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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 • Opinion

soundoff (15,115 Responses)
  1. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    May 19, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • Des

      You seem to repeat that a lot, which is an old tactic often used when the message has no substance to it.

      Got any evidence to present to support your claim? Didn't think so. The phrase "get a life" applies to you.

      May 19, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer changes things
      Prayer changes lives
      Proven !

      May 19, 2012 at 10:26 am |
    • preacherman

      If prayer is so effective, why are you wasting your time typing? Just pray for people to believe it.

      May 19, 2012 at 10:29 am |
  2. Nii

    Well i think if the US declares marriage a RIGHT I'm coming over to sue for free weddings. Come to think of it I'm coming over to check out Canada soon! Why shud I pay for my right?!

    May 19, 2012 at 10:14 am |
  3. voiceofr3ason

    Funny, I don't recall in any scripture Christ embracing a gay relationship. I do recall him forgiving a woman who was caught in adultery, (which is equivalent to h omo se xual ity,) In this case he forgave the woman, much to the dismay of the religious leaders... They wanted to stone her.. He did have a final parting comment for the woman though... "go and sin no more."

    May 19, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • momoya

      Yep.. Which means that the woman HERSELF would need to define for HERSELF what she considered to be "sin" and do that no more.. For those who don't think gayness is a sin, aren't sinning in the first place..

      May 19, 2012 at 10:16 am |
    • Lily

      Great point! Also, Christians should never think they are better than the worst sinner. We all have the same opportunity for forgiveness and Jesus does not love Christians more.

      May 19, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • Helena Hanbaskit

      You are talking about adultery – cheating on your spouse (which actually meant cheating on your husband – notice no men are ever accused of adultery in the Bible). That has nothing to do with hom.ose.xuality.

      May 19, 2012 at 10:18 am |
  4. Truth7

    "A clear instruction on this comes from Simon Peter, the "rock" on whom the church is built".

    NO. From the OT, one sees that it is stated "GOD is the rock". Jesus was saying to Peter, that if WE "Build our church on the rock (God), we can't be washed away when the flood comes". The flood is referring to the dragon (sat.an), who goes after God's people with a "flood" (many words).

    As to Peter...after Jesus is resurrected, He returns to the disciples. When He finds them fishing, Peter doesn't have his clothes on....he was "naked", which means "destroyed". If you notice in a subsequent conversation, Jesus says to Peter "you will follow me LATER". Peter FELL for a period of time.

    There was never to be brick and mortar churches or temples after Jesus left. We are each a temple, where the Holy Spirit resides. The big mother church in Rome was founded on a LIE. Jesus said to build your "church on God", NOT PETER.

    May 19, 2012 at 10:13 am |
  5. Radical

    LILY IF URE A CHRISTIAN U MUST HATE. I LOVE KIDS I HATE ABORTION, I LOVE JESUS I HATE SATAN, I LOVE THE CHRIST HIS HOLINESS THEREFORE I HATE SIN GET IT?

    May 19, 2012 at 10:12 am |
    • Lily

      Radical, I'm not sure where you get your strange ideas about Christianity.

      May 19, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • Catholic

      Radical, as a Christian, you are to love. You are to love when you believe you shouldn't. You should love Satan enough to say a prayer for him, that he may be saved through the grace of God and Jesus. Let's do it together: Our Father, who art it heaven.....

      May 19, 2012 at 10:19 am |
  6. Helena Hanbaskit

    I appreciate that the author is expressing a a more tolerant view toward same se.x marriage. I am just much more impressed if instead of saying "the reason I am for gay marriage is because of my faith," they say "I am for gay marriage because I have thought about it as carefully and objectively as I can."

    May 19, 2012 at 10:11 am |
  7. The Annoyed Elephant

    So a lawyer reinterprets Scripture to match the latest politically correct meme and it makes front page news on CNN?

    May 19, 2012 at 10:11 am |
    • Phil

      Yep.

      May 19, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • Helena Hanbaskit

      Scripture is constantly reinterpreted even by the church itself, it's just far far slower to change than the surrounding culture. That's why it's considered "conservative".

      May 19, 2012 at 10:14 am |
  8. Divorce is wrong!

    just can't marry in haste and repent in leisure. Likewise, gay lifestyle choice is a SIN.

    May 19, 2012 at 10:11 am |
    • momoya

      Then don't get married to someone of the same s3x..

      I don't demand that you follow my idea of "love.". You don't get to demand how I guard myself against what I consider to be "sin."

      May 19, 2012 at 10:14 am |
  9. Questions401

    Written by a rational christian.

    My fear is the christian equivalent to the Taliban will link the fire in the sky to nukes and try to bring about the end of the world so god will rapture them.

    I believe in Jesus, but not church, Jesus himself despised organized religion because the people at the top use it for their own gain as well as to manipulate and oppress others.

    Jesus said worship not in the temples but where ever two or more people gather in my name to discuss god.

    The gay rights issue… My opinion is Change the Tax Code to treat every one equally not the meaning of the word Marriage.

    May 19, 2012 at 10:10 am |
    • God Is Clearly Gay

      "Rational christian" is an oxymoron, there's no such thing

      May 19, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • JPoet

      How do you know what chist said. Have you studied how the books you read we're canonized? Have you done any study in who wrote the books, not from your priest, by scholars many who are priests? Do you know how the entire story was manipulated over time for political reaons. Everyone ageees the books were canonized by people over time I realize blind faith will want to ignore this, but with a little study that is agreed by most scholars and priests who are scholars you will see no one knows what Christ said as the words you read we're manipulated.

      May 19, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • JPoet

      True faith is inherently unrational. By definition. It could not be called faith otherwise, it'd be science.

      May 19, 2012 at 10:22 am |
    • Questions401

      @jpoet I believe I was stating how people have manipulated the words for their own personal gain. Instead of attacking someone of faith who supports equal rights for all I suggest you attack the hate mongers who use "faith" as a weapon.

      May 19, 2012 at 10:29 am |
  10. JPoet

    Huh? How about a little theology? I think you are support the other side with this light weight article. There is too much in th bible we don't do, believe, cherry picking what rules we follow is the real issue. Christians are too blinded by their imprinted belief in Christ. When you get a meeting let me know.

    May 19, 2012 at 10:10 am |
  11. Religionsucks

    Goodness and doing the best unto others and being part of the human race is what matters people. NOT some book here and book there. If Christ's word was the final word how come there are numerous religions throughout the world? And please dont say because the others are blind..

    May 19, 2012 at 10:09 am |
    • momoya

      Because there's no method of verification.. Unverifiable stories used as moral and social levers are myths.

      May 19, 2012 at 10:11 am |
  12. Well then....

    I see that 70's I'm ok You're ok junk coming around again. Free love...just do whatever. There are no demands on your character, or any need to become better.

    May 19, 2012 at 10:08 am |
    • streetsmt

      Is that how you see this?

      May 19, 2012 at 10:10 am |
    • DeeCee1000

      Human and Civil Rights is "junk"? You're a total idiot.

      May 19, 2012 at 10:11 am |
    • Lily

      Good point. Character and integrity have been kicked out the window.

      May 19, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • Well then....

      You have obviously not read the book "I'm ok, You're ok" DeeCee1000, so calling others total idiots may be your best response. That will help you get far in life I'm sure.

      May 19, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • Truth7

      The placement of "self" and "humans" above God leads to ruin. Gee, lets look around...

      May 19, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • momoya

      Until you can prove that a god exists, you're basically accusing people of not riding unicorns for enough hours a day.

      May 19, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • just sayin

      5. in these last days God has revealed Himself to us through His Son Jesus. God bless

      May 19, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • preacherman

      Truth7, look around ground zero to see the ruins that come from placing God above any human considerations.

      May 19, 2012 at 10:26 am |
  13. Lily

    Hating Christians, NO MATTER WHAT THEIR VIEWS, is BIGOTRY, and it is dangerous to everyone. If someone thinks that being gay is sinful, hating them is another sin. How does that help? I see a lot of hatred here.

    May 19, 2012 at 10:07 am |
    • DeeCee1000

      Welcome to the world of religion.

      May 19, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • Lily

      Your idea of religion is twisted.

      May 19, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
  14. David

    Let them get married. The Bible doesn't say its right, that's a ridiculous distortion of the text. But the Bible does say there are two kingdoms, Caesar's and God's, let gay marriage be part of Caesar's kingdom. The sooner they're satisfied, the sooner we can stop debating the incontestable. Let's just each of us follow our conscience and leave each other alone.

    May 19, 2012 at 10:07 am |
    • RP

      As evident in Matthew 28:19, we as Christians must "go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." Though it is easy to sit back and let those with hardened hearts continue to move further away from a relationship with God who condemns it (Leviticus 20:13), out purpose, the very reason God created us is to witness to others who God may call upon and soften their hearts, or our witnessing will strengthen our beliefs in God the Father Almighty. We must be steadfast and unmoving just as the Bible and God are through eternity!

      May 19, 2012 at 11:27 am |
  15. El Giblet

    It makes sense that stories like this only appear on CNN. It has quickly become the, 'Gay Atheist Network'.

    May 19, 2012 at 10:07 am |
    • DeeCee1000

      As opposed to the Religious Fanatics Network? There is little difference between the US's radical far right religious fanatics and Al Qaida. . .both are hate groups.

      May 19, 2012 at 10:14 am |
  16. rayosun

    For those Christianswho don't find Mr. Osler's arguments very convincting, I would like to recommend my own web page, which is the top listing you will get when you Google "God&gays".
    Rev. Ray Dubuque, founder of "Liberals Like Jesus"

    May 19, 2012 at 10:07 am |
  17. Spangler

    Gays (as a group) are richer (no children) and more well-educated than average. They are loyal American citizens who never learned to depend on the government which shunned them. They have few offspring and contribute much to American society. They never have a personal abor tion issue. They are the ideal minority and are surelly due all the civil rights of other citizens.

    May 19, 2012 at 10:06 am |
    • Dave

      Gays have all of the civil rights everyone else has. The issue is that they are seeking to give all of us additional rights – the right to marry someone of the same gender, specifically.

      May 19, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • DeeCee1000

      I'm so sorry "Dave", but equal marriage rights for gays are a reality in many other countries now, have been for over a decade and even in some States here in the US. Your argument holds no water.

      May 19, 2012 at 10:20 am |
  18. I know what you mean

    "MY Time" is right, we all need the same rights.

    May 19, 2012 at 10:06 am |
  19. Bensa

    Every single day has an article blaming Christians or twisting whatever they believe and 1000s of idiots commenting on that and filling the world with hatred..if you don't like someone or what they believe..leave them alone. Live a meaningless life and face the consequences!!

    May 19, 2012 at 10:05 am |
    • momoya

      No.. And you don't get to di.ctate; you're not a di.ctator..

      I'm an atheist who considers religion a disease.. I'm trying to help banish the virus.. Also, life seems to have more meaning and purpose than I could ever explore, so I'll be doing just that..

      May 19, 2012 at 10:06 am |
    • Des

      Bensa, while you probably think your sentiments are good ones, the reality is different. We are negatively impacted individually and as a society when our morals and laws and social norms are influenced by belief in supersti-tions with no basis in reality. Belief in something that isn't supported by evidence does not bring meaning to your life. Think about it; it brings you worse, a precious short life wasted on fiction.

      It takes courage to stand up to widespread supersti-tions such as Christianity, but it needs to be done, and you'll be seeing more of it.

      May 19, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • DeeCee1000

      I'm glad you find "meaning" to your life by believing that myths are actually true. . .but for those of us who like to use our brains for thinking purposes . . .well let's just say your mythical gods are best left in the bronze age.

      May 19, 2012 at 10:17 am |
  20. I know what you mean

    My young girl friend have been on love for 3 yares now. I know we will bw able to get married soon. Teens for marrage unite.

    May 19, 2012 at 10:04 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.