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Pondering the Plebiscite: A pastoral reflection

Saturday, 4 March 2017  | John Kidson

Editor’s note: This is the second of two blogs on the topic of sexuality, published on the eve of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. The companion blog can be found here.

This blog was submitted to Ethos late last year, when the Plebiscite was still on the agenda - hence the references to that Plebiscite.

These two blogs are not theological treatises, but heartfelt, impassioned pleas from both sides of the debate, inviting us to respond pastorally to this complex issue.

Pondering the Plebiscite: A pastoral reflection

My Christian commitment compels me to promote the best interests of others whenever possible.

Assuming a true democratic spirit triumphs over any Scrooge-like attitude to the nation's purse strings, the half-promised Plebiscite will provide me with another tall order to fulfill.

Obviously, I know the purported majority wish of the gay community: a yes vote to same sex marriage. However, the least informed of us recognises a difference between human desire and human need.

So what else should inform my decision, come the day? Many would want me to jettison my Judaeo-Christian hat before entering the polling station. If we all took such an unthinkable step, there would be no room for all the hats that should be checked. In our pluralist Australia, a plebiscite demands that all hats enter.

So what can my particular philosophy offer to this question? I have no right to insist, but I share with every Australian the same democratic responsibility to ensure that my view is clearly and reasonably enunciated so people may exercise a real choice.

I believe that the Creator took meticulous care with design and lay­out, enhancing our role in person-to-person relating so that, at its zenith, reproduction may result. It is at this pinnacle that we are gifted with the twin capacities of pleasure and responsibility. Apparently, to varying degrees, the same goes for most members of the animal kingdom.

With our bent on exploiting our natural resources, we are the only species to trash these precious gifts. We seem incapable of managing Nature's wonderful combination of species reproduction and mutual pleasure. Real sexual union naturally occurs within this area bounded by the double-stranded 'divine fence' of general possibility and general desirability of reproduction.

What is left outside this boundary? Even the most innocent of minds can list a collection of necessarily non-­activities. This list must today be headed by child ­sexual abuse.

Our caring Creator works for the welfare of all creatures, especially humans. Species reproduction is a necessary part of the plan for the world's continuation.

However, there is no sense of coercion – some people prefer to maintain their independence rather than sacrifice it for intimacy. Happily asexual, they forgo what most find to be one of creation's best experiences: discovering joy, pleasure and fulfilment in the responsible reproduction of our own kind.

The Creator, essentially the Great Relator, emphasises quality in these relationships. Hence we tend to value aspects which enhance, recognising other features that need excluding. Obviously, love, commitment and integrity are essentials while aggression, lust and promiscuousness are all strong negatives.

When reproduction occurs, the couple, now with responsibilities beyond each other, need to strategise to effectively nurture their offspring. Just as not every act of coitus in the animal kingdom produces young, so we are called to live responsibly – better to follow the native emu than the introduced rabbit. Couples are able to live responsibly, enjoying and caring for each other and any offspring with whom they are entrusted.

Just as Enid Blyton wrote of Julian, Dick, Anne, George[ina] and Timmy the dog, the Creator made Adam, Eve and Steve. Both God and Enid had ideas and boundaries for their creatures' ways of relating. Originally, everything in Creation was very good until came 'the fall', the beginning of what we now call the 'human condition'. Since humanity's mistake, we have urged each other, through art and literature and even force, to rediscover the early dew of our beginnings.

The causal debate - early life ­trauma versus a 'gay gene' ­- is immaterial. The intentions in creation are plain: species reproduction with the young learning from and are nurtured by its parents. However, during the turbulent years of adolescent development, many discover close same-­sex friendships.

Recognising that any friendship has the potential to become sexual, it is important that supportive non­condemnatory counselling is readily available if and when sought.

The human network of worth­while relationships, deep friendships and unconditional love is available to us all. We are encouraged to respond to each other similarly. No ­one in either the gay or straight community is incapable of giving and receiving in this context.

Straight or LGBTI? Sure! Each person needs to understand the self and be welcomed in the Church as Christ welcomes in His arms. But let's not restrict nor contain a young person's choice permanently. Recognising the fluid nature of adolescent sexuality, we must continually avoid conferring life sentences on people in any direction.

These are some thoughts that will percolate in my thinking prior to the plebiscite.

John Kidson is the former chaplain at Southern Cross University, Lismore.

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