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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.

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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 • My Take • Opinion

soundoff (15,115 Responses)
  1. necrom23

    Finally.. a Christian who knows what it means to be a Christian. God bless you sir and your congregation. Surely you have pleased the Lord in spirit at least. And, like with David, it's the heart of men that the Lord looks to for celebration.

    May 19, 2012 at 8:57 am |
    • not again

      Good reference to David, do you believe the rest of the bile?

      May 19, 2012 at 9:16 am |
  2. david carnes

    "Democracy is not freedom. Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to eat for lunch. Freedom comes from the recognition of certain rights which may not be taken, not even by a 99% vote. (James Bovard) Issuing marriage certifcates is the government's business, not the church's business. Guaranteeing civil right is the government's business,, not the church's business. Believe what you will, but don't try to have the government enforce your beliefs on me.

    May 19, 2012 at 8:56 am |
    • JWT

      Beautifully said.

      May 19, 2012 at 9:07 am |
    • Steve K

      Supporting civil rights is not the churches business? Really?

      May 19, 2012 at 9:10 am |
    • JWT

      Some churches support human rights – some churches deny human rights and life goes on.

      May 19, 2012 at 9:13 am |
    • Rick

      Apparently not in all cases, Steve

      May 19, 2012 at 9:13 am |
  3. Mike

    A lawyer now thinks he's a qualified Theologian. That kind of ego and arrogance can only be found in the legal profession.

    May 19, 2012 at 8:56 am |
    • SuFiSm iS dIfFeReNt

      a man is not defined by his vocation.

      May 19, 2012 at 9:00 am |
    • SuFiSm iS dIfFeReNt

      "The lips of wisdom are closed, except to the ears of Understanding." — The Kybalion.

      May 19, 2012 at 9:01 am |
    • Rick

      If you want arrogance, Mike, look to those who purport to speak for God

      May 19, 2012 at 9:14 am |
  4. SuFiSm iS dIfFeReNt

    Finally a REAL Christian has spoken. Until today the only Christian(s) I believe to have existed was crucified and his immediate followers where martyred, all the rest have been pretenders with an occasional enlightened one coming out. Thank you Mark Osler, I have no doubt that you are prepared to build a spiritual body.

    May 19, 2012 at 8:55 am |
    • mjg

      I agree with most of your statement but when a spiritual person has a following a new "religion" is born- Christ gave each and everyone the holy spirit to guide and direct. the holy spirit is to be our spiritual guide not any man that is how religion continues!

      May 19, 2012 at 9:15 am |
  5. Peick

    At this point I think CNN is deliberately finding people to promote outrageous views on this topic in order to get a reaction out of people. Read your Bibles, people.

    May 19, 2012 at 8:53 am |
    • JWT

      There is no need to read my bible – I know that allowing gay marriage is the right thing to do. Fortunatley many chirtsians agree and more will as time passes.

      May 19, 2012 at 9:08 am |
    • Steve K

      Outrageous? To learn by Christs example and apply it to you own life.

      May 19, 2012 at 9:13 am |
  6. Keith

    It is written in many places in the bible regarding marriage between a man and woman and that is what I believe. To distort different writings of the bible to the point where it will eventually fit one's personal belief is not being truthful to self and others. Jesus taught that we needed to love one another and to do God's will. He also said "those without sin shall cast the first stone"! Which means we should not judge or condemn others.While I disagree with the opinion of Mr. Osler and how he twists what was intended by the authors of the bible, I find it much harder to understand how individuals that seem to think/claim they are of morale character "or not" can place such insinuations, hateful and vile comments when discussing other individuals religious beliefs or theology. One can disagree with others life style but ultimately we will answer to a higher power some day!

    May 19, 2012 at 8:53 am |
    • not again

      The bible teaches christians to cry aloud and spare not. To go forth and preach the gospel. The bible talks about being luke warm sir.

      May 19, 2012 at 9:13 am |
    • Rick

      The answering to a higher power is conjecture, Keith

      May 19, 2012 at 9:16 am |
  7. James

    "I am a Christian, and I am in favor of gay marriages" therefore I'm gay. Just come out of the closet already. God made man and woman no matte how you wanna dispute this. Not man and man or woman and woman.

    May 19, 2012 at 8:53 am |
  8. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    May 19, 2012 at 8:53 am |
    • ArthurP

      Too hands working gets more done that a thousand clasp in prayer.

      May 19, 2012 at 8:57 am |
    • Chris

      Christianity promotes faux-"science", hate, and bronze age ideas that will only hold back humanity. Christian teachings may be important, but the secular teachings hold as much value.

      May 19, 2012 at 9:10 am |
  9. BOBBY

    HE does not give a flying F on a rolling doughnut if g@y folks want to get married...I think He's more interested in the 50% of hetro couples who get divorced leaving their wreckage behind.

    May 19, 2012 at 8:52 am |
  10. Peter Pearson

    Every time somebody says "because of my faith," it should be to give life, joy, healing, hope, and love rather than to punish, control, judge, condemn. Real faith is not afraid of the changes that come to life. We no longer believe lots of the details that exist in scripture so why not gay marriage? If you want to be literal, then 'sell everything you have and give the money to the poor" for starters and then start telling everyone else what to do. Thank you for your opinion.

    May 19, 2012 at 8:52 am |
  11. El Flaco

    The men who wrote the books that came to be the New Testament were not writing for the 21st century. They all believed that Christ would return in their lifetimes. To them, Christianity was simply a brief gathering of the faithful to await Gideon's trumpet.

    May 19, 2012 at 8:52 am |
    • mjg

      Christ did return in the form of the holy spirit- Christians miss this one over and over again. Just like the book of revalations is John's revalation of Jesus Christ of who he is in ourselves. Try reading revalations from a personal standpoint and not gobal. very eye opening. I came from the study with a new excitement and Zeal.

      May 19, 2012 at 9:23 am |
  12. oyvavoy

    A lawyer ? Making a case ? That's too weird

    May 19, 2012 at 8:51 am |
  13. Reality

    ONLY FOR THE NEW MEMBERS:

    Let us eliminate the god and Christian effects from the gay union discussion with a prayer:

    The Apostles' Creed 2011: (updated by yours truly based on the studies of NT historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

    Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
    human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven?????

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
    Jerusalem.

    Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
    many semi-fiction writers. A bodily resurrection and
    ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

    Amen

    May 19, 2012 at 8:51 am |
    • Reality

      Now that we have eliminated god and Christianity from the discusssion-

      Ho-mose-xuality in the 21st century:::::::

      ONLY FOR THE NEWCOMERS–-–>>>>

      "Abrahamics" believe that their god created all of us and of course that includes the g-ay members of the human race. Also, those who have studied ho-mo-se-xuality have determined that there is no choice involved therefore ga-ys are ga-y because god made them that way.

      To wit:

      o The Royal College of Psy-chiatrists stated in 2007:

      “ Despite almost a century of psy-choanalytic and psy-chological speculation, there is no substantive evidence to support the suggestion that the nature of parenting or early childhood experiences play any role in the formation of a person’s fundamental heteros-exual or hom-ose-xual orientation. It would appear that s-exual orientation is biological in nature, determined by a complex interplay of ge-netic factors and the early ut-erine environment. Se-xual orientation is therefore not a choice.[60] "

      "Garcia-Falgueras and Swaab state in the abstract of their 2010 study, "The fe-tal brain develops during the intraut-erine period in the male direction through a direct action of tes-tosterone on the developing nerve cells, or in the female direction through the absence of this hor-mone surge. In this way, our gender identi-ty (the conviction of belonging to the male or female gender) and s-exual orientation are programmed or organized into our brain structures when we are still in the womb. There is no indication that social environment after birth has an effect on gender ident–ity or s-exual orientation."[8

      See also the Philadelphia Inquirer review “Gay Gene, Deconstructed”, 12/12/2011. Said review addresses the following “How do genes associated with ho-mose-xuality avoid being weeded out by Darwinian evolution?”

      Of course, those gays who belong to Abrahamic religions supposedly abide by the rules of no adu-ltery or for-nication allowed.

      And because of basic biology differences said monogamous ventures should always be called same-se-x unions not same-se-x marriages.

      From below, on top, backwards, forwards, from this side of the Moon and from the other side too, ga-y s-exual activity is still mutual mas-turbation caused by one or more complex s-exual differences. Some differences are visually obvious in for example the complex maleness of DeGeneres, Billy Jean King and Rosie O'Donnell.

      May 19, 2012 at 8:52 am |
  14. mjg

    Is it not the act of sodemy the sin? I think the author makes some very good observations. And it comes down to this we as individuals are solely responsible for our own actions, spirituality, and lives. We will never answer for anyone elses actions or lives. We will all meet the maker – You are only judged on how you judge others- new testament.

    May 19, 2012 at 8:51 am |
    • DeeCee1000

      Sodomy? What the hell is "sodomy"? You sound like some idiot who just crawled out from under a rock that has been stuck there since the iron age.

      May 19, 2012 at 8:55 am |
    • Rick

      "We will all meet the maker – You are only judged on how you judge others- new test"

      So some people believe

      May 19, 2012 at 9:18 am |
  15. Chris

    As children we always listen to what are parents say and do what they say we should do. As we grow older we start testing the waters, getting into trouble and realizing our parents were right. But eventually as we mature we realize some of our parents beliefs and rules are wrong and we try to be better than our parents. If I do stand in judgement before God some day I would rather say I followed his law of love over his law of hate.

    May 19, 2012 at 8:51 am |
  16. ArthurP

    The church displayed remarkable reluctance to deal with the mater of marriage at all.  During the Middle Ages there was no ecclesiastical definition of a valid marriage nor of any contract to validate one. Churchmen seemed to have no ideas at all on the subject(3)

    The earliest form of Christian marriage was a simple blessing of the newly wedded, "in facie ecclesiae" –outside the churches closed doors– to keep the pollution of lust out of God's house.  This blessing was a technical violation of canon law, but it became popular and gradually won status.(4).

    There was no sacrament of marriage until the 16th century (1). Catholic scholars say the wedding ceremony was "imposed on" a reluctant church, and "nothing is more remarkable that the tardiness with which liturgical forms for the marriage ceremony were evolved."  It is perhaps not remarkable to find that these liturgical forms were not evolved by the church at all, but borrowed from pagan common law (2).

    1-William Fielding, Customs of Courtship and Marriage, 233
    2-Robert Briffault, The Mothers, Vol 3, 248-249
    3-Ronald Pearsall, The Worm in the Bud , 162-63
    4-Encyclopedia Britannica, "Marriage"

    May 19, 2012 at 8:50 am |
  17. socal2011

    Only a lawyer could possibly figure a way to be comfortable with the logic in this piece. The issue should not be what this guys thinks, but what could possibly be CNN's motivation to publish this unless they are decidedly biased towards forcing the will of the minority on the will of the majority.
    Mark Osler: I am a Christian. I am in favor of murdering innocent people illegally. The reason I am in favor of this, is because of my faith. Therefore, Christianity endorses murdering of innocent people. With professors like that... wow.

    May 19, 2012 at 8:50 am |
  18. Kim

    Where do CNN find these people at? I am amaze that they would allow a lawyer who has no foundation in Religion to speak on religious matters. CNN shame shame shame. He stated above he was a christian I need him to define his belief in more detail because obviously he is not reading his bible "Holy Bible".

    May 19, 2012 at 8:50 am |
    • ch

      well typed

      May 19, 2012 at 8:51 am |
    • JWT

      He has a different and equal intrepation to you or those that you believe have the right view.

      May 19, 2012 at 8:52 am |
    • mjg

      have you read the entire holy bible? If so how do argue his statement?

      May 19, 2012 at 8:57 am |
    • Chris

      He completely justified his interpretation of the conflict between gay marriage and his personal religious beliefs. Maybe you should try reading. You clearly can't if you take the hogwash in the Bible as fact.

      May 19, 2012 at 8:59 am |
    • Steve K

      Kim. I'm amazed that someone with no foundation in religion can comment on someone on the foundation of some other persons (who obviously has given the topic a great deal of study and thought) foundation and belief. Are you suggesting that everyone who has a religious belief present their resume before commenting. BTW I had 18 years of religious education before earning a 4 year degree from a catholic college, and an additional 35 years of living a Christen Life after that.

      May 19, 2012 at 9:25 am |
  19. Stango

    Heresy!

    May 19, 2012 at 8:49 am |
  20. MIkeM

    At the time that Jesus supposedly lived, a gay couple in Palestine would have been stoned. ,As they should still be.

    May 19, 2012 at 8:46 am |
    • Chris

      You are a result of hundreds of millions of years of evolution. Try to act like it. I'm sure I can find something about you that would've gotten you stoned in Palestine 2000 years ago.

      May 19, 2012 at 8:55 am |
    • DeeCee1000

      Well I could say the same about your parents. . .MY bible says your parents should be stoned to death for producing an ignoramus like you.

      May 19, 2012 at 8:56 am |
    • mjg

      dee cee 1000 valid point- If one upholds one law should not all be upheld? in which case "Christians" would have missed what Christ had done -redeemed us from the law and gave us the holy spirit as the living word.

      May 19, 2012 at 9:06 am |
    • Rick

      Mike: You do that. And face the legal consequences. Or, the consequences of getting the stuffing beaten out of you for trying. Bigot.

      May 19, 2012 at 9:20 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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.