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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. cephash

    SO, Mr. Osler, I've struggled all my life with a nasty temper. Since Jesus says everyone's OK, does that mean I may now praise the Lord and blow up and everyone who irks me?

    June 2, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
  2. Kindness

    For you.
    A thought to consider without a typical ego response

    Accept Jesus christ as your lord and saviour. You never know how soon is too late. Transcend the worldly illusion of enslavement.
    The world denounces truth....

    Accepting Jesus Christ (for me) resulted in something like seeng a new colour. You will see it .....but will not be able to clearly explain it to anyone else..... Its meant to be that way to transend any selfism within you.

    Also... much the world arranges "surrounding dark matter into something to be debated" in such a way that protects/inflates the ego.

    The key is be present and transcend our own desire to physically see evidence. We don't know anyways by defending our own perception of dark matter.

    Currently.... most of us are constructing our own path that suits our sin lifestyle. Were all sinners. Knowing that we are is often an issue. But both christians and non are sinners.

    We don't like to Let go and let god. We want control to some degree. This is what Jesus asks us to do. "Let go and let god".
    It's the hardest thing to do... but is done by letting the truth of scripture lead you (redemptive revelation)... as I said .

    Try reading corinthians and see if it makes sense to you. Try it without a pre conceived notion of it being a fairy tale.
    See the truth...
    do we do what it says in todays society... is it relevant... so many have not recently read and only hinge their philosophy on what they have heard from som other person...which may have been full of arogance pride or vanity..

    Look closely at the economy ponzi, look at how society idolizes Lust , greed , envy, sloth, pride of life, desire for knowledge, desire for power, desire for revencge,gluttony with food etc .

    Trancsend the temporal world.

    Just think if you can find any truth you can take with you ....in any of these things. When you die your riches go to someone who will spend away your life..... You will be forgotten.... history will repeat iteslf.... the greatest minds knowledge fade or are eventually plagerzed..... your good deeds will be forgotten and only give you a fleeting temporary reward . your learned teachings are forgotten or mutated..... your gold is transfered back to the rullers that rule you through deception. Your grave will grow over . This is truth .

    Trancsend your egoism and free yourself from this dominion of satan. Understand you are a sinner and part of the collective problem of this worldly matrix... Repent.... Repent means knowing

    Evidence follows faith. Faith does not follow evidence..... Faith above reason in Jesus Christ.

    Faith comes by Reading or Hearing the word of god from the bible . Ask Jesus in faith for dicernment and start reading the new testament... You will be shocked when you lay down your preconceived notions and ....see and hear truth ... see how christ sets an example ... feel the truth....

    Read Ecclesiastes. Read corinthians.

    You cant trancend your own egoism by adapting a world philosophy to suit your needs. Seek the truth in Christ.

    Sell all your cleverness and purchase true bewilderment. You don't get what you want ....you get what you are in christ.

    I promise this has been the truth for me. In Jesus christ .

    Think of what you really have to lose. ...your ego?

    Break the Matrix of illusion that holds your senses captive.

    once you do . you too will have the wisdom of God that comes only through the Holy Spirit. Saved By grace through Faith. Just like seeing a new colour.... can't explain it to a transient caught in the matrix of worldly deception.
    You will also see how the world suppresses this information and distorts it

    You're all smart people . I tell the truth. Its hard to think out of the box when earthly thinking is the box.
    I'ts a personal free experience you can do it free anytime . Don't wait till you are about to die.. START PUTTING YOUR TREASURES WHERE THEY REALLY MATTER >
    Its awsome .

    June 2, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
  3. Dorothy

    This guy presents a fairly weak argument for a biblical acceptance of Gay Marriage. That having been said, anybody who truly studies the bible and understands the literary, cultural, and theological nuances within the scriptures can easily creates very cogent argument in support of gay marriage. It is quite obvious that this issue, like interracial marriage and the right for women to vote in the past, are issues that people have a formed prejudice that they are trying to justify through biblical means. To use genitals to define marriage obviously debases marriage more than gay marriage ever could and to believe God really cares more about what one does with his tally wacker more than how one conducts the rest of his life and relationships simply trivializes God.

    June 2, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
    • Arvoasitis

      Dorothy, you get off to a good start but then go off track. Endorsement of the "gay" lifestyle does not necessarily lead to endorsement of "gay" marriage, nor is the issue analogous to interracial marriage. Throughout history, marriage has taken many forms but, with the exception of a few deranged Roman emperors, who may have been trying to demonstrate that they were above the law, marriage has always been a union between male and female.

      June 2, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
  4. Dean

    Mark Osler; you are for gay marriage because of your lack of faith in God. Sure you may be a Christian, however, your faith is disastrously weak and lethal to the un-saved.

    June 2, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
  5. Jerry

    I thought Jesus saved people from their sins, not in their sins. That means repentance first from sin.

    June 2, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
    • Dorothy

      The basic assumption in your argument, however, is that hom o se x uality is a sin. Many of us are 100% sure that it is not.

      June 2, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
  6. Ralph N

    Mark Ostler; Peter also preached: "Repent ye therefore and be converted that your sins may be blotted out" In fact Peter preached repentance before baptism as did John the baptist. In fact John preached repentance to help people prepare for the Christ who came to give the Holy Spirit, which John could not give. All this happens after repentance. The bible shows that Jesus must have given the Holy Spirit to his apostles and the authority to pass it on, which they bestowed on believers after they were baptized.

    Leaving the doctrine of repentance out of your article makes it easy for anyone to live in sin and be accepted by God. This is not what Jesus taught.

    June 2, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
    • A

      Spectacular commentary. How well-put. The doctrine of repentance is key. And leaving it out is paramount to disastrous interpretation of the scripture.

      June 2, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
  7. Confused

    Okay... Then according to this man's "logic", we should have Lust Churches, Murderer Churches, Liar's Church, and Thieves Church.

    I can believe that someone could take a topic like gay marriage and try to make it right, especially when the bible is so black and white on the topic. But people have always twisted the Bible to say what they want it to say...

    June 2, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • sean

      Confused wrote:
      "Okay... Then according to this man's "logic", we should have Lust Churches, Murderer Churches, Liar's Church, and Thieves Church"

      Remember, Churches are for sinners, they are not museums for the saints.

      June 2, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
  8. Mike P

    This author's rationale is so unbelievably stupid. I'm sorry, when was the last time you attended a marriage, and the married couple began speaking in tongues, thus affirming the marriage? Doesn't happen, does it? So where is the parallel with Acts 11, in which the Gentiles were blessed with the miracle of speaking in tongues, exactly like what happened to the Jewish believers at Pentecost, thus enabling Peter to see the link between the two experiences? The author isn't even offering up clever nonsense - it's just plain nonsense. At least with most straight couples there *is* a miracle of God involved - the creation of human life through the union of a man and a woman. And no gay couple can produce that miracle. So I guess God *isn't* blessing gay marriages like straight marriages, huh?

    Anyway, all this is beside the point: The Bible is absolutely clear that marriage is straight only. Jesus said so in Matt 19:4-5 - "Have you not read that in the beginning God 'made man male and female' and 'for this reason a man leaves father and mother and cleaves to his wife, and the two become one flesh'?" - and Paul said so in 1 Cor 7:2 - "To avoid fornication, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband."

    June 2, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
  9. Rick James

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FZFG5PKw504&w=640&h=390]

    June 2, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
    • Billy Offspring

      As for peanut butter, it is made from materials that were a living plant, secondly left opened in a warm dark place and you will see fungus forming or the creation of life from an apparently lifeless material. Boy are these people dumb this is grade school science.

      June 2, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
  10. lastofall

    There is no such thing that exists that is a case for Christians endorsing sinful behavior, and whosoever does, they are not at all a Christian, but a pretender.

    June 2, 2012 at 4:33 am |
    • the first and last to fall?

      A pervert suffering with fatal AIDS

      June 2, 2012 at 4:36 am |
    • JWT

      There are many different christian beliefs and bible interpretations.

      June 2, 2012 at 6:05 am |
    • Arvoasitis

      A true Christian believes that Jesus died to atone for the sins of the world and in Resurrection; a nominal Christian thinks Jesus the wised of teachers but otherwise unremarkable. Forgiveness, not sin, is at the heart of the Christian message but of course does not endorse sin, since that would be hypocritical. But, what is sinful? Perhaps its failure to obey moral rules. But, what are moral rules? Aren't they illustrations of universal universal moral principles. Anyone who has tried to read the Bible cover-to-cover comes to a point at which they say, "No; this can't be right." I must admit that I got as far as the slaughter of the Midianite women and children, and even though I did not understand the full context "do with them what you will," I knew that a loving God would not issue such a command. So, once again, what is sin?

      June 2, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • violet weed

      Exactly!!!

      June 2, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
  11. Arvoasitis

    No problem, nilla, I get your point. Had you lived about 2,500 years ago, an educated Greek, Egyptian or Babylonian could have told you the Earth is round (and fixed in its firmament much like a pearl in an oyster). They drew the conclusion, for example, by observing how the angle of the North Star changed as they travelled north. I hope you have an opportunity to read some of the literature of that era as it gives fine examples of good and bad reasoning..

    June 1, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
  12. thetruth

    "Tolerance applies only to persons, but never to principles. Intolerance applies only to principles but never to persons."

    Fulton Sheen

    June 1, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  13. robert

    1) Mr Osler – The church was not built on Peter, Jesus is the chief cornerstone, he is the head of the church, the gov rests on his shoulders and in all ways he is preeminent not some man (Peter)
    2) The bible is very clear on what is sin and what is not sin, we don't have to judge anyone just read Romans 1 chapter. Read Genesis 2nd chapter and you will see that God established relationships between a man and a women. You can compromise the word all you want to but the plain word of God is what you will be judged not "another gospel" . If scripture says that he who does such things will not inherit the kingdom of God anything you say is null and void.

    June 1, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • Azlon

      I completely agree with you. Who is this guy? He obviously hasn't read the bible. I am an atheist and I have probably read the bible more than this guy.
      The bible clearly states what is sin. Religions, nowadays, have changed and modified scripture to fit their comfortable lifestyle. For example, most of you worship on Sunday, but in the 10 commandments it clearly states that the day to worship is Sabbath day, which is Hebrew for Saturday.
      So what, you only keep 9 of the 10 commandments, when you know you're supposed to keep all of them?
      Most of them say that the laws changed in the New Testament, but please show me where it says that in the bible. They haven't changed! Men have brainwashed millions of people saying that the laws of the bible changed just to bring more people into their churches for money. If people truly followed the bible, word for word, there would be very few religious people.
      What I'm saying is, the bible clearly states that a marriage and a relationship is between a man and a woman and this guy has no idea what he is talking about.

      June 1, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
  14. Leeford

    Religion needs to adapt to the needs of humanity. Old school religion tells us not to eat pork and multiply. In the past, eating pork was dangerous and more hands in your family fields lead to a more financially sound household.

    Recently, the world changed to were having multiple children created a financial burden and we now know to cook pork thoroughly, thus religious views on contraception and culenary should change with the times.

    Now, it is near impossible for a single person to make their way in the world on one income and the complexity of our legal system requires the advantage of having a life partner, thus the definition of marriage should expand.

    Soon, families will need multiple incomes to remain solvent. I expect poligamy the next logical step in relious/social evolution.

    June 1, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
  15. Arvoasitis

    I have yet to hear a compelling argument for changing the traditional definition of marriage; although, polygamy seems to be the coming form since it is getting increasingly more difficult to support a family on two incomes.

    June 1, 2012 at 7:55 am |
    • nilla

      I have yet to hear a compelling argument about the Earth not being round. Am I supposed to believe those government satellite images?

      June 1, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • nilla

      Sorry, meant to say "about the Earth being round".

      June 1, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • MaraLynn

      Point well taken. However................Man cannot serve two masters-God or Money...and God Provides...money destroys.

      June 1, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
  16. angela

    I remember when I was in kindergarten, the first song we were taught to sing at school was "Jesus Loves Me." 'Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so..." I guess they forgot to add in a verse where Jesus's followers will condemn me to hell for loving who I love.

    June 1, 2012 at 1:19 am |
  17. mo

    for someone who professes to practice/ understand law, the author surely displays a blatant ignroance of the laws of logic.
    baptism in MOST christian denominations is a physical and personal indication of one's commitment to the christian ways of living.
    jesus said that if one were to seek forgiveness for their sins, and sin no more, than they were welcome into heaven.
    going by the assumption (as does the author) that ho-mo-s-ex-ua-li-ty is sin, then for a person of that nature to be baptised, they must be saved. for one to be saved, they must abandon their sinful ways. hence if i am sinner, i must seek atonement for my sins, and once i have committed to live a christian life, devoid of sinning, then i may seek baptism.
    so the author is correct, christians to not forbid anyone, BUT SINNERS, from baptism. but as long as ho-mo-se-xu-als continue to sin, they have turned their faces from God, and can not be baptised.

    May 31, 2012 at 9:03 pm |
    • Danny

      So I am assuming you have been baptized? From your above statement and I also to assume that once that took place you have not " sinned" since? Really did you read what you wrote? Really? If there was a god and a hell I am pretty sure you would be looking forward to an eternity of gnashing teeth.....

      June 1, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • TC

      "to not forbid anyone, BUT SINNERS, from baptism. but as long as ho-mo-se-xu-als continue to sin, they have turned their faces from God, and can not be baptised."

      First, if we are ALL sinners, and will ALL continue to make mistakes in the future, then you are saying that everyone is banned from Baptism, right? I'm not sure that's the way it works.

      I have never seen an alchololic, or a divorcee who has re-married banned from baptism.

      As for gay folks, since being gay is a God-given and innate trait, we are not sinning by being gay any more than you are sinning for being short, heteroseual, or bald. And, if marriage is not a sin for straight cuoples, then it cannot be a sin for gay couples.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
  18. marv

    To Mark Osler, To say that you are a christian, search your heart. Jesus was speaking in the book of Mark 10 verse 7. A the defination of wife is a woman. When Jesus spoke of marriage, he said for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united (cleave) to his wife. Marriage is honorable and the bed undefiled. Also it is said in the Bible husband love your wife as Christ loves the church. There are many more examples in the bible that marriage is between a man and a woman. For a christian to say otherwise, is contradicting the word of God. God says heaven and earth shall pass away but His word will not pass away. It will remain so forever.
    Talking about baptism, Jesus Himself was baptized as an adult. When he was an infant He was taken to the temple. John the Baptiste baptized the followers and Jesus, Peter baptized, Paul asked to be baptized, so baptism is not done in infancy. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal Himself to you. Even Jesus said to us that the only .way to understand the Bible is through the Holy Spirit, and not our own wisdom. Using your own wisdom will definately blind you from the truth.
    Jesus also said in Matthew 7 verse 6, Give not that is holy onto dogs. Neither cast your pearl before swints lest they trample them under their feet.

    May 31, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
    • JWT

      Your personal interpretation of the bible is not releevant this is a cilvil law matter and the marriages of any consenting adults must be allowed. It i s purely a matter of cilvil rights and no business of any religion.

      May 31, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Another illiterate attempts to pretend he knows what God thinks.

      May 31, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
    • Don

      The only way to understand the Holy Spirit is through your heart. Rather than quote the number of times and ways Yeshua tried to convey this truth I'll simply say read the NT again. And lest you forget THE reason they had him crucified is precisely because he was teaching people that religion and scripture ain't enough...you gotta go further and find it in your own heart. The same is true in our times – Religion and scripture ain't enough. Good Luck on your journey – I hope you learn to listen to Christians who may be wiser than you in some respects.

      May 31, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
    • JWT

      Well Don my life is fine without jesus. Not everyone needs or wants or is able to believe in it. Nor do your religious beliefs about it apply to all people. There is certainly no reason to believe in them other than if people want to . Which is fine of course. Personally my feelings when some religious dolt insists that I must believe in jesus and find him is to take their bible and shove it up their hole sideways where it belongs.

      May 31, 2012 at 10:05 pm |
    • TC

      "Jesus also said in Matthew 7 verse 6, Give not that is holy onto dogs. Neither cast your pearl before swints lest they trample them under their feet."

      And sadly, this verse defines you well. You use your interpretations of the Bible as weapons to harm others, with no rational or logical thought to the damage you do.

      Sad.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • Sher

      amen amen, I could not have expressed it any better. Things of the Spirit are decerned by the Spirit, but you can make up anything you want and call it Christianity but it is not. Brian well done

      June 1, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
  19. crsmejia

    This is what happened in Thyatira, the church began to be tolerant and people of course will choose gospel that dispels what God has laid down for doctrine that makes their twisted view that God doesn't share more easy to accept. Even those who are "Christians" are deceived. This is what 1 Timothy 4:3 says, For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. So I hope you find conviction in your soul if you truly are a Christian; a follower of Christ. Otherwise you're just a person that is deceived, claiming to be walking in the light but is in darkness. You're fooling yourself...

    May 31, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • brian

      I hope you find conviction in taking scripture out of context and using it for your purposes, rather than its original intent.

      seriously. please don't post garbage like that if you're a christian. be quick to listen, slow to speak. SLOW TO BECOME ANGRY.

      if you disagree, pray about it. but please don't ever post again. deal?

      May 31, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
  20. Joe Seattle

    So many people trying to respond to this blather with argument. The author is a fool. The extrapolations are ridiculous.

    And the gay marriage debate has nothing to do with the church. The open issue is should the state recognize civil unions between men. The answer is simple. The state has no right to deny any two people any legal contract they wish to draw between them that it extends to anyone else. If two people want to file taxes jointly and meet a standard set of requirements (like, say, cohabitation, for instance), the state has not buisiness telling them they have to claim to be married, or siblings, or enemies who like to keep eachother close.

    Just call it an "M-corp" or whatever, and call it a day.

    the only sticky issue that remains regards who should be allowed to adopt. That should be up to the parents of the child, declared and recorded at the time of birth (and naturally updatable if they change their mind at some point), since collectively we all can't, and don't need to, agree.

    May 31, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • brian

      the author is not a fool. you just don't have it in you to actually form a worthy response so instead you make a snarky comment.

      Good for you, but the reality is this actually matters to a lot of people, gay and straight.

      Secondly, your point about adoption is invalid. It tries to get there, but what if the parents die, or one dies and the other changes its mind, or the only place for this child to go is either foster care by two gay men or adoption by one gay woman.
      it's a reality that's coming to our world & we must do our best to address these issues with love and grace and wisdom.

      May 31, 2012 at 7:02 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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.