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My Take: The Christian case for gay marriage
The author backs same-sex marriage because of his faith, not in spite of it.
May 19th, 2012
02:00 AM ET

My Take: The Christian case for gay marriage

Editor's Note: Mark Osler is a Professor of Law at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

By Mark Osler, Special to CNN

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

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.

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. 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.

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

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

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).

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?”

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

My Take: Bible doesn’t condemn homosexuality

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.

Intriguingly, this rule will apply whether we see homosexuality as a sin 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.

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.

Your Take: Rethinking the Bible on homosexuality

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. 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.

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.

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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.

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.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Mark Osler.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Episcopal • Gay marriage • Opinion

soundoff (15,115 Responses)

  1. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_TBd-UCwVAY&w=640&h=390]

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    December 21, 2012 at 2:41 am |

  2. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FSQQK2Vuf9Q&w=640&h=390]

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    December 21, 2012 at 2:40 am |

  3. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ug3YkVhkemg&w=640&h=390]

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    December 21, 2012 at 2:38 am |

  4. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-iKqr230U9M&w=640&h=390]

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    December 21, 2012 at 2:37 am |

  5. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PCLF2ji0rZI&w=640&h=390]

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    December 21, 2012 at 2:36 am |

  6. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZU-HQ_c8bg&w=640&h=390]

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    December 21, 2012 at 2:35 am |

  7. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I2waZOYD0-A&w=640&h=390]

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    December 21, 2012 at 2:34 am |

  8. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2xxpd3Ye0zA&w=640&h=390]

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    December 21, 2012 at 2:33 am |
  9. Bob

    2Pe 2:1 There will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.
    2Pe 2:2 Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned;
    2Pe 2:3 and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.
    2Pe 2:4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment;
    2Pe 2:5 and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly;
    2Pe 2:6 and if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter;
    2Pe 2:7 and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men

    December 20, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
  10. Bob

    The huge amount of change in s@x orientation is one of the clearest evidences that h0m0 is not hard-wired by genes or anything in the bio environment.Large studies now show that For adults About half of those with exclusive SSA move towards hetero over a lifetime. Put another way, 3% of the practicing hetero population both men and women claim to have once been either bi or h0m0 These changes are not ther-a-peut-ically induced, some very quickly. Most changes in or-ien-ta-tion are towards exclusive hetero. Numbers of people who have changed towards exclusive OSA are greater than current numbers of bis and exclusive SSA is same-s@x attraction; OSA opposite s@x attraction.SSA people combined. In other words, Ex-gays outnumber actual gays. Exclusive OSA is 17 times as stable as exclusive SSA for men,and 30 times as stable as exclusive SSA for women. Women move about more in their orientation than men.

    December 20, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
  11. Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

    I'm posting this again because Blob the Closet Queen has failed to answer the question I asked.

    The Blob says:"The facts are that gays who want to get married are less than 1/4 of 1 percent of society."

    So what's your problem? How is a minuscule number of gays who want to get married going to affect you or anyone else? You still haven't answered. And you still haven't shown how it's affecting anyone in states where it's already legal.

    Funny how often Blob mentions Castro. You know, I've been to San Francisco many, many times. I have never visited the Castro District. Never had much interest in it. But apparently, the Blob frequents the place. Why would someone who hates gays go to an area of a city that's known for being popular with gays? Especially since there's so much else to see and do in S.F.

    Come on, Blob Queen, can you cite a single negative effect of gay marriage in any state or nation where it's already legal?

    Apparently you can't. All you can do is post irrelevant nonsense and bible verses.

    You gotta wonder. How could Blob be this fixated on gay marriage unless he himself were gay?

    December 20, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
  12. Bob

    If you’re going to argue that human s@x behavior is dictated, or influenced, by genes in any way, then many genes are involved. But the “many genes” hypothesis doesn’t explain h0m0 either because as we’ll see, it changes too fast from generation to generation

    December 20, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
  13. Bob

    Researcher finds gay gene” was the way the media headlined the news of American geneticist Dean Hamer’s claim to have found a
    link between genetics and h0m0 But that’s not what Dean Hamer was claiming, at least publicly. Hamer said: “We have not found the gene which we don’t think exists for s@x orientation.”2 Hamer knew that any attempt to argue the existence of a “h0m0 gene a single, apparently
    autocratic, gene governing h0m0 is nonsense, genetically. There is no single gene governing s@x preference or any other preference. There is no gene for smoking, dancing, or making sarcastic remarks.

    December 20, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
  14. Bob

    Ronald Bsyer a researcher for the Hastings Center for Ethics in NY said this about the current status of the DSM in regards to H0m0 and the lack of research into the causes.He summarized the entire process, The APA had fallen victim to the disorder of a tumultuous era when the disruptive elements threatened to politicize every aspect of American social life. A furious egalitarianism compelled phyc experts to negotiate the pathological status of h0m0 with the gays themselves.

    December 20, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
  15. Brent

    " the US that I would consider a disease which is the loosing of moral guidelines"

    Religion-based bigotry use religious teachings to justify discrimination against Native Americans, African Americans, minority religious groups, woman and interracial couples.

    Connecting the dots between historical bigotry against other groups and the attitudes of some people today toward homosexuality is one of the most effective ways to educate people about the denial of equal rights to the LGBT community.

    Most people know that, historically, religion has been used to justify discrimination against women, religious minorities and people of color. Putting anti-gay religious beliefs in this historical context can be a powerful tool in connecting discrimination that most Americans today accept as morally wrong and the discrimination faced by LGBT people. By citing historical instances of religion-based bigotry and prejudice, you allow people to be more comfortable with attitudinal change – they realize they are not stepping out alone against a commonly accepted viewpoint but rather following historical progress toward justice and equality.

    When talking about the misuse of religion to justify discrimination in the past, it is important not to say that the LGBT community’s struggle with discrimination is exactly the same as the Civil Rights Movement. Rather, the point is that religion-based bigotry has been a common denominator of injustice toward many groups in American society’s past. When given a chance, many people will see the underlying historical pattern of using religious teachings and beliefs to justify harmful discrimination.

    There is another benefit to citing other times in the past when religious teachings have been used to justify discrimination. Many times, when people of faith are challenged about their anti-gay views, they cite biblical verses or other religious texts as a safe haven when they are unable to articulate why they hold prejudiced attitudes toward LGBT people. Instead of telling people that their interpretation is wrong, you can remind them that other religious texts have been used in the past to justify attitudes and laws that are recognized today as morally wrong and unjust – such as discrimination against women, people of color and religious minorities.

    History provides the moral judgment, and we do not have to be theologians engaged in scriptural debates to point people to the judgment rendered by history.

    December 20, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
  16. Erik

    "H0m0 is in no way natural unless you want to say cancer or a disease is normal"

    Being gay is not a choice science, in fact, is actually not in dispute on this matter.

    All major medical professional organizations concur that sexual orientation is not a choice and cannot be changed, from gay to straight or otherwise. The American, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, and European Psychological, Psychiatric, and Medical Associations all agree with this, as does the World Health Organization and the medical organizations of Japan, China, and most recently, Thailand. Furthermore, attempts to change one's sexual orientation can be psychologically damaging, and cause great inner turmoil and depression, especially for Christian gays and lesbians.

    Reparative therapy, also called conversion therapy or reorientation therapy, "counsels" LGBT persons to pray fervently and study Bible verses, often utilizing 12-step techniques that are used to treat sexual addictions or trauma. Such Christian councilors are pathologizing homosexuality, which is not a pathology but is a sexual orientation. Psychologically, that's very dangerous territory to tread on. All of the above-mentioned medical professional organizations, in addition to the American and European Counseling Associations, stand strongly opposed to any form of reparative therapy.

    In my home country, Norway, reparative therapy is officially considered to be ethical malpractice. But there are many countries that do not regulate the practice, and many others that remain largely silent and even passively supportive of it (such as the Philippines). Groups that operate such "therapy" in the Philippines are the Evangelical Bagong Pag-asa, and the Catholic Courage Philippines.

    The scientific evidence of the innateness of homosexuality, bisexuality, and transgenderism is overwhelming, and more peer-reviewed studies which bolster this fact are being added all the time. Science has long regarded sexual orientation – and that's all sexual orientations, including heterosexuality – as a phenotype. Simply put, a phenotype is an observable set of properties that varies among individuals and is deeply rooted in biology. For the scientific community, the role of genetics in sexuality is about as "disputable" as the role of evolution in biology.

    On the second point, that there is no conclusion that there is a "gay gene," they are right. No so-called gay gene has been found, and it's highly unlikely that one ever will. This is where conservative Christians and Muslims quickly say "See, I told you so! There's no gay gene, so being gay is a choice!"

    Take this interesting paragraph I found on an Evangelical website: "The attempt to prove that homosexuality is determined biologically has been dealt a knockout punch. An American Psychological Association publication includes an admission that there's no homosexual "gene" – meaning it's not likely that homosexuals are 'born that way.'"

    But that's not at all what it means, and it seems Evangelicals are plucking out stand-alone phrases from scientific reports and removing them from their context. This is known in academia as the fallacy of suppressed evidence. Interestingly, this is also what they have a habit of doing with verses from the Bible.

    This idea of sexuality being a choice is such a bizarre notion to me as a man of science. Many of these reparative "therapists" are basing this concept on a random Bible verse or two. When you hold those up against the mountain of scientific research that has been conducted, peer-reviewed, and then peer-reviewed again, it absolutely holds no water. A person's sexuality – whether heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual – is a very deep biological piece of who that person is as an individual.

    The fact that a so-called "gay gene" has not been discovered does not mean that homosexuality is not genetic in its causation. This is understandably something that can seem a bit strange to those who have not been educated in fields of science and advanced biology, and it is also why people who are not scientists ought not try to explain the processes in simple black-and-white terms. There is no gay gene, but there is also no "height gene" or "skin tone gene" or "left-handed gene." These, like sexuality, have a heritable aspect, but no one dominant gene is responsible for them.

    Many genes, working in sync, contribute to the phenotype and therefore do have a role in sexual orientation. In many animal model systems, for example, the precise genes involved in sexual partner selection have been identified, and their neuro-biochemical pathways have been worked out in great detail. A great number of these mechanisms have been preserved evolutionarily in humans, just as they are for every other behavioral trait we know (including heterosexuality).

    Furthermore, there are many biologic traits which are not specifically genetic but are biologic nonetheless. These traits are rooted in hormonal influences, contributed especially during the early stages of fetal development. This too is indisputable and based on extensive peer-reviewed research the world over. Such prenatal hormonal influences are not genetic per se, but are inborn, natural, and biologic nevertheless.

    Having said that, in the realm of legal rights, partnership rights, and anti-discrimination protections, the gay gene vs. choice debate is actually quite irrelevant. Whether or not something is a choice is not a suitable criterion for whether someone should have equal rights and protections. Religion is indisputably a choice, but that fact is a not a valid argument for discriminating against a particular religion.

    December 20, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
  17. Bob

    I thought about the condition of my soul today and I thought to myself it really is in a terrible mess. Who can I get to help clean it up and get things in order as I thought I said let me reach out to the religions and see who responds so as I called Buddha and Mohammed and confusis no one answered the only thing I could do was look at what they had written. Oh there was so much to read with so many books but no one appeared. so I asked again who can help well I heard this voice oh it was so strong and promised me great things so I asked the question who are you Satan he said. is it true that you rule hell he said yes but I can also give you the kingdoms of the world if you will serve me. Something didn’t feel right so I probed a little more and asked him what happens when I die, he said you will be with me in hell. What’s it like he said its great we get to rule over all these people and inflict all kinds of pain on them and its really hot so you always be warm. I thought and another voice answered this voice was different it was soft yet commanding assuring and seemed so loving. I said who are you, Jesus, He replied why haven’t I heard from you sooner. he said My child I was there the day you were born, I stopped you from running out in front of that car when you were 3 I was always with you watching over you. I have never stopped being with you even in the time that you went to jail. I love you and have always loved you you were made in my image and I want to help you. I want to walk this life with you and can by my blood make you whole and forgive you of all your sins. That sounds great I said but what’s the cost? I have already paid the price and this is a gift. What’s the catch there is none, if you don’t want to like salvation you can walk away. Why would you do that, I asked, because I knew you and formed you in your mothers womb I have great plans for you that you can only achieve with me walking with you. Why didn’t I hear from anyone but you and Satan because my child they are not living. I have conquered the grave and death it has no hold on me and no one that walks with me. This is part of the gift. I asked, What happens if I get in trouble He said I will warn you and send my angles to protect you. You and the Holy
    Spirit will become great friends and share some real good times together. Will you always be with me? I asked, Yes I will till the end of your life and beyond. How do I do this? Just invite me in.

    December 20, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
    • ^ this troll is a psycho ^

      December 20, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
    • myweightinwords

      If you're claiming actual conversation with actual beings that called themselves Satan and Jesus, you might want to consider seeing a psychiatrist. That sounds a good deal like you're having a mental break.

      Aside from that, and the usual lacking grasp of the English language, grammar and punctuation most notably, your "story" is a regurgitation of Christian apologetics. *yawn*

      December 20, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • Bob

      1Co 2:12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God,
      1Co 2:13 which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.
      1Co 2:14 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.
      1Co 2:15 But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one.
      1Co 2:16 For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE WILL INSTRUCT HIM? But we have the mind of Christ.

      December 20, 2012 at 9:36 pm |
    • Bob

      Joh 3:3 Jesus answered and said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God."
      Joh 3:4 Nicodemus *said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born, can he?"
      Joh 3:5 Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
      Joh 3:6 "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
      Joh 3:7 "Do not be amazed that I said to you, 'You must be born again.'
      Joh 3:8 "The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit."

      December 20, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
  18. Bob

    H0m0 is in no way natural unless you want to say cancer or a disease is normal and natural, they happen but its not natural at all. Normal is what the major percentage is not the small percentage. While I use a disease as a example seems to be harsh it is a life style that will usher in a liberation and change in the US that I would consider a disease which is the loosing of moral guidelines

    December 20, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • Really??

      Your assertion is incorrect. To say being gay is not normal would be more accurate, that is to say that most people are not gay. But it is a normal state that is natural for the gay individual, so is is not abnormal. it is not normal but it is natural, and it is normal for those individual. Its like saying it is not normal to have green eyes. it is not abnormal, but it is not the most common eye color, so it is not normal in that short sighted sense.

      December 20, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • myweightinwords

      As has been explained to you before, Bob, your definition of "normal" is skewed. As is your understanding of "natural". Most diseases are natural. Being straight is natural. Being gay is natural. Having blonde hair is natural (unless your blonde comes from a bottle).

      The majority of people identify as straight, you are correct with that statement (I won't go into how many of that percentage are actually Bi and don't realize it). However, the percentage of gay people seems to remain relatively constant, making it a standard deviation from the median, meaning that it's normal.

      December 20, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
  19. YeahRight

    "They violate the law of God when they cannot populate the earth and if God is holy and counts them one then how does a Holy God consider 2 people of the same gender copulating???"

    The hundreds of thousands of experts in this country have proven being gay is natural and normal. They have stated that heterosexual behavior and homosexual behavior are normal aspects of human sexuality. Despite the persistence of stereotypes that portray lesbian, gay, and bisexual people as disturbed, several decades of research and clinical experience have led all mainstream medical and mental health organizations in this country to conclude that these orientations represent normal forms of human experience. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American School Counselor Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Association of SocialWorkers, together representing more than 480,000 mental health professionals, have all taken the position that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and thus is not something that needs to or can be “cured."

    Like their heterosexual counterparts, many gay and lesbian people want to form stable, long-lasting, committed relationships. Indeed, many of them do and that large proportions are currently involved in such a relationship and that a substantial number of those couples have been together 10 or more years.

    Research demonstrates that the psychological and social aspects of committed relationships between same-sex partners closely resemble those of heterosexual partnerships. Like heterosexual couples, same-sex couples form deep emotional attachments and commitments. Heterosexual and same-sex couples alike face similar issues concerning intimacy, love, equity, loyalty, and stability, and they go through similar processes to address those issues. Research examining the quality of intimate relationships also shows that gay and lesbian couples have levels of relationship satisfaction similar to or higher than those of heterosexual couples.

    A large number of gay and lesbian couples raise children. Children and teenagers whose parents provide loving guidance in the context of secure home environments are more likely to flourish – and this is just as true for children of same-sex parents as it is for children of opposite-sex parents. Based on research findings, mental health professionals have also reached a consensus that the quality of relationships among significant adults in a child’s or adolescent’s life is associated with adjustment. When relationships between parents are characterized by love, warmth, cooperation, security, and mutual support, children and adolescents are more likely to show positive adjustment. In contrast, when relationships between parents are conflict-ridden and acrimonious, the adjustment of children and adolescents is likely to be less favorable. These correlations are just as true for children of same-sex parents as for children of opposite-sex parents.

    Assertions that heterosexual couples are inherently better parents than same sex couples, or that the children of lesbian or gay parents fare worse than children of heterosexual parents, have no support in the scientific research literature. On the contrary, the scientific research that has directly compared outcomes for children with gay and lesbian parents with outcomes for children with heterosexual parents has consistently shown that the former are as fit and capable as the latter and that their children are as psychologically healthy and well adjusted as children reared by heterosexual parents.

    December 20, 2012 at 10:29 am |
  20. Don

    "They violate the law of God "

    The most beautiful word in the Gospel of Jesus Christ is "whosoever." All of God's promises are intended for every human being. This includes gay men and lesbians. How tragic it is that the Christian Church has excluded and persecuted people who are homosexual! We are all created with powerful needs for personal relationships. Our quality of life depends upon the love we share with others; whether family or friends, partners or peers. Yet, lesbians and gay men facing hostile attitudes in society often are denied access to healthy relationships. Jesus Christ calls us to find ultimate meaning in life through a personal relationship with our Creator. This important spiritual union can bring healing and strength to all of our human relationships

    Biblical Interpretation and Theology also change from time to time. Approximately 150 years ago in the United States, some Christian teaching held that there was a two-fold moral order: black and white. Whites were thought to be superior to blacks, therefore blacks were to be subservient and slavery was an institution ordained by God. Clergy who supported such an abhorrent idea claimed the authority of the Bible. The conflict over slavery led to divisions which gave birth to some major Christian denominations. These same denominations, of course, do not support slavery today. Did the Bible change? No, their interpretation of the Bible did!

    Genesis 19:1-25

    Some "televangelists" carelessly proclaim that God destroyed the ancient cities of Sodom and Gomorrah because of "homosexuality." Although some theologians have equated the sin of Sodom with homosexuality, a careful look at Scripture corrects such ignorance. Announcing judgment on these cities in Genesis 18, God sends two angels to Sodom, where Abraham's nephew, Lot, persuades them to stay in his home. Genesis 19 records that "all the people from every quarter" surround Lot's house demanding the release of his visitors so "we might know them." The Hebrew word for "know" in this case, yadha, usually means "have thorough knowledge of." It could also express intent to examine the visitors' credentials, or on rare occasions the term implies sexual intercourse. If the latter was the author's intended meaning, it would have been a clear case of attempted gang rape. Several observations are important.

    First, the judgment on these cities for their wickedness had been announced prior to the alleged homosexual incident. Second, all of Sodom's people participated in the assault on Lot's house; in no culture has more than a small minority of the population been homosexual. Third, Lot's offer to release his daughters suggests he knew his neighbors to have heterosexual interests. Fourth, if the issue was sexual, why did God spare Lot, who immediately commits incest with his daughters? Most importantly, why do all the other passages of Scripture referring to this account fail to raise the issue of homosexuality?

    Romans 1:24-27

    Most New Testament books, including the four Gospels, are silent on same-sex acts, and Paul is the only author who makes any reference to the subject. The most negative statement by Paul regarding same-sex acts occurs in Romans 1:24-27 where, in the context of a larger argument on the need of all people for the gospel of Jesus Christ, certain homosexual behavior is given as an example of the "uncleanness" of idolatrous Gentiles.

    This raises the question: Does this passage refer to all homosexual acts, or to certain homosexual behavior known to Paul's readers? The book of Romans was written to Jewish and Gentile Christians in Rome, who would have been familiar with the infamous sexual excesses of their contemporaries, especially Roman emperors. They would also have been aware of tensions in the early Church regarding Gentiles and observance of the Jewish laws, as noted in Acts 15 and Paul's letter to the Galatians. Jewish laws in Leviticus mentioned male same-sex acts in the context of idolatry.

    The homosexual practices cited in Romans 1:24-27 were believed to result from idolatry and are associated with some very serious offenses as noted in Romans 1. Taken in this larger context, it should be obvious that such acts are significantly different from loving, responsible lesbian and gay relationships seen today.

    What is "Natural"?

    Significant to Paul's discussion is the fact that these "unclean" Gentiles exchanged that which was "natural" for them, physin, in the Greek text, for something "unnatural," para physin. In Romans 11:24, God acts in an "unnatural" way, para physin, to accept the Gentiles. "Unnatural" in these passages does not refer to violation of so-called laws of nature, but rather implies action contradicting one's own nature. In view of this, we should observe that it is "unnatural," para physin, for a person today with a lesbian or gay sexual orientation to attempt living a heterosexual lifestyle.

    I Corinthians 6:9

    Any consideration of New Testament statements on same-sex acts must carefully view the social context of the Greco-Roman culture in which Paul ministered. Prostitution and pederasty (sexual relationships of adult men with boys) were the most commonly known male same-sex acts. In I Corinthians 6:9, Paul condemns those who are "effeminate" and "abusers of themselves with mankind," as translated in the King James version. Unfortunately, some new translations are worse, rendering these words "homosexuals." Recent scholarship unmasks the homophobia behind such mistranslations.

    The first word – malakos, in the Greek text-which has been translated "effeminate" or "soft," most likely refers to someone who lacks discipline or moral control. The word is used elsewhere in the New Testament but never with reference to sexuality.

    The second word, Arsenokoitai, occurs once each in I Corinthians and I Timothy (1:10), but nowhere else in other literature of the period. It is derived from two Greek words, one meaning, "males" and the other "beds", a euphemism for sexual intercourse. Other Greek words were commonly used to describe homosexual behavior but do not appear here. The larger context of I Corinthians 6 shows Paul extremely concerned with prostitution, so it is very possible he was referring to male prostitutes. But many experts now attempting to translate these words have reached a simple conclusion: their precise meaning is uncertain. Scripture Study Conclusion…No Law Against Love

    The rarity with which Paul discusses any form of same-sex behavior and the ambiguity in references attributed to him make it extremely unsound to conclude any sure position in the New Testament on homosexuality, especially in the context of loving, responsible relationships. Since any arguments must be made from silence, it is much more reliable to turn to great principles of the Gospel taught by Jesus Christ and the Apostles. Love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself. Do not judge others, lest you be judged. The fruit of the Holy Spirit is love . . . against such there is no law. One thing is abundantly clear, as Paul stated in Galatians 5:14: "...the whole Law is fulfilled in one statement, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself".

    December 20, 2012 at 10:27 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.