The Christian case for gay marriage: The Smackdown

The Christian case for gay marriage: The Smackdown May 22, 2012

So a certain Mr. Osler wrote a wonderful piece for CNN entitled My Take: The Christian case for gay marriage. I take mild issue with it. Just to warn ye secular-fantastics, I know the Bible’s all ridiculous and sexist and fake and even if it’s not it’s old and has stuff like violence in it so why bother a discussion about it plus there’s no God. However, this is a conversation that makes the [idiotic] assumption that Sacred Scripture is sacred. So do bear with me.

Mr. Osler, then:

I am a Christian, and I am in favor of gay marriage. The reason I am for gay marriage is because of my faith.

Cool. The reason I’m opposed to it is because marriage is about love. So we did a little role-reversal there.

What I see in the Bible’s accounts of Jesus and his followers is an insistence that we don’t have the moral authority to deny others the blessing of holy institutions like baptism, communion, and marriage. God, through the Holy Spirit, infuses those moments with life, and it is not ours to either give or deny to others.

Do prove.

A clear instruction on this comes from Simon Peter, the “rock” on whom the church is built. Peter is a captivating figure in the Christian story.

He’s a Pope too!

Jesus plucks him out of a fishing boat to become a disciple, and time and again he represents us all in learning at the feet of Christ.

During their time together, Peter is often naïve and clueless – he is a follower, constantly learning.

…to be the Pope.

After Jesus is crucified, though, a different Peter emerges, one who is forceful and bold.

…and a Pope.

This is the Peter we see in the Acts of the Apostles, during a fevered debate over whether or not Gentiles should be baptized. Peter was harshly criticized for even eating a meal with those who were uncircumcised; that is, those who did not follow the commands of the Old Testament.

Peter, though, is strong in confronting those who would deny the sacrament of baptism to the Gentiles, and argues for an acceptance of believers who do not follow the circumcision rules of Leviticus (which is also where we find a condemnation of homosexuality).

Alright Mr. Olser, I’m going to let you roll with that insinuation, that because Christians no longer have to be circumcised, they no longer have to believe homosexuality is wrong. But if you bring it up again, I swear…

His challenge is stark and stunning: Before ordering that the Gentiles be baptized Peter asks “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”

Time out. Mr. Osler, my dear man, sir, fellow, elder — allow me to note a few things.

You are arguing that because Peter could not withhold baptism from anyone who desires it, we cannot withhold marriage from anyone who desires it. Right? Two problems here:

Peter would surely not have denied baptism to any one who asked for it. However, I’m quite confident he would have denied baptism to any one who said, “I would like to be baptized. By this I mean I would like to get a spray tan and become an expert at sodoku.” Why? Because the issue here isn’t whether or not to give the man baptism, the issue is that what the man wants isn’t baptism at all.

In the same way, the reason the Church doesn’t grant gay marriages is not because gays are somehow worse sinners than others and therefore not eligible. The reason is simply that they don’t want marriage at all, for marriage is a covenant between man and woman. This is made very starkly and stunningly clear, not in the Old Testament — which you seem remarkably able to ignore — but in the New:

“But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife…” (Mark 10:6).

Because God create male and female, a man seeks union with a wife. So to ask for a gay marriage — at least to a man living during the time of Peter — would have been like asking for a spray-tan baptism.

But even then, asking for a gay mariage is in no way comparable to asking for Baptism.

Baptism is a sacrament of initiation. It is the sacrament by which one enters the Church. Because the Church — the Body of Christ — contains the fullness of Truth, anyone entering from from outside of the Church is necessarily in some degree of falsehood. Marriage is not a sacrament of initiation. It is a sacrament given to those already in the Church, those already inside that fullness of Truth. So your argument is essentially that, because Peter baptized those in falsehood into the Truth, those already in the Truth should be allowed to live out a falsehood.

I find this self-evidently whack, a little like saying, “Hey, we let these folks become members of the cool hats society, despite their not wearing cool hats when they joined. How then, can we deny people in the cool hats society their ardent desire to call their socks their hats?”

None of us, Peter says, has the moral authority to deny baptism to those who seek it, even if they do not follow the ancient laws.

Sorry, you brought it up again. Hate to be a buzzkill, but the condemnation of homosexual acts is not confined to the “ancient laws.” Here:

“In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another” (Romans 1:27).

“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

If you’re going to use the Bible you’ve got to read the whole thing.

It is the flooding love of the Holy Spirit, which fell over that entire crowd, sinners and saints alike, that directs otherwise.

It is not our place, it seems, to sort out who should be denied a bond with God and the Holy Spirit of the kind that we find through baptism, communion, and marriage. The water will flow where it will.

That same passage where Jesus Christ tells Peter he’s a rock? Yeah, the awkward thing is the next part: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19).

It seems that Christ is in disagreement with you. If he’s giving Peter the power to “bind” and “loose” Heaven, it then the heavenly waters aren’t flowing where they will. (This is no limit on God, of course, for Heaven has chosen to work through the Body of Christ, which is the Church, built on Peter.)

Christ literally, specifically said that it is up to the Church — acting as the Body of Christ — to “sort out who should be denied a bond with God and the Holy Spirit.” Ready?

Christ, speaking to his apostles: “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld” (John 20:23). The forgiveness of sins — a bond between God and man if there ever was one — is not a thing flowing over us. It is a thing decided by the Church. Now don’t get me wrong, I wish it were otherwise. If every time I sinned I just got caught up in the flow of forgiveness, I’m sure life would be brighter and more fun and more sinful. But this is Christ speaking, and we are no Christians who would ignore him.


Intriguingly, this rule will apply whether we see homosexuality as a sin or not.

Intriguingly? Awkwardly, perhaps, for sin is defined as the rejection of God. You, Mr. Osler, define the “blessings of holy institutions” as when “God, through the Holy Spirit, infuses those moments with life.” God cannot be present in actions which reject him. Principle of non-contradiction. It totally matters whether we see homosexual actions as sins or not.

The water is for all of us. We see the same thing at the Last Supper, as Jesus gives the bread and wine to all who are there—even to Peter, who Jesus said would deny him, and to Judas, who would betray him.

Again, this is not a question of whether homosexuals are just too darn sinful to be married. This is a question of whether Baptisms are spray-tans. This is a question of whether marriage is just a union of people, or whether, as Christ notes, it is because God made us male and female that we leave our mothers and fathers and seek marital union. That Judas received communion is of interest to liturgists, but of no use here.

The question before us now is not whether homosexuality is a sin, but whether being gay should be a bar to baptism or communion or marriage.

It’s not a bar to any of these things. No one advocates denying baptism to men with same sex attraction. No one advocates denying communion to men with same-sex attraction. No one is advocating denying holy matrimony to men with same sex attraction — matrimony is simply defined as a sacrament which unifies man and woman. No one’s being denied anything.

The answer is in the Bible. Peter and Jesus offer a strikingly inclusive form of love and engagement. They hold out the symbols of Gods’ love to all. How arrogant that we think it is ours to parse out stingily!

I worship at St. Stephens, an Episcopal church in Edina, Minnesota.

Ah, well there’s your problem right there.

There is a river that flows around the back and side of that church with a delightful name: Minnehaha Creek. That is where we do baptisms.

Oh, word?

The Rector stands in the creek in his robes, the cool water coursing by his feet, and takes an infant into his arms and baptizes her with that same cool water. The congregation sits on the grassy bank and watches, a gentle army.

At the bottom of the creek, in exactly that spot, is a floor of smooth pebbles. The water rushing by has rubbed off the rough edges, bit by bit, day by day. The pebbles have been transformed by that water into something new.

Mr. Osler, cases for sacramental redefinition are not made by pebbles, as beautiful as this may be.

I suppose that, as Peter put it, someone could try to withhold the waters of baptism there. They could try to stop the river, to keep the water from some of the stones, like a child in the gutter building a barrier against the stream.

It won’t last, though. I would say this to those who would withhold the water of baptism, the joy of worship, or the bonds of marriage: You are less strong than the water, which will flow around you, find its path, and gently erode each wall you try to erect.

The redeeming power of that creek, and of the Holy Spirit, is relentless, making us all into something better and new.

But then what’s the point of a Church at all? If the Church doesn’t have the ability to deny any of the sacraments to any one for any reason, surely she doesn’t have the power to administer them? She is made merely an onlooker to the actions of God. And if the Church is a mere abstraction that watches as the “waters do what they will”, what on Earth was Christ talking about when he told Peter “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on Earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven”? Your argument is one that says: “Whatever we bind on Earth won’t matter, for Heaven has nothing to do with us.” Mr. Osler, I’m sure you think you’ve made a good biblical argument for same-sex marriage. As it turns out, you’ve made a bad argument for the total dissolution of the Episcopal Church.

Christ is not a man to be made light of. As much as we want him to fit our current political beliefs, and our popular philosophies, he keeps on being a man we are either with or against. He gives the Church the power to bind and loose, to forgive and retain.We either believe this or we don’t.

Yours truly.

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