worship songs and have a bible study, like the mature responsible 20 year Christians that we were.

The stag do started with a quiz, written by PTV, to test the music knowledge of those assembled. Being a stag do, there was a very male centric element to the questions. Sporadic conversation during this opening hour also turned to PTV role in the church and those he answered to, there was some catching up to after all.

PTV was wonderfully unreserved and unashamed in his comments and opinions. He is a no nonsense guy and this is one of the qualities about him which I dearly love. I was very glad to be back in his life again.

I saw some of the 20 year old I knew so well that evening, a 20yo that has managed to be unpolluted by the experiences of the past 20 years. He let slip that there had been more than one bishop that he answers to that he has told to ‘fuck off’. Now I’m not sure if he meant that literally or figuratively, but his use of the phrase and the context leads me to believe that its far more likely to be literal. One should not ignore the influence of alcohol at this point, but PTV is precisely the sort of chap who I believe would and could tell a bishop to fuck off.

There was some other discussion about church policy and the risk of him being defrocked if his language and attitude didn’t change. PTV’s summary of the situation was along the lines of ‘The Church of England is so bloody liberal that whatever you tell them you believe, that’ll say its fine’, and of his job prospects, he shrugged his shoulders and suggested that they’d never try to sack him.

Later on in the evening I raised the Adam and Eve issue (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/06/05/the-problem-of-adam-and-eve/), it wasn’t really the time or the place to have an in depth discussion with him, but he did unreservedly acknowledge that it causes a problem for original sin and subsequent salvation through Jesus. I have no idea if I’ll be able to have a proper grown up type chat with him on the subject, we shall see.

On to the Wedding.

The wedding was Saturday afternoon, it was a busy weekend for us as the family limey are now on the countdown to our big move and change of lifestyle. My in-laws are also moving to the same seaside town, they move next week, so plenty going on in that part of the family too. My brother and his fiancé came to stay with us for the weekend too, they marry early next year, so lots to talk about and arrange their too. So basically, life for my family is vary full these days, which is wonderful.

This meant that only I attended the wedding. There was no chance I was going to miss the wedding, PTV is an important person in my life, even if the main parts were a long time ago, it was very important for me to go, but the whole family could not go due to the amount of stuff going on, so only I went.

The bride looked fabulous, her long white gown and short train looked elegant on her and she radiated beauty from the second I saw her, in fact she probably radiated long before that. I brought to mind that PTV had admitted to getting to know her through a Christian dating website. She had contacted him within a few days of him signing up. I had to smile at that, because, if you’ll forgive the blunt male talk for a second, a woman with a figure and a face like hers is never going to have a problem finding a suitor. Then of course I remember the key word, Christian, ahh the murky waters of Christian mixing of the sexes! A little bit more on that later.

The service was overly Christian, and all the songs I knew well, so sang them as I would normally. The second song was a well known “Be Thou my Vision”, played with a rousing drum rhythm and I sung it with gusto, I was here to celebrate this union and the happiness of PTV, my friend; so I sung it loud and I sung it heartily and I enjoyed it. I hope my neighbours appreciated my enthusiasm.

Both bride and groom lifted a hand skyward during the song and I recalled the events of the stag evening and I smiled as I remembered another muttering of PTV on the evening of the stag do.

PTV had been asked about living together and he’d said that he would have not had a problem with living together prior to the marriage, but that there were members of his congregation who most certainly would have had a problem, so future Mrs PTV would not be moving in until after the honeymoon. I briefly pondered on the most stumbling of issues that comes up when Christians get married and decided that yes, PTV and future Mrs PTV have indeed engaged in PMS. I shall not judge, for I don’t care, and I shall not ask because its not my business.

The Wedding car!

This is really very cool and so I have to mention it.

The two parties in this wedding are each bringing two children into the new family that is being created. This required a genius choice of transport, to get from church to reception place. The children were a major part of the wedding and so the transport had to accommodate. The transport which turned up, which I already knew about as it had been revealed at the stag do; was an A-Team van. A proper GMC van, with burbling big capacity engine and the right colour scheme, blasting out the A-Team theme on repeat. Oh it was wonderful! You could see all the kids, eyes bulging with excitement, and all the fathers wishing they’d had the balls to book the same thing for their wedding, while trying to act unimpressed in front of their wives.

Oh the dancing!

The evening reception was a fun shindig, food was a finger buffet, speeches were intentionally light, just being a toast and a thank you, no amusing anecdotes and no mysteries from the past. Bride and groom each made their thanks and then the best man proposed a toast to the couple. That was it and it was on to the dancing.

Every wedding has one! The lone dancer with seemingly endless energy who will out last everyone on the dance floor and will be carried protesting when the last song ends. He, for its always a he, will get so animated in the heavy beat tracks that one will wonder how his head remains attached to his body. His shirt will be dripping with sweat and when he’s not on the dance floor, he’ll be outside cooling down in the night air. If you’re not a dance floor regular, you’ll know the person in question because as the evening progresses he’ll get more and more hoarse as he shouts out the songs that accompany his gyroscopic gymnastics.

Well, this weekend, it was my turn to be that guy!

It turned out that I really was the only man there without a partner, in fact I think I was the only adult there without a partner. Not that I was looking for them partner related action, in case anyone is wondering. It just meant that getting onto the dance floor meant not having someone to dance with, so caring went out the window and a fun boogie was had.

It turned out that a there were a number of ladies who enjoyed dancing too, though their partners were not so keen. So I spent a lot of time on the dance floor next to half a dozen ladies dancing together but never exchanging any eye contact! As it happens all the ladies concerned (and their partners) are from the bride’s church so were good Christian ladies. Ouch, that reads quite condescending, that’s not how its intended, so pleasure bear with me.

I’ve been to end of year parties with work colleagues of mine and my wife’s and dancing with other people partners (not slow dancing I might add) has never been an issue and nor has being in a group with ladies I don’t know, there is always eye contact and a smile, but never any hint of inappropriateness.

Yet that evening I was frustrated by it. Is it really such a crime to exchange eye contact on the dance floor? I don’t know why it suddenly became.

In the end I spent a good deal of time dancing with a two teenage lads, who were cousins of the bride, and the girlfriend of one of said lads. These were people less than half my age and I had a good deal of fun with them and found out a bit about them. Yet the Christian ladies sharing the dance floor with me couldn’t even look me in the eye.

Thinking back to it, I feel very sad.

Maybe my enthusiastic exertions marked me out as someone to be avoided. That was the wisdom spoken by my brother the next morning at breakfast.

I didn’t even get much chat from the husbands when I helped clear up the hall and pack the chairs away and the end of the evening; so who knows what was going on. Its just weird and sad that I can have more fun at a celebration like that with teenagers I have never met am old enough to have fathered than with people my own age.

Well, this post is way too long already so I’ll just finish with the promise of the intention to keep PTV as a greater part of my life. I will be writing to him soon to post a CD of the 200+ photos I took during the day and maybe to let him know my status of faith currently, I’m still deciding on that last bit.

I was Away at School when Dad Remarried

The news that Dad and new woman had eventually decided to get married wasn’t broken to me until after the event.

He met me at the airport, on his own, which was unusual, normally the airport run was a family affair and everyone came along. I realised why as soon as he broke the news to me. He wanted to be alone with me, though why I am not entirely sure, maybe he dreaded some sort of teenage strop. Whatever his reasons, he told me as casually as he could and we had the rest of the journey home to recover. While I would later ponder over the various reasons for my (and my brothers) exclusion from this event, it was never voiced out loud.

I can’t really recall what I felt inside, but my response was “I’m proud of you”. It was a lie of course. The years between my parents separating and this moment were full of anger, pain and deep upset. There were many moments when he and new woman had argued and fought. Fights that I never witnessed between mum and dad. These were times when I truly wished dad would leave her and I really could not understand why he didn’t. Life was horrid and the worst that mum and dad has was far better than an average day with this cobbled together group of incompatibilities, trying to call itself a family.

So the news they had finally got married meant that the dream of dad leaving her was over and my brothers and I were doomed to spend most of the rest of our childhood in this very unhappy unit.

The emotional needs of my brothers and I, in this post remarriage family were never met. We were always bottom of the pile and regularly manipulated and bullied by our new step family. Several behavioural issues came to a head over the years and were never acknowledged or even dealt with properly.

Life with mum was a complete contrast, unconditional love, always and never ending.

Through all these years we still went to church. dad to a very traditional Scottish Presbyterian and mum to a very charismatic Assemblies of God church, despite her Plymouth Brethren upbringing. My spiritual life was fed very effectively by mum’s church, while going to church with dad and the new family was utterly tedious. It was immensely boring and something to be endured, just to keep the peace, because speaking out would invoke the wrath of the wicked step-mum.

Witnessing Sinful Behaviour

The fall-out from my parent’s separation was staggeringly painful. I simply could not cope with the emotional impact that it had on me. The result was that I became very insular, easily prone to tears and enormously protective of my younger siblings.

I could not understand why my parents had separated, as far as I knew we had a happy family at home. I remember no arguments or fights. Though thinking back I can now see moments when the clues were there that all was not right. I think rather than fight my parents just didn’t talk, its also possible that my young mind simply shut out the bad memories.

My parents were now separated, but still married, and with no warning, my father was living with a new woman. Said new woman was fresh out of a marriage with two children older than me. I remember that we visited them as a family a few times. So dad definitely knew her while she was still married and vice versa, as to whether that knowing includes the biblical sense, one can only speculate, its been implied but I don’t know for certain.

Given that Christianity was a major part of the life I lived, the strange scenario that I now found myself in was extremely confusing. I didn’t understand why, I didn’t like this new woman who was to have a major involvement in my life. My mother, whom I loved dearly, seemed to be paying the highest price while also being the most mild mannered and humble of all the adults involved. Nothing made any sense at all.

Then there was the problem of sin.

It was utterly clear to me that what my father was doing was wrong from a Christian perspective. Other kids at school seemed to know things about my family situation that had not occurred to me, which could only mean their parents were talking about my parents. That hurt stacks. Why should they know these things when my parents would not tell me anything about what was happening?

One incident I remember was at end of term. My dad was in conversation with another father and they were discussing the possibility of my dad visiting and staying over. The other father mentioned he only had one spare bedroom with one bed in it. My father replied that that wasn’t a problem, he and new lady would share a bed. Other father promptly informed him that this was not acceptable and would not happen in his house.

Inside I cheered.

Seeing someone stand firm like that was what I needed. Until that point, all I had seen was my father behaving in a way that was contra to all that I had been taught about how to live. Here was someone saying it like it should be. It marked a point in which my respect for my father started to decline. His treatment of mum and bringing in this new woman and the sin that implied was enough for me to realise that not was he not perfect, but he didn’t care for me like he said he did.

It was around this time that I remember being on a car journey with mum and she was having a discussion with a friend about what was going on. Mum turned back to me and asked how I would describe this new woman, as she wasn’t a wife (yet) so what word did I use to describe her. Without so much as a second thought, my reply was “concubine”. Mum shrieked with embarrassment and immediately apologised to the friend, who remained silent on the subject. I think it very clearly shows my thinking on the matter.

Life at home with dad and new woman was stressful and horrid most of the time, with only small moments of happiness. New woman was a bossy and nagging. Nothing was ever easy for her and she was incapable of compliments. This reinforced to me that what dad had done was wrong and drove me to further withdraw emotionally.

The only place in my life that I could rely on for consistency was my education. Being at boarding school was probably a very good thing for me at this time as it gave me space to be away from the painful environment at home. One of the very few places that I found joy was in my growing Christian faith and the daily bible readings.