Martin Luther was a champion of freedom — freedom of thought, and freedom for Christians to read and interpret scripture as they chose — without being told what to believe by churchly authorities. Faith, according to Luther, was a personal thing, a matter to be resolved between the individual and his/her God.

Faith, by his definition is a matter of belief untrammeled by rational thought and analysis. It is the province of the spirit, a matter of the heart, not the intellect; of the emotions, not rational analysis.

Indeed, one of the most pointless exercises known to humankind is the debating of matters of faith in terms of right and wrong.

All of which leads me to the current pre-occupation in North America (and more specifically, in the Anglican Church I attend) over the question of same-sex marriages.

There are really two questions here: one has to do with the authority of the civil society; the other is a question of religious conviction, teaching and belief.

I spent some time recently at a national conference featuring some 20 locations across the country tied together by inter-active television. The event had been promoted the week before, and I somehow got the notion it would be a sort of debate between the pros and the antis.

That it was not. It was instead, a national pep rally for those of the Anglican persuasion unalterably opposed to same-sex marriage. These good Anglicans are fearful that the debate over the acceptance of practicing homosexuals to the priesthood or the marriage sacraments of the church will create the greatest schism the Anglican Church has ever known.

The pamphlet said: “We wish to invite you to actively stand with us — as we ourselves stand with the historic Christian Church under the authority of Holy Scripture, within the worldwide fellowship of the worldwide Anglican Communion.” The sponsors of the video conference maintain they are the “rallying point for historic Christian orthodoxy …”

There is no debate; there is only scriptural certainty as to the sinfulness of the practice of sex between homosexuals.

There is, or used to be, an air of sinfulness about the practice of sex outside marriage between heterosexuals (or in the case of lonely but horny individuals, sex with themselves), but heterosexuals can relieve their sexual tensions by getting married.

Which homosexuals cannot, because they are forbidden to do so by somebody’s interpretation of scripture.

During the telecast we were introduced to a panel who would answer questions. Amongst the panel was a woman introduced as a “former lesbian” who had gone straight, got married, become a priest and had two children. A male panelist introduced himself as a homosexual (“still attracted to men”), who denied himself participation in homosexual sex.

From this I took it that it’s okay to be a homosexual, presumably because God creates homosexuals as well as heterosexuals, so long as you don’t behave in a homosexual sexual way.

Now, I wonder about that. I mean, why would God go to all the trouble of creating homosexual peopleand tell us that’s okay, as long as they don’t follow the sexual predilection God also created for them in their homosexuality?

Reason tells me that doesn’t quite add up. But faith could have me believe God created homosexuals, but homosexuality is the work of the Devil, especially if irrational fear is driving my belief.

You can see I’m greatly confused about all this when people start arguing scriptural interpretation to me to support the banning of same-sex marriages.

See…I’m likely to ask: Why would God allow heterosexuals to find sexual release in marriage, for fun as well as procreation, but not homosexuals? Why would he insist they deny their sexuality all their lives?

Why would God not be more impressed by the love and compassion in the unity of two beings in the commitment of marriage, regardless of their sexual conformation?

Answers can only come from belief. But belief based on fear is a destructive force, a negative force.

I watched a Town Forum Debate on one of the Boston TV channels brought to me by my satellite to see if there were any answers for me there. The debaters harrowed all the same ground, but a funny thing happened as the telecast wound down.

One of the questions asked several times by gay participants was this: “How is my marriage to someone I love for the purpose of making that commitment and creating a family going to hurt any other individual?”

And another: “How is denying me and my partner my civil rights going to make your life any better.”

There never was a satisfactory answer. There was only faith in the wrongness of same-sex marriage. That and the unspoken fear behind that faith.

It seemed to me there was far more love, compassion and goodness in those advancing the cause of same-sex marriage, than in those trying to put a stop to the practice in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.