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1 May 2013

An internet sensation?

In the campaign for homosexual marriage the ACT party, National, Labour, the Greens and libertarians and Marxists outside of parliament found a common cause.  It was an extraordinary political consensus which confirms secular liberalism as the ideology of the New Zealand state.

The characteristic feature of secular liberalism is that it chooses not to make distinctions between men and women, children and adults, homosexuals and heterosexuals, capitalists and workers, or, quite frequently, between good and evil.   The dairy industry and the sex "industry", the metal industry and the gambling "industry", the forest industry and the liquor industry are all  equal in the sight of liberal economics, just as men and women, heterosexuals and homosexuals are deemed to be "equal" in liberal sociology.

Liberalism regards the refusal to make distinctions as being its great strength and raison d'etre, but that refusal to discriminate is also a fundamental weakness.   Distinctions are real.  The social impacts of the sex industry and the engineering industry are profoundly different.  The motivations, aspirations and behaviours of men and women may be complementary, but they are not identical.  Similarly, homosexual relationships are fundamentally different in character and social consequence to the marriage relationship.    By removing the distinctions inherent in the words "marriage", "husband" and "wife" the Marriage Equality Bill has removed a raft of words from the New Zealand lexicon and a level of understanding from the common psyche.  From this point the state will effectively only recognise  "partners" and "partnership", words which themselves are made to apply to a host of dissimilar situations, from the tennis court to the card table and the business office.  There will be confusion which goes beyond amusing misunderstandings, to a general failure to comprehend the real nature of the most vital social relationships.  Normal communication, science and the law, need words which have precise and distinct meaning, and the confusion of meanings resulting from this law will be detrimental to all three.

The Biblical story of the Tower of Babel concerns a people who engaged in a mighty project of construction.   Their "single tongue and few words" signified a common ideology accompanied by an absence of distinction and a failure of discernment.  The moral of the story of Babel is the futility of great projects driven by social ambition and facilitated by a common ideology, and the danger of language which becomes impoverished to the point that it can no longer be used to discriminate or make important distinctions.   The fate of Babel was confusion and fragmentation, in that order.   It is a story which is most relevant to our current circumstances, but one which the politicians of New Zealand, and many of its ministers of religion, choose to ignore.

It would not matter too much if the people who direct the course of the New Zealand state lacked knowledge and understanding of religion, provided they had an alternative source of wisdom, such as may be found in secular philosophy. National Party Minister outside Cabinet Maurice Williamson flippantly declared that he thought "Deuteronomy" was a character from the musical "Cats".   In fact he knows very well that Deuteronomy is the second "book of law" in the old testaments.  Williamson was just using the opportunity to demonstrate an attitude towards the Bible and Bible-believers which goes beyond irreverence and borders on contempt.  His remark illustrates the dual purpose of the Marriage Amendment Bill: to give traditional religion its come-uppance while pandering to the spiritual claims of the homosexual "community".

The secularists have good reason to feel emboldened in their attacks upon religion.   Out of 121 members of parliament, reportedly  only 3 spoke against the bill.   Those three are the only ones who could be said to have provided any serious opposition, and whatever they said was hardly reported.   The 44 who voted against, but did not speak a word, include Rotorua electorate MP Todd McLay.  As with his father before him, McLay's only guiding principle in politics and life is self-interest.  He chose to sit on the fence, hoping that his vote against the  bill would placate traditionalists within his electorate and local National Party branch, while his parliamentary silence on the issue would be acceptable to his party hierarchy and its leader, Prime Minister John Key.

With the mass media solidly in favour of homosexual marriage, and fewer than 3% of parliamentarians actively opposed, a palpable secular hubris has taken hold among the political classes.    It might therefore seem perverse to ask whether such militant secularism can be sustained over the long term.  Yet a nation does not stand solely on the strength of its playboys, good-time girls, film buffs, fashionistas, talk-back hosts, gossip columnists and wine connoisseurs.   It also needs a bedrock of socially conservative workers to undertake the task of feeding, housing, clothing and educating the masses, and it needs leaders who exemplify the ethos of service and sacrifice.  The Marriage Amendment Act has nothing to do with that kind of service to society.  It is an act of indulgence towards one particular section of the community, and a provocation to another.   God agreed to spare  Sodom from destruction if he could find evidence that there were five righteous men residing in the city.  The point of the story is that society does not need to be morally pure, through and through.   It just needs a degree of balance which is lacking in present day New Zealand society.

Meanwhile, we are told that Maurice Williamson's scornful response to criticisms of the Bill has become an "internet sensation".  click here to read a transcript of Williamson's speech  It could just as well be labelled an internet fraud.  Williamson chose to ignore all serious criticisms of state-sanctioned homosexual marriage.   He could afford to do that, because his colleagues in parliament had not advanced any serious criticisms.  Instead, Williamson quoted without attribution from people outside the House who he claims had lobbied him to vote against the bill.  He says that he had been warned by an unidentified "leader" that he would "burn in the fires of hell" which is inconsistent with the general tenor of statements from the movement to "protect marriage" and may have been a statement that Williamson himself invented for theatrical effect.  His claim that he calculated the time that he would actually burn in hell was certainly made up.  He played the clown in order to make light of what is one of the most portentous pieces of legislation to have passed the New Zealand parliament in the past thirty years.

This legislation will do none of the things that people like Williamson say it will do.   It will not confer any additional legal rights on homosexuals.   It will not usher in an age of universal love and social equality.   Williamson's speech was barely coherent in parts, and full of non-sequiturs.   He declared "This bill is fantastic for the people it affects, but for the rest of us, life will go on" as if anyone was suggesting that life would cease.   He does not say why it will be "fantastic" for "the people it affects".   He does not say who he considers will be the "people it affects" to be, but we may infer that he is talking only of homosexuals and lesbians who wish to be married in the eyes of the state.   That is disingenuous to the point of being downright dishonest.  All of society - homosexuals, lesbians and heterosexuals, marriage celebrants and ministers of religion, secularists and religious believers -  will be affected to varyiing degrees.   The purpose of the legislation is to influence the attitudes of society as a whole, and that will be its effect.   Williamson indulges in reverse hyperbole - "The sun will still rise tomorrow  You will not have skin diseases or rashes or toads in your bed. The world will just carry on" - in an attempt to persuade his non-homosexual audience that there will be so serious consequences.   In that he is also being disingenuous, and self-contradictory.  It is nonsensical to suggest that the law will have "fantastic" consequences for homosexuals, and yet no consequences to speak of for society at large.

Willliamson goes on "We are allowing two people who love each other to have that recognised, and I cannot see what is wrong with that for neither love nor money".    He is misrepresenting the position. The legislation does not "allow" two people "who love each other" to "have that love recognised".   The legislation is specifically designed to  recognise relationships which involve homosexual acts and not the much more general category of  relationships based on "love".    Williamson, and arguably a very large proportion of New Zealanders, see no harm in giving people what they want, provided there is no material cost to individuals or the state.  They are misguided.  "Giving people what they want" is the way to partisanship and the indulgence of particular affections, friendships and loyalties.  It is no way to determine the law of the land, which should have as its purpose the good of society as a whole rather than the satisfying the material or ideological desires of any individual,  group or class.

This is partisan law the purpose of which is to sanctify the homosexual act at the expense of those who believe in the traditional institution of marriage.  The logic of "marriage equality" might  suggest that since "sex is just sex" then "a slap is just a slap" and we should not descriminate between a slap on the back for homosexuals and a slap in the face for believers, but the fact remains that this is not "even-handed" legislation.  It will embolden the homosexuals and anger the believers all to no practical advantage for either the state or the homosexuals.  It is foolish law which will have adverse consequences for the state and society.

The proper purpose of legislation is to regulate behaviour in ways which contribute to the public good.  It is not proper or sensible to use the law to signal the state's approval or disapproval of certain social groups or currents, in this case homosexuality and religious fundamentalism respectively.   A parliamentary resolution in favour of homosexuality would have been an unwelcome alternative for many, but it would have been more proper, more sensible, and less divisive.  An explicit parliamentary condemnation of religious fundamentalism would have been highly unusual, but would not have caused such deep resentment as will be engendered by the Marriage Equality Bill.

The parliamentarians believe that homosexual "marriage" will carry no fiscal or electoral cost and offers the prospect of substantial economic benefit.  They are probably wrong about the latter, but all three judgements reveal the inherent fallacy of liberalism, which cannot conceive consequences that are not immediately apparent in fiscal, economic or electoral terms.

We are told that somewhere between forty and fifty percent of ordinary New Zealanders continue to believe in marriage as originally defined.  That proportion will probably fall as many are persuaded that since the overwhelming majority of parliament and the hierarchy of the Anglican church are in favour of homosexual marriage it must be wrong to continue in opposition.

However propaganda campaigns and parliamentary votes cannot change fundamental realities and eventually the tide of public opinion will turn against liberalism in general, and the state promotion of homosexuality in particular.  The parliamentarians  believe they no longer need the support of social conservatives, whom they are happy to abandon and ridicule in favour of their new favorite, "the homosexual  community" and its media promoters.

That will prove to be a serious miscalculation.  The Labour Party long ago lost the support of those among the working classes who had been brought up in the Chapel, and the National Party will now begin to shed those who adhere to the established church.  Many of those who fought for "God, Queen and country" will feel betrayed by their own politicians, and the parliamentary system as a whole will suffer the effects of their disillusion.

Just as with the economic reforms of the late twentieth century, the politicians have failed to think their policies through.  They have got away without having to think seriously - one cannot judge the likes of Maurice Williamson to be serious thinkers - because there has been no effective opposition, no criticism from the media, and no informed public debate.  The political establishment has once again demonstrated its propensity to make push through dubious policies in the absence of rational consideration and intelligent debate. Propaganda campaigns may shift public and political opinion, but they do not change social realities, and not even this extraordinary political consensus, unanimously supported by the mass media, will be able to avert the social consequences of the act, and the slowly dawning realisation that the social edifice of liberalism has been built on false foundations.

There will be consequences for the churches as well.  Many individual churches supported the measure and the voices of those opposed were muted.  They have been morally ambivalent at best, culpably silent on the whole and at worst have joined in the gross deception that goes by the name of "marriage equality".   "Homosexual marriage" will accelerate the decline of the Christian churches who have played the role of the family of Lot in the city of Sodom.   At this stage there is no way of knowing what will fill the gap left by the collapse of Christian belief in New Zealand, but we can be assured that something will.