This past week has seen a storm of words over Dolce and Gabbana's claim about traditional families constitute the only families:
"“The family is not a fad,” Gabbana told the interviewer. “In it there is a supernatural sense of belonging.”
“The only family is the traditional one. No chemical offsprings and rented uterus: life has a natural flow; there are things that should not be changed.”"
You probably read about Elton John's reaction (he and David Furnish have two sons) but here is another which is worth noting, if only for signs of political unity in the GLBT community unravelling as the politics of capitalist society exerts itself.
Picking up on my post of a couple of days ago about the Spirit at work among us, I wish to raise the question of the leading of the Spirit about family life.
I suspect we can all agree that there is a degree of plausibility to the claim that the Spirit is leading the church to support gay couples. (Note this is not the same as saying we all agree with the claim itself). The plausibility lies in recognition that social life is important, that the community of two is less likely to be lonely than the community of one, and that God blesses and supports friendship. We can see that if the Spirit is leading the church at this time in a new direction then it is in the direction of the better (e.g. safer, more secure, mutually supportive) life which comes from partnership.
Dolce and Gabbana's comments about the traditional family in respect of children and about the way in children should be intentionally brought into the world in the context of the traditional family lead me to ask:
Is it plausible to think that the Spirit of God is leading the church beyond the embrace of same sex partnerships to bless the intentionality of (say) two men bringing children into the world via a surrogate mother, knowing that the children will from the beginning have no mother?
Answers on a postcard to Box ... no, seriously: could answers to this question not only offer a Yes or a No but also some reasons for saying Yes or No. That is, reasons which explain how we would know as a church that this is, or is not the leading of the Spirit.
My argument here is that claims to know the leading of the Spirit in respect of new ethical situations are easily made and initially may even have a popular hearing. But very quickly we get to situations where the claim to know that the Spirit is leading in such and such a direction is less likely to have a popular hearing. Not - dear Elton John - because of bigotry but because of uncertainty as to how on earth we might establish the claim. If you have ideas on how the church might establish such a claim, send them in via comments.
Now for those who vigorously want the church to oppose Dolce and Gabbana's vision of the family and affirmation of the importance of children born to a mum and a dad, there is another route forward: a straight ethical argument which does not invoke the Spirit of God.
My argument here is that pressing the church forward on the basis of what some see as the leading of the Spirit is a fraught pathway which quickly runs into shoals and reefs.