Progress, Tradition and Marriage

Canon Vinay and Canon SugdenBy Vinay Samuel and Chris Sugden, AAC

“But the church must keep up with progress.” This mantra comes up regularly in interviews and debates about gay marriage for which the UK Government is proposing to legislate in early 2013. The UK Government will be making an announcement about this on Tuesday, 11 December. The timing is to get it out of the way before the 2015 election in the hope that “protesting Tory voters” will have learnt to live with it by then.

Bishop Tom Wright effectively dealt with part of the argument in a recent article in the Times on November 23. He wrote that “Progress” gave us modern medicine, liberal democracy and the internet. It also gave us the guillotine, the Gulag and the gas chambers. Western intelligentsia assumed in the 1920s that “history” was moving away from the muddle and mess of democracy towards the brave new world of Russian communism. Many in 1930s Germany regarded Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his friends as on the wrong side of history. The strong point of postmodernity is that the big stories have let us down. And the biggest of all was the modernist myth of “progress”.

There is a further strand to this argument. In the same mantra, tradition is contrasted with progress. The term “traditionalist” is subtly applied to those who believe that real marriage ensures the future, as a way of denigrating them in the eyes of many. Traditional has become a “boo” word.

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