Dating back to when Borders first set up in New Zealand, perhaps the late 1990s, I’ve been reading First Things (I discovered it on their then very well-stocked shelves). It is a magazine that takes seriously the desire of its readers to be orthodox followers of Christ with their minds, as well as in other dimensions.
The latest issue arrived in the mail yesterday. It included a very encouraging statement on marriage from the group of Christian leaders called Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT), a group founded by Charles Colson and Richard Neuhaus (the latter the founder of First Things), both now deceased.
The encouragement is not about the situation of marriage in countries like the US or New Zealand – divorce rates remain high, too high even among churchgoers, and if gay so-called marriage is not yet the law everywhere in the US it cannot be long until the situation their parallels that in New Zealand. Perhaps most discouragingly, the churches have been too ready to go along with this drift. Just this week, the Presbyterian church in the US voted to formally endorse gay marriage. In New Zealand, the Baptist churches instead speaking boldly for historical truth, have a commission looking into the matter, and the Anglican church looks to be heading towards a model in which gay marriage is, and isn’t. recognised. New Zealand still appears to be a little behind the US in moving towards an environment in which opposition to gay marriage, or a traditional attitude to homosexual practice, is not just a matter of amicable disagreement in a free and open society, but as unacceptable in public discourse as the views of, say, the Ku Klux Klan.
So the encouragement in the ECT statement is that it is being made: a robust and reasoned defence of a traditional view of marriage, as between one man and one woman, for as long as they both live. Where, I wonder, is the New Zealand equivalent. In New Zealand, even the Catholic voice is often propounded rather weakly, while that of evangelicals is almost invisible in the public square, and evangelical leaders appear reluctant to engage with these challenges in the pulpit or in their own publications.