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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. KCArrowhead

    Think of Christianity as a club. This club has a statement of purpose and a code of conduct (The Bible) like many other clubs. This club is inclusive, anyone can join. All you have to do is to believe in what the club believes in, and follow the rules as best you can.

    If you want to pick and choose which rules you want to follow, that is your prerogative. But are you really a member of the club if you do so? Especially if you publically proclaim that you are doing so? After all, you can go to a military surplus store, buy a Marine uniform and wear it while protesting the military – but does that make you a US Marine?

    Granted, the rulebook is quite old and was translated from different languages. Part of the rulebook is devoted to history, some of which depicted a certain set of rules for a certain set of people at a certain time. Much of this is to show how other clubs failed without help from the club leader. Obviously there is some debate as to what was actually meant by some of the rules. But some rules are pretty clear. At the least, you should be following those ones.

    And if you are not in the club and have no desire to be in the club, why are you so obsessed with the club? Live your life as best you can. Just remember, the club is open to all.

    May 22, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • Perfect?

      The only problem with this thinking is that you are not the head of the club. Only the head can determine who is actually member, not you. So, by telling people they aren't a part because of what you believe the club rules say, doesn't actually make it true. All I see is a bunch of bickering over something that no one has any clue about... the condition of a man's heart. No one can judge that but God.

      May 22, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • KCArrowhead

      Well, I challenge you to find support for it in the Bible. You won't. The leader had only this to say: "Haven’t you read, he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’"

      Jesus certainly had compassion for sinners. He showed love towards them when others showed hâte. When he showed anger, it was against the self-righteous. But note this: while he showed compassion and love, he did not condone their sin. Christians would do well to follow his example. Our job is not to hâte. Our job is not to condemn the world. But neither is our job to alter His word.

      May 22, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • netwallwarrior

      “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

      May 22, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
    • netwallwarrior

      As I urged you when I went into Macedonia—remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine, 4 nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith. 5 Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith, 6 from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk, 7 desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm.

      8 But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, 9 knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10 for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.

      May 22, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
  2. James

    B2UX ease off on the sauce your sounding a little frazzled!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 22, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  3. Jax

    Well, I finally have made a decision to demote organized religion. I can't believe the ignorance, bigotry, and self-rightousness preached by the supposed "chosen". I don't believe Jesus would have agreed with this either. AND please remember the bible was written approx. 200 years after the death of Jesus, so how factual is it, really???

    May 22, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
  4. David

    I have a case for marriage equality...

    seriously, try this....

    EQUAL CIVIL RIGHTS...how about that?

    May 22, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • MasterWooten

      Sorry David but while your argument holds true in the secular world it fails here because the church is NOT the secular world. In the secular world it is NOT illegal for me to cheat on my wife or even renounce God's existence. How again does your point engender itself to the attempt at a faith based argument which is the whole point of this post?

      May 22, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
  5. itsallgoodnroanoke

    Well, I thought I heard it all. Now, I can honestly say, I have heard and seen a damn NO TALKING COUNTRY FOOL>This is a damn shame to cont.to air this mess. If this is aired than Hate crimes will be aired! Come on, This is hatred and I do not want to be a part of this, He is saying to fence them in and throw them some food. This is HATE and I feel sorry for him. A church fool in a robe.

    May 22, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
  6. waterman

    People taking the Bible (or any other religious book) seriously arguing against each other is always funny. But at least this author is being nice to others, and trying to take a positive message out of a primitive book written by men. I applaud the author for that.

    May 22, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • Elizabeth

      I will keep you & others like you in prayer waterman !!!

      May 24, 2012 at 11:34 am |
  7. netwallwarrior

    So many opinions... and man logic...what I find fascinating is this attempt by some in various denominations (Episcopalians..and others) to distort the Bible and the inherent meanings. Teenagers have an understanding of how things work and have some knowledge. But they lack wisdom, and maturity. And many of you are parents, so you understand how they think they know more than they really do. The church has been functioning like a teenager, and up to this point many Self described Christians have been half taught, and function much like teenagers in their knowledge and intellect. Without true wisdom and understanding we formulate our own views devoid of true meaning and filled with half truths. Marriage is more than just a contract between two people for the purpose of procreation. It's the physical representation of the spiritual relationship between God, and the Church. Through this relationship we call marriage we find hidden in plain sight something profound. This message is for believers... The argument for gay marriage is a non issue. The message of the cross is undecipherable to those that are lost.

    May 22, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • KCArrowhead

      Jesus had something to say about this "But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men."

      Speaking of course to the Pharisees, but the same concept applies.

      May 22, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  8. B2UX

    HE IS GOING TO HELL FOR JUDGING OTHERS SO IS EVERYONE JUDGING IT IS NOT YOUR PLACE TO JUDGE BESIDES THE ONES WHO SCREAM THE MOST ARE STILL IN THE CLOSET ANYWAY EVERYONE KNOWS THIS LETS SEE ITS OK TO HIDE PASTORS WHO ABUSE CHILDREN THATS OK BUT SOMETHING THAT DOSENT EVEN AFFECT YOUR DAILY LIVES YOU CRTY ABOUT MAYBE THIS RELIGON IS BECOMMING A CULT WHO KNOWS ... AFTER ALL ITS A DOOMED RELIGON IF THEY ACTUALLY READ OR HAVE READ THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS ........THERE ARE ONLY 2 RELIGONS LEFT AT THE END OF DAYS AND CHRISTIANS AINT ONE OF THEM.......

    May 22, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
  9. Elizabeth

    For those who read the book of life " The Holy Bible " the ONLY BOOK that teaches us and gives us the tools for ALL OF MANKIND NO MATTER WHAT COLOR you are!!! People read the word please read Leviticus Chp.18 ver.22 & Chp. 20 ver.13 people stop trying to twisit the word of GOD TO FIT INTO TODAY WAYS OF LIVING !!! why do think God destroyed the city of Sodom & Gormorrah !!! GOD IS NOT PLEASED WITH THIS WAY OF LIVING!!!

    May 22, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • waterman

      So when the word of God in the Bible says that disobedient children should be killed, we should follow that, right?

      May 22, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • eking

      God loves everyone. He is not vengeful. He is kind. He loves gay people – they are human, also made in his image.
      Get over it.

      May 22, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • B2UX

      Luke 6:37, "Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.. UH O LOOKS LIKE LISABETH IS ON THE WRONG TRACK THE EVIL IS INSIDE HER...

      May 22, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • d.l.

      i agree i wish cnn had someone that wasn't afraid of telling the truth. Stop using the Bible if you don't like the whole thing. Being gay goes against, nature and spirit. Today, people are trying to except anything and the bible don't.

      May 22, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • Person of Interest

      Funny how you bring up the Old Testament, why don't you read it and see all the old rituals that were required for everyday things. See if you could actually live like that, sacraficing animals and such. When Jesus came he brought with him a new covenant with man. Compare and contrast the New and Old Testaments. Jesus preaches about love and forgiveness in the New Testament. The Old Testament teaches about wrath and punishment.

      If God hasn't come out and destoryed the countless other countries who perform atrocities way worse than allowing gay marriage, I'm sure he's allowing us to make our own destiny. I'm not saying that gays should be allowed to be married in a Catholic Church (or any other) but they should be allowed to get a marriage license from the government. At that point, they can live how they wish. Let God judge them after they've passed because only He is capable of weighing a person's soul.

      May 22, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • d.l.

      Your job is to get back to him, and Jesus is the only way. BEING GAY is not the way.THE BIBLE STATES.

      May 22, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  10. Scott

    i think the bible this man was given had pages missing or he read cliffs notes

    May 22, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • D

      No obviously you don't think intelligently, you think with prejudice, bigotry and hate.

      May 22, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
  11. Eugene Edwards

    As an ordained minister of the word and sacrament, I feel the move of our church to accept practicing gay pastors, has caused a great furor in our denomination. I would not encourage such a marriage or perform one unless something happens to change my mind. First of all the Scriptures, especially in Revelation, ban this marriage as a direct slap in tthe face of God and those who practice such will go to "hell." On the other hand, if a church or a pastor is in this situation, in ouir denomination, does that, then he or she has to answer for such, just like with ordaining gay ministers. God will do what God does so well. God will work all of this out to his honor and glory. Maranatha, come Lord Jesus.

    May 22, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • B2UX

      Jesus. AS A MINISTER YOU SHOULD KNOW NOT TO PRAY TO JESUS GOD WAS CLEAR YOU SHOULD KNOW HIM BUT WORSHIP NOBODY BUT ME GODS OWN WORDS IF YOUR WORSHIPING JESUS YOULL GO TO HELL ....

      May 22, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • D

      Just another bigoted bible thump-er that spews hate a prejudice. Stop fleecing the people with your moronic interpretations. Stop taking verses out of context, to justify your on hate filled agenda.

      May 22, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
  12. James

    KCARROWHEAD, God bless you, finally someone who actually understands the Bible.

    May 22, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
  13. George

    Heresy...plain and simple. All who agree with this Pastor have distorted the Gospel and have been drawn away with itching ears. All I can say is, REPENT!

    May 22, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • D

      You repent George for your hate and bigotry. Who are you to judge anyone.

      May 22, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
  14. KC Arrowhead has flawed thinking

    Cigarette smoking is a sin, and yet it is legal to smoke openly. Why can't gays get married legally and receive all the governmental blessings that straight couples get and enjoy from the government???

    May 22, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • KCArrowhead

      I can't seem to find a passage where cigarette smoking is labled a sin in the Bible. Can you help me? The only reference to smoking I can find is Genesis where it says: “And when Jacob saw Rachel, he lit off his Camel.”

      As for gays and government bestowed benefits, what does that have to do with Christianity? That is secular. My comments were about this article.

      May 22, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
  15. Peer

    We cannot be saved continually sinning and gay is is
    Romans1:27

    May 22, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • Clayton Colwell

      Read the rest of Romans 1? By your interpretation, gay people are all lying, murdering, parent-haters, among other things. It's nothing but a big fat libel.

      May 22, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • Perfect?

      Unless you're perfect, then we're all going to hell together with this logic.

      May 22, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • B2UX

      Luke 6:37, "Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven........ IF YOUR TAKING HALF QUOTES OUT OF THE BIBLE YOUR USING IT LIKE A CULTIST WOULD.. NOT IN CONTEXT...

      May 22, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
  16. KCArrowhead

    I've heard many a person call Christians hypocrites for speaking out against homôsêxuality, while so many Christians commit all kinds of sins. Newsflash for you: Christians are just as fallible as anyone else. Our salvation is in Jesus, not in ourselves.

    But of all the behaviors we are told to avoid, only homôsêxuality is actually "celebrated" anywhere. Are there "liars pride" parades? Do we wear red to show our support of mürderers? Sure, in "Wall Street", you have the quote "greed is good", but does anyone really believe that?

    Homôsêxuality is the only activity/lifestyle that I can think of which is widely accepted in our secular society, and yet proscribed against in the Bible. Nobody gets up in church and says "yeah, it's OK to cheat on your spouse" or "you should be proud of all the office supplies you stole from your company." But like the author of this article, there are some who claim that God condones homôsêxuality – when that evidence just cannot be found. There is not one reference to homôsêxuality in the Bible (old or new testaments) where such practices are not côndemned.

    If you are not a Christian, I am not talking to you. You are free to believe what you want to believe. You are free to live your life the way you want to. I won't act self-righteous and hâteful like those despïcable people in the Westboro Baptist Church. I teach my children to follow the teaching of Paul found in the book of Hebrews: "Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord."

    For those outside the Christian faith, I keep a "don't ask, don't tell" policy. If you don't ask me to condone your lifestyle, I won't tell you my opinion of it. I won't discrimïnate against you if you are gây. I will discrïminate against you if you are gây and you try to make me approve of it.

    May 22, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • Patrick

      Touche! Well stated.

      May 22, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • LivinginVA

      "Homôsêxuality is the only activity/lifestyle that I can think of which is widely accepted in our secular society, and yet proscribed against in the Bible."

      Divorce? Widely accepted in our society, and Jesus himself spoke against it.
      Pride? Gluttony?

      May 22, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
    • blahblahblah

      Well said!

      May 22, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • DA

      wow... well said.. I couldn't put it better.

      May 22, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • Ann

      Divorce is celebrated – there are even greeting cards with pictures of one wedding cake figurine kicking the other off the cake. Divorce parties, too.

      Certainly, second marriages are celebrated. Even among Catholics. I remember being in my Catholic folk group and singing at the wedding of my neighbors back in high school. It was at least the second or third marriage for each of them, and they had 10 kids between them. She wore a black dress. They were fairly rich – must have made quite a donation to arrange for all those annulments. They were also the epitome of what we called "Sunday-morning Catholics" – waving their arms, praying really loudly – and then being incredibly foul and nasty people the rest of the week.

      May 22, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • LivinginVA

      What has Thanksgiving become if not a celebration of gluttony?

      May 22, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • Neeshia

      Well stated! Our salvation rest in Jehovah God through his wonderful son Jesus Christ. Stating the word of God without being hateful. People cannot be upset with believers who believe what is written but people who disagree have to take it up with God. We cannot add to his words or take away & there are scriptures in the old & new testatment that clearly states that it is an act of abomination but this does not mean that God doesn't love gays, he just doesn't condone the sin, just like he doesn't condone sins such as drunkenness, fornication, adultery, murder & etc. We cannot change from the word of God to say was pleasing to the ears of our brothers & sisters.

      May 22, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
    • KCArrowhead

      Well, divorce is certainly not anything "celebrated" in my church. Divorces do happen, though. Jesus himself condoned divorce in cases of infidelity.

      But just because a church allows something does it make it right? Episcopalians have gays in the clergy. Does that make it right? As many a father has said: "If all your friends jumped off a bridge then would you too?"

      May 22, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
  17. frd

    This is Typical Redneck Ignorance...Listen to how the pastor talks, like he has a 2nd grade education.
    They need to stop telling people what the Bible Says...they have no Idea, the fools!

    May 22, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
  18. Peer

    Sinners can receive holy spirit and be saved but not while continuing to sin and gay is sin
    Romans 1:27

    May 22, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • John

      All who believe that Gay is the Way, that arn't gay at this moment... take your kids to a gay parade or to SanFransico... and see what the spirit is like... Now lets get real.... This is a very demonic spirit, that masquerades as Love. God will have to shorten the days, because of the deception going on.

      May 22, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • Tonya

      So you are saying you become perfect once baptized? I was baptized in the holy spirit, but it's weird I am still human and I still sin. even crazier...God still loves me.

      May 22, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • LivinginVA

      John: Using a gay pride parade as an example of what it means to be gay is as silly as using a Mardi Gras party as an example of what it means to be Christian.

      May 22, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • B2UX

      Luke 6:37, "Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven..............................

      May 22, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
  19. Peer

    Gay is sin. Holy spirit for everyone willing to accept it and give up sinful acts
    Sodom was destroyed by god. Gay is not right not natural and not allowed in heaven
    Romans 1:27

    May 22, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • B2UX

      Luke 6:37, "Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven

      May 22, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
  20. raidel

    We fail when we make Christianity a mere moral religion. While morals and rights are important we cannot reduce it all in this way. Key to the Gospel is the idea of sin, and how sin is not just a trespass against social and cultural laws, but ultimately a trespass and disobedience against God. This is a theme running from Genesis to Revelations. When some Christians don't see this, I wonder if they miss also the necessity for Christ.

    May 22, 2012 at 1:10 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.