Apparently: He is gay, She is straight and they married for art. And not for the first time did Stephan Green (wife beater–according to this divorced wife–and founder of ‘Christian’ Voice a UK pressure group) condemn this Art in the name of Christian values in the Daily Mail.
What he said was actually not as outrageous from a socially conservative perspective, though they rather do smell of moralising. His actions are rather more than most socially conservatives would in any way condone. Lest you have any doubt, I think he has some very sick views. Nevertheless, the way he articulated his opinion is one that many sane and friendly socially conservative Christians would agree with. Indeed many of them would articulate there criticism of what these two students did in the name of Art in the very same way. I think one can hold this position but also see some merit in this peculiar marriage if it seen as Art. It also raises some very interesting questions about our expectations of what marriage is and what it is for and what art is.
If you have not read the story its worth reading the article in their local paper over at Worcester News. There is also a video in which they are interviewed.
Perhaps I need to explain a couple of ideas for people to understand what I am trying to get at. First, I think an important aspect of art is to reflect back to us who, what and how we *are*. That is aside from the medium in which the art form is produced, shown, looked at or experienced. But at the very base level art is a deliberate act of somebody and perhaps also something that needs to be found within a relationship (the artist and her audience) though some might say it doesn’t *need* the relationship, since its enough that the artist has created for his own joy. While I would agree that in some instances this is absolutely true and good, life would be unenviable empty if artists did not share their work with an audience. But for the sake of this post let’s keep the idea that art can talk to us and ask questions of us at the forefront of our mind. Above all, we should remember that we do not need to feel threatened by questions.
Second, for the sake of clarity I think we need to talk about marriage. Social conservatives see marriage as something that a committed couple do in order to start a family. The act of marriage is a communal act, inasmuch as it happens before the community to which the couple belong, and it is an act that happens before God in which the couple make vows to each other, but also before God. Usually, love is a significant reason for marriage, and in this sense I am talking about the romantic attraction (you might not know this but there area lots of types of love). In history love has not been the only or even primary reason, and I dare say to this day, not all marriage is about romantic love. Furthermore, in the Christian tradition (in theory at least) sex happens after marriage. Moreover, it is the sexual act itself that has historically made the marriage official, though that is an anachronism that does not generally come into play for the sake of divorce.
So how do the above issues relate to what Nora and Paul did? What I am going to do now is ask a number of questions, which the couple have raised in my mind by getting married. I am not going to answer them. But raising them shows that what they did has merit (of some sort) because it challenges us to think about marriage outside of “romantic love,” a lesson very much worth learning.
What does it mean for a gay man to wed a straight woman? Isn’t that precisely what some people in the “reparative therapy” enclave believe should happen? Or put another way, isn’t it strange to critique their act, when they are following Gods “creation ordinances” despite the fact that he is gay?
Does marriage require in some way for the couple to *want* to have children? Or put another way, does our focus on building family obscure the other reasons why people get married?
At this point I think it’s interesting to mention that the couple saw their marriage as an expression of a love which was “trusting more than loving in a sexual way”.
So then. Do married couples *have* to express their love through sex?
Furthermore, the couple also said that they hope they will never get divorced. “As an Art Duo this was about making a foundation to create art” which raises another question. Leaving aside the question as to whether they should have married in the first place, what do you do with the commendable articulation that they want to stay together? What do you say to that now that they are married?
These questions are just scratching the surface only addressing the very basic questions about marriage. Just for a taster: What does the act of marrying for art mean for their relationship in terms of how they treat their bodies? Are the objects to each other? and how would that view relate to our understanding of submitting to each other through physically?
Finally, lets not forget that we do not know if either of the couples have a faith and perhaps more importantly to a moralist like Stephen Green, whether they are celibate outside of their marriage.
I think the answers to these questions can be answered in an affirming way while at the same time taking a socially conservative Christian perspective. We can learn from this artwork and affirm marriage and its important role in society against those that would like to water down its importance because of their hell bent desire for utter secularisation. Christians would do well to stop before we condemn something that in the first instance looks like an affront to our Christian heritage and values. Remember evil is parasitic to the good. Let’s look more for the good and affirm it.