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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. Cindy

    Go ahead, change the laws and get married then SHUT UP! I am so sick of this subject. Because in the end, man's laws DO NOT MATTER!! ONLY GOD'S LAWS MATTER WHETHER YOU BELIEVE IT OR NOT!!!

    May 24, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • Primewonk

      Cindy – apparently you are under the impression that the US is a theocracy. We aren't. Whatever your version of a god wants, needs, desires, or demands is irrelevant. Because your version of a god, just like every other version of every other god, has no standing in our legal system.

      In fact, your 1st commandment demands that I worship only your god – under penalty of death and eternal torture. On the other hand, my 1st amendment says I can worship your version of god, some other version of your god, completely different gods, or no gods – it's all good. Guess what Cindy? My first trumps your first. I win. Every day. Every time.

      If you do want to live in a theocracy, I can recommend one in Iran. But if you, and other fundiots, try and establish a theocracy in my country, I hope you are ready for a new civil war.

      May 24, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      Isn't it something to see how American overfed, obnoxious brats love to clam their freedom from depending on God!
      Yet every breath they take and everything they put in their arrogant mouth which spews insults God, in all of it they depend on Him!

      May 24, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
    • JWT

      Actually cindy your god's laws matter to you. They mean nothing to me whatsoever as none of them are applicable to me.

      May 24, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      "Actually cindy your god's laws matter to you. They mean nothing to me whatsoever as none of them are applicable to me".

      You are wrong... They ARE applicable to you, whether you acknowledge them or not, and by their standards you will be judged, because your life is NOT your own, you owe it to your Maker to whom you will give account for it!

      May 24, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      @PRISM

      So our lives are not our own? So humans in general are worthless creatures? Your doctrine really enjoys devalueing human life and choices.

      May 24, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
    • Hey Prism

      Choke on a d!ck.

      May 24, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • JWT

      @Prism you are totally wrong. Your god is not my god – that is a fact beyond any possible dispute. As such your god rules are inapplicable. It's simple and clear when you think about it.

      May 24, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
  2. KCArrowhead

    Please excuse the length of this, but it needs to be in order to address the faulty reasoning of Mr. Osler.

    When Jesus was preaching on earth, He did not address the subject of homôsëxuality. It was not prevalent among the Jews to whom he was preaching, and he had bigger fish to fry. He spent much more of His time dealing with the self-righteous, uncompassionate, and judgemental Pharisees.

    But when the Church began adding gentile converts, a whole different set of issues had to be addressed. Some wanted them to keep the rituals and strictures that the Jews observed. After much discussion, the following letter was drafted:

    The apostles and elders, your brothers,

    To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia:
    Greetings.
    We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul— men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sëxual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.

    Farewell. Acts 15:23-29

    I would also suggest reading the book of Jude. For the sake of length I will quote a few excerpts, but the context remains the same:

    1:4 For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord...
    1:7 In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sëxual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.

    1:18-19 “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires. These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.

    So while being homôsëxual may be a natural instinct for some, that does not make it acceptable Christian behavior. We are called to deny ourselves and live our lives according to GOD's wishes, not our own.

    May 24, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • KCArrowhead

      Addendum...

      For those who are "gay bashers" Jude had this to say:

      1:22-23 Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snâtching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hâting even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

      May 24, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • swaf

      @kcarrowhead – yes, just like Jesus hang out with the "sinners" or undesireables, not that they were ok with their sinning, but because we all sin and should love each other and help each other wether your "neighbor" is a christain or not

      May 24, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • American

      Very nicely stated and I agree with you. These scriptures are very helpful for those who are even curious to what the Bible says about this subject.

      May 24, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • Kandric

      Good thing I'm not a Christian then, right?

      So let me live my life with equal rights and I'll be on my way...

      May 24, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • Cindy

      Again, love the sinner but HATE THE SIN!! ANY SIN!

      May 24, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • Crystal Mason

      Well said.

      May 24, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • KCArrowhead

      Kandric, I wouldn't dream of taking theim from you. Peace.

      May 24, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  3. Lisa

    Go, WillieLove!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Praise God.

    May 24, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
  4. imstylin1

    Obviously Mr. Osler doesn't know scripture because Peter is not the rock that the Church is built on. So it is natural for him to twist God's Word to the point where he believes we don't have moral authority. Jesus has always been the Rock in scripture. He is the head of the Church, we are the body. The Body of Christ was not built upon Peter; it was a secret that was given to Paul by revelation. Mr. Osler needs to study his bible a little bit more.

    May 24, 2012 at 8:14 am |
    • george

      i agree, Osler, if you claim to be a Christian then that means that you believe Romans is true, read it and then take down this article.

      May 24, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • swaf

      The problem is that people take what was said to peter as if by peter the church was build, but we know that Jesus was the main foundation or "corner stone" that the church was built on, and it also says that the christains are the blocks, including peter and everyone else. Peter was a "little stone" as Jesus describes that was included in that buiding of the church. You cant take one passage and conclude that is the answer only, to your question, but you have to take the whole thing as it builds together.

      May 24, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
  5. WillieLove

    Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. ...

    May 24, 2012 at 2:08 am |
    • swaf

      We are surrounded, even our own bodies are our enemies

      May 24, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
  6. WillieLove

    For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

    May 24, 2012 at 2:03 am |
    • swaf

      translation: you can try to question God, but we in our failed puney intellect can never even comprehend the understanding let alone understand what God understands.

      May 24, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
  7. WillieLove

    For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.

    May 24, 2012 at 2:02 am |
  8. WillieLove

    For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

    May 24, 2012 at 1:57 am |
  9. WillieLove

    For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
    And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.
    And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
    Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,

    May 24, 2012 at 1:55 am |
  10. WillieLove

    And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

    May 24, 2012 at 1:51 am |
  11. WillieLove

    And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

    May 24, 2012 at 1:50 am |
  12. WillieLove

    For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

    May 24, 2012 at 1:48 am |
  13. WillieLove

    The LORD liveth; and blessed be my rock; and exalted be the God of the rock of my salvation.

    May 24, 2012 at 1:47 am |
  14. WillieLove

    The God of my rock; in him will I trust: he is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my saviour; thou savest me from violence.

    May 24, 2012 at 1:46 am |
  15. WillieLove

    The LORD is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father's God, and I will exalt him.

    May 24, 2012 at 1:46 am |
  16. WillieLove

    I have waited for thy salvation, O LORD.

    May 24, 2012 at 1:45 am |
  17. WillieLove

    Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.
    And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:
    Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

    May 24, 2012 at 1:43 am |
  18. WillieLove

    He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.

    May 24, 2012 at 1:40 am |
  19. WillieLove

    And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.

    May 24, 2012 at 1:39 am |
  20. WillieLove

    For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father's, and of the holy angels.

    May 24, 2012 at 1:39 am |
    • PRISM 1234

      Amen! God's true people will proclaim His word to the end!

      May 24, 2012 at 5:50 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.