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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. Worship Poseidon

    J R Brown has the hots for Tebow.

    May 19, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
  2. Dan Jones

    You will notice that the author spends his time spinning colorful excuses and desperately avoids scriptures. This kind of "minister" preaches out of his reasoning and feelings and makes himself out to be god, real ministers realize they are only the messenger and treat the word with reverence. Big difference.

    May 19, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • momoya

      Well, obviously your interpretation is correct and his is wrong.. What was he thinking?

      May 19, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • Worship Poseidon

      Allah would destroy your god in a fight. Ha.

      May 19, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
  3. Worship Poseidon

    Jesus emphatically took it in the behind. Read the bible.

    May 19, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
  4. Ernie

    Problem with this post is that God defines what marriage is. Christians are not denying people the right to be married, if it is a marriage between a man and a woman. Everyone believes there should be boundaries on marriage. For example, those who say marriage should be open to all would most likely agree that marriage should not be for a mother and a son, or a man and three women, or a 68 year old man and a 12 year old woman. We all make our limits, Christians try as hard as we can to do it according to what Scripture says. Yes, everyone has the right to be married, however we have to define what marriage is, and we find our definition in Scripture. It's unfortunate that a simple bit of logic shows incredible flaws in this author's arguments.

    May 19, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • Drew

      definitions change, and so do people's interpretations of scripture

      May 19, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • Observer

      Ernie,

      God also supports slavery and the inferiority of women and discrimination against the handicapped.

      But let's not talk about that. It's more fun to pick on gays.

      May 19, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • WachetAuf

      Why can't each of us decide for himself what marriage is?

      May 19, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • Dan Jones

      Drew.... definitions and interpretations that are based on scripture can't be changed enough to allow gay marriage without completely abandoning and violating those scriptures. God did a good job of sewing that one up to tight for wiggle room.

      May 19, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • Drew

      I don't see why not, Dan Jones. A gay couple can behave exactly the way the bible says a couple is supposed to, they can raise a child and be faithful to one another.

      May 19, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • Surviving the World

      Bravo Ernie! You hit the nail on the head. Christians have every right to define within their religion what marriage is and if they refuse to a marriage ceremony in a church for two gay people, well I guess that's there right as an American..... wait I think we both seem to have forgotten that christians are trying to legislate and force the rest of the country, christian or not, to follow their definition of marriage.

      Do you think that's fair Ernie? Do you think that's right? Would you want Muslims legislating that America change in to Sharia law? What about Jews legislating for the ENTIRE COUNTRY to go Kosher, so that all shrimp and pork were banned and everyone had to keep milk and meat separate? If you think those are utterly ridiculous notions, you might be able to grasp the equal ridiculousness that is christians trying to force their religion into government.

      May 19, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
  5. Hugh Briss

    The Christian (or any other religion for that matter) case for gay marriage would be the simple fact that religions conform to social evolution in order to keep the largest number of followers possible. They will inevitably revise their doctrines over time to ensure the largest target market.

    May 19, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • Drew

      Absolutely. The Catholic Church will probably condone gay marriage within the next 50 years or so

      May 19, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
  6. Worship Poseidon

    If gay marriage is legalized bananas will marry fractions and so forth. Madness. Not to mention Jesus's feeling could be hurt.

    May 19, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
  7. J R Brown

    Jesus never said to allow gay people to marry. He did, however, speak of marriage as being between a man and his bride, a woman.
    A lawyer would think that just because Jesus didn't say outright that gay marraige is not in violation of God's laws, then it must be ok. A rational person would see Jesus talking about marriage as between a man and a woman and conclude that Jesus thinks that a marraige should be between a man and a woman....as was His design when He created Adam and Eve.

    Anyone professing to be a "Christian" and yet promoting ideas that clearly do not represent the ideas of Christ himself is clearly no christian at all.

    May 19, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • Drew

      It's not for you to say who's Christian and who's not. Jesus also didn't like divorce, should we make those illegal too?

      May 19, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • momoya

      That's what christians of other doctrines say about you and yours.. Too bad god allows so much confusion over his nature.. Seems he could have figured out how to communicate better–more like how math and chemistry are obvious and emergent.. Oh well, I guess he likes all these differing views and wars and murders over what people think he MIGHT be like.

      May 19, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • WachetAuf

      What about Jesus' message of tolerance?

      May 19, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
  8. Enlightened

    Religion makes me sick. Just how many gods are there now? Muslim god, christian god, Hindu god. Each one says they don't want you to pay attention to the other gods, cause that'll put their panties in a bunch and you may not make it to eternal Candy Land. Religion is for weak-willed sheep, and if it is not eliminated from human kind, human kind will eliminate itself, all over some crap people made up to explain that which CANNOT BE EXPLAINED. Pathetic.

    May 19, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • momoya

      God is the author of confusion.

      May 19, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • WachetAuf

      People perform the ugliest of acts because of a metaphor.

      May 19, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • fact cheq

      Religion makes me sick too. And religion also has NOTHING to do with having a relationship with the Creator. Jesus had some of his harshest words for the pharisees. They were the ones who piled law after law on top of the Jews. When you have a relationship with Jesus, you have peace and freedom, but most readers here want none of it. They would rather hurl insults at Christians.

      May 19, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
  9. Worship Poseidon

    When Jesus bends over thou can witness firsthand the holy santorum residue.

    May 19, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
  10. Observer

    A Serpent's Thought,

    "My hatred anaginst the LGBT crowds . . "

    – Matthew 7:12 “Treat others as you want them to treat you. THIS IS WHAT THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS ARE ALL ABOUT.”

    Sorry you missed that in the Bible but most Christians do.

    May 19, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • Dan Jones

      You can't take one scripture out of context and build theology on it. Did it occur to you that the scripture you quote could be used to justify ANYTHING. If I have a desire for a relationship with a child I could quote that and say that I ought to be treated the way you treat yourself, and you justify your sin so you have to justify mine. You are very wrong.

      May 19, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • Observer

      Dan Jones,

      It's always entertaining to hear a Christian tell me I'm wrong to quote the Golden Rule. That says a lot.

      The Bible stressed the Golden Rule as being extremely important unlike an "abomination" like eating lobster.

      May 19, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
  11. Martin

    "The Christian case for gay marriage". That's like saying, "The Godly case for Perversion". Nice going CNN.

    May 19, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • Worship Poseidon

      Your opinions are worthless.

      May 19, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • J R Brown

      Pointing out something so clearly obvious will undoubtedly subject you to vile attacks and derision. Nice try, though....

      May 19, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  12. chirac

    listen up peoples no body hate gay.lut do not hate gay but his wife get punish for supporting them the Baptist church don't won to end up like lut wife .so do I we play with fire is matter of time. all of us will witness the torments is inevitable .always positive and negative .known if you connect the battery cables in wrong way it cause fire.what we doing known ,two men getting married ok two positive cables together you know the answer is fire. that will burns all of us .

    May 19, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • Will j

      Is that the English they taught you in Sunday School?

      May 19, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
  13. A Serpent's Thought

    @ DeeCee1000

    What do you know regarding the rising and falling of Sodomy throughout the ages of mankind's laments?

    May 19, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • Worship Poseidon

      Jesus loved sodomy. He often entertained 16 to 18 men at a time. And by entertain, I mean he took it in the fanny.

      May 19, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
    • Observer

      It's likely that millions of HETEROS engage in sodomy too.

      Pointless.

      May 19, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
  14. Worship Poseidon

    DOWN SYNDROME IS A LIFE STYLE CHOICE.

    May 19, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  15. Crom

    Hi everybody! My name is Crom and I am an abject idiot.

    I post one thing and then I post another - and I argue with myself!

    Go figure.

    May 19, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • Observer

      Grow up. If you don't have guts enough to use an original name, go play somewhere else.

      May 19, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • momoya

      Lying for jesus, I take it?

      May 19, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • Crom

      Yeah! That's telling him.

      Thanks, guys!

      May 19, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  16. Gavin Ford

    The bible isn't the answer. It's the question.

    May 19, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • WachetAuf

      Correct. It is not the end. It is the beginning of wisdom. Tolerance. We must not compare the best in ourselves with the worst in others.

      May 19, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
  17. Republicans Are The American Taliban

    Funny that they continue to elect Michelle Bachmann and her gay husband!

    May 19, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • Crom

      You take that back! I am a straight, white Christian conservative and it's very offensive to me!

      May 19, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  18. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    May 19, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • Observer

      Still trying to fool God.

      May 19, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  19. Joe

    Proverbs 14:12 – There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. We have here an account of the way and end of a great many self-deluded souls. 1. Their way is seemingly fair: It seems right to themselves; they please themselves with a fancy that they are as they should be, that their opinions and practices are good, and such as will bear them out. The way of ignorance and carelessness, the way of worldliness and earthly-mindedness, the way of sensuality and flesh-pleasing, seem right to those that walk in them, much more the way of hypocrisy in religion, external performances, partial reformations, and blind zeal; this they imagine will bring them to heaven; they flatter themselves in their own eyes that all will be well at last. 2. Their end is really fearful, and the more so for their mistake: It is the ways of death, eternal death; their iniquity will certainly be their ruin, and they will perish with a lie in their right hand. Self-deceivers will prove in the end self-destroyers.

    May 19, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • momoya

      That's what the believers of other denominations think of you and your denomination.. Enjoy.

      May 19, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • Truth7

      Joe – perfect passage.

      "Woe to them who call evil good and good evil".

      May 19, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
  20. A Serpent's Thought

    sugarbehr1967, "And what makes you such an authority on such things?? Do you know anyone in the 'lifestyle'? Do you drink, smoke, have tattoos, eat shellfish? Then you are perverted..disobeying the laws of God..try walking in others shoes before you promote hatred, buddy.."

    My "shoes" fit me just fine TYVM. Your "foamating mouthiness" covers many gauntlets! Mine covers but one! I do not know you and you cannot know me! My hatred anaginst the LGBT crowds comes from the heads of sodomy's serpentine heads being raised within the social constructs of Lofe! You know nothing about social decadence for if you would, you would be against all Acts and actions of sodomy's head raising issues!

    May 19, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • momoya

      I guess you were only off your meds for a few minutes the other day when that one clause in that one sentence in that one post on that one page on that one thread made a little bit of sense if you looked at it diagonally in a mirror.

      May 19, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • A Serpent's Thought

      @ momoya

      If "you" can't bewilder by default then baffle them with crapola seems to be the trade of the day!

      May 19, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • momoya

      You're leaving your hands to close to the keyboard when your seizures hit.. Have you medical attendant contain them when they're flopping around all crazy like that..

      May 19, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • yeenko

      Yeah i only see one problem with all your Raging about this.... The Fact is that a Holy God who requires men everywhere to repent or likewise perish, will indeed judge this world and all the gays along with it, even the fearful unbelieving people like CROM will have to die because they failed to allow God Himself the Lamb, open their blinded minds. I will not do like Jonah did with Ninevah and wish for your destruction, but pray that God will open your blinded and hardened hearts before its to late..... can you read that part Crom? because you decided to remove God from your mind and reject Him. funny you experience Inertia when you go around a curve, yet you cannot prove inertia exist without experiencing it.... so you do not believe God because you will to not believe.

      May 19, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
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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.