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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. Darrell Benton

    I've probably just insulted a lot of people. I hope this doesn't get my name added to a "hit list" or make me lose my job ( Oops!)

    May 19, 2012 at 8:23 am |
    • Crom

      who cares

      May 19, 2012 at 8:25 am |
    • Crom

      I'm also an idiot, but everyone here knows that now.

      May 19, 2012 at 8:27 am |
  2. cj

    Leviticus 18:22 Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.

    God is your problem. Not people who live in order of the word

    May 19, 2012 at 8:23 am |
    • If that's your argument

      then you lose by way of the first amendment.

      May 19, 2012 at 8:26 am |
    • Crom

      Well said, cj!

      May 19, 2012 at 8:28 am |
    • lilbuddah

      I'm so glad that my life isn't ruled by words on a page like yours is. How narrow minded.

      May 20, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
  3. Rethink

    Nobody should be getting married.

    May 19, 2012 at 8:21 am |
  4. Darrell Benton

    Since 2000 gays have exploded into the mainstream; they recruit members! There is no such thing as gay marriage. There is only marriage in which you have a bride, groom, best man, Pastor, family and friends. Marriage is a union that is sacred and blessed by God himself, and a gay marriage cannot receive the Lord's blessing because it is a tainted and unclean thing. Married people are blessed in a way that the Lord would NEVER bestow to a gay couple; that's just the way it is....

    May 19, 2012 at 8:19 am |
    • JWT

      marriage is not now and never has been solely owned by any religion. It is irrelevant in every possible way what some god may or may not think of it.

      May 19, 2012 at 8:22 am |
    • NoTheism

      I am sorry to say that you are ill informed. Your concept of marriage is culturally centered. Culture evolves and so will your understanding of marriage (eventually).

      May 19, 2012 at 8:23 am |
    • zeyn2010

      I got married in court then had our own wedding party. There was no religion involved. Marriage has nothing to do with religion. Me and my husband's religions are different.

      May 19, 2012 at 8:26 am |
    • The tainted and unclean

      are Christians. They are a bloodthirsty and self-righteous cult that wants all of us to follow their ancient rules.

      May 19, 2012 at 8:37 am |
  5. Alan

    Just more communist propaganda to destroy religion....................

    May 19, 2012 at 8:19 am |
    • Why not?

      We'd be better off without these bible thumpers.

      May 19, 2012 at 8:23 am |
    • zeyn2010

      What does communism have to do with gay marriage topic?

      May 19, 2012 at 8:28 am |
  6. Fylthe

    Seriously! Ask me if I look like a tree!!

    May 19, 2012 at 8:19 am |
  7. N&W 1000

    It really is funny how CNN goes out and digs these type people up to write these articles.

    How about give LZ Granderson a religious blog? "Pastor LZ Speaks."

    May 19, 2012 at 8:18 am |
    • Crom

      That's the CNN modus operandi with Christianity. Find someone who is far outside the mainstream and conflate their view to make it look like all Christians are hateful and ignorant.

      And then hate-theists like me can glom onto the thread and make complete fools of ourselves.

      And I'm darned good at it, too!

      May 19, 2012 at 8:22 am |
    • Crom

      Based on sentence structure, I can safely say that Colin is the name stealing shtthead that's been stealing my name.

      Good job Colin. You can stop now, christard.

      May 19, 2012 at 8:26 am |
    • BLW

      CROM, I love that comment. CNN just loves to create a virtual argument to keep people on their site. I come here just to be insulted.

      May 19, 2012 at 8:31 am |
  8. Bill

    The Bible teaches love, faith, kindness, gentleness ..... not hatred. Today's churches would do well to remember this instead of emphasizing on hatred of anything they don't like.

    May 19, 2012 at 8:17 am |
    • N&W 1000

      Hatred is NOT telling people the truth.

      By that definition, this "professor" hates you.

      May 19, 2012 at 8:19 am |
    • Crom

      I go to church every Sunday. I have never heard my Priest say anything hateful about anyone.

      You read too much CNN.

      May 19, 2012 at 8:24 am |
    • JW

      I agree N&W. There are many pied pipers out there, deceived by demons who have these assignments from Satan to lead as many people as possible away from the real truth laid out in the Bible. Rationalizations, compromising, wrong interpretations, not taking the Bible literally, and outright lying about what it says is what they tempt the pipers to do. And then those who don't really read the Bible swallow these lies hook, line and sinker. They are all following these pipers on the wrong road that leads to eternal destruction.

      May 19, 2012 at 8:33 am |
  9. Phyl

    You don't baptize infants !!! How does a infant "belive, repent and confess Jesus is the Son of God....We are BORN into a sinful world BUT we are not born a sinner.....

    May 19, 2012 at 8:17 am |
    • Crom

      If it belongs to a christian, it needs all the luck it can get. Personally I hope it gets cancer.

      May 19, 2012 at 8:19 am |
    • N&W 1000

      I would agree, infants are not capable of that choice.

      He that BELIEVETH and is baptized shall be saved...

      May 19, 2012 at 8:20 am |
    • Crom

      I'm also an idiot who likes to argue with myself, Phyl.

      May 19, 2012 at 8:25 am |
  10. What's good for the goose is good for the gander

    Blasphemy , , , 2 Timothy 4:3,4 "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth , and be turned aside to fables".

    May 19, 2012 at 8:17 am |
    • I believe

      It can't be said any plainer than this. SO true. Scary how much truth is in this.

      May 19, 2012 at 8:29 am |
  11. Crom

    May God bless all of you with his deep abiding love for mankind.

    Dona nobis pacem.

    May 19, 2012 at 8:17 am |
    • N&W 1000

      :Perhaps you should pray for cancer patients?

      May 19, 2012 at 8:21 am |
    • Crom

      Hahahahahaha @ cancer patients!! Not if they're christian. I like to see them suffer!

      May 19, 2012 at 8:24 am |
    • Crom

      Leave me alone you meanies!!!

      May 19, 2012 at 8:25 am |
  12. Crom

    Hey, if you're a christian, and your kid has cancer, can I watch you pray the cancer away? I know it might take months. But I think it'll be funny to watch the whole process take place. LOL

    May 19, 2012 at 8:16 am |
    • Crom

      I might hate everybody I see, but I also pray to God my soul to keep.

      He watches over the idiots. Especially me.

      May 19, 2012 at 8:18 am |
  13. Mike

    The article is utter contrivance...somebody twisting scripture to justify his own lusts. And Colin – despite your well written piece there is still a part of you that yearns for the truth.....

    May 19, 2012 at 8:16 am |
    • NoTheism

      I am not sure what you mean by saying "twisting scripture" as the only way to read it is to interpret it, and everyone does this subjectively. Sure, some scholars agree on certain interpretations... but that is all they are too–interpretations.

      May 19, 2012 at 8:19 am |
    • trueblue42

      We all yearn for the truth, Mike. It's just that some of us have accepted the fact that Christianity is not the truth, so we've gone elsewhere in our search. You're free to join us.

      May 19, 2012 at 8:22 am |
  14. joshua

    see dr owour a prophet amomg us. read deuteronomy 18 and read the book of enoch.

    May 19, 2012 at 8:14 am |
    • BamaDaniel

      Book Enoch is good reading.even Christians scared to touch it. Was part of original bible

      May 19, 2012 at 8:17 am |
    • brandon

      The book of Enoch was never in the "original Bible" (canon).

      May 19, 2012 at 8:24 am |
  15. odiesmom

    The author makes an interesting point, however, baptism was not a good illustration here. Baptism is a show of faith, dead in sin, but resurrected to Christ. Once you choose a Christian lifestyle you must stop doing things displeasing to God. Christianity is not a get out of jail for free card.

    May 19, 2012 at 8:14 am |
  16. Jesus Loves Dudes

    If I'm created in god's image and god is invisible I should be invisible, too. Kind of a big flaw in the bible, which proves it's lies because god the infallible could not have possibly made such a fundamental error.

    May 19, 2012 at 8:14 am |
    • BamaDaniel

      God not invisible. The gods are male and female.let us make man in Our image .man for the male image. Woman for the female image.heaven is the sky .gods have a mothership there.

      May 19, 2012 at 8:24 am |
    • brandon

      That is not what "image" is referring to.

      May 19, 2012 at 8:26 am |
    • Dave

      The Bible is not a "courtroom" – people actually use common sense when interpreting it

      May 19, 2012 at 8:54 am |
  17. Serge Crespy

    LOGIC: Marriage is about "LIFE" / Sperm + Egg = LIFE .... Sperm + Sperm = Mutation .... Egg + Egg = Mutation

    May 19, 2012 at 8:13 am |
  18. Vinifera

    As I recall, the sacrament of baptism was for those repenting–not for anyone who just felt like having it. I agree that the New Testament has a message of compassion, love and mercy. But is also has a message of obedience and discipleship. Jesus not only tells the adulteress "Neither do I condemn you" He also tells her "go and sin no more".

    May 19, 2012 at 8:12 am |
    • worktolive

      That's what my Bible stats also. How can you continue to sin and claim you are a Christian?

      May 19, 2012 at 8:15 am |
    • brandon

      It is talking about a pattern of sin, not sin itself. If a Christian claims he is without sin, the truth is not within him (1 John 1:8).

      May 19, 2012 at 8:28 am |
  19. Colin

    No matter how you dress it up, there are some fundamental difficulties with Christianity that are pretty hard to overcome.

    1. At its most fundamental level, Christianity requires a belief that an all-knowing, all-powerful, immortal being created the entire Universe and its billions of galaxies 13,720,000,000 years ago (the age of the Universe) sat back and waited 10,000,000,000 years for the Earth to form, then waited another 3,720,000,000 years for human beings to gradually evolve, then, at some point gave them eternal life and sent its son to Earth to talk about sheep and goats in the Middle East.

    While here, this divine visitor exhibits no knowledge of ANYTHING outside of the Iron Age Middle East, including the other continents, 99% of the human race, and the aforementioned galaxies.

    Either that, or it all started 6,000 years ago with one man, one woman and a talking snake. Either way “oh come on” just doesn’t quite capture it.

    2. This ‘all loving’ god spends his time running the Universe and spying on the approximately 7 billion human beings on planet Earth 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He even reads their minds (or “hears their prayers”, if you see any difference) using some kind of magic telepathic powers. He also keeps his telepathic eye on them when they are not praying, so as to know if they think bad thoughts (such as coveting their neighbor) so he knows whether to reward or punish them after they die.

    3. Having withheld any evidence of his existence, this god will then punish those who doubt him with an eternity burning in hell. I don’t have to kill, I don’t have to steal, I don’t even have to litter. All I have to do is harbor an honest, reasonable and rational disbelieve in the Christian god and he will inflict a grotesque penalty on me a billion times worse than the death penalty – and he loves me.

    4. The above beliefs are based on nothing more than a collection of Bronze and Iron Age Middle Eastern mythology, much of it discredited, that was cobbled together into a book called the “Bible” by people we know virtually nothing about, before the Dark Ages.

    5. The stories of Christianity are not even original. They are borrowed directly from earlier mythology from the Middle East. Genesis and Exodus, for example, are clearly based on earlier Babylonian myths such as The Epic of Gilgamesh, and the Jesus story itself is straight from the stories about Apollonius of Tyana, Ho.rus and Dionysus (including virgin birth, the three wise men, the star in the East, birth at the Winter solstice, a baptism by another prophet, turning water into wine, crucifixion and rising from the dead).

    6. The Bible is also literally infested with contradictions, outdated morality, and open support for the most barbarous acts of cruelty – including, genocide, murder, slavery, r.ape and the complete subjugation of women. All of this is due to when and where it was written, the morality of the times and the motives of its authors and compilers. While this may be exculpatory from a literary point of view, it also screams out the fact that it is a pure product of man, bereft of any divine inspiration.

    7. A rejection of the supernatural elements of Christianity does not require a rejection of its morality. Most atheists and secular humanists share a large amount of the morality taught today by mainstream Christianity. To the extent we reject Christian morality, it is where it is outdated or mean spirited – such as in the way it seeks to curtail freedoms or oppose the rights of $exual minorities. In most other respects, our basic moral outlook is indistinguishable from that of the liberal Christian – we just don’t need the mother of all carrots and sticks hanging over our head in order to act in a manner that we consider moral.

    Falsely linking morality to a belief in the supernatural is a time-tested “three card trick” religion uses to stop its adherents from asking the hard questions. So is telling them it is “wrong to doubt.” This is probably why there is not one passage in the Bible in support of intelligence and healthy skepticism, but literally hundreds in support of blind acceptance and blatant gullibility.

    8. We have no idea of who wrote the four Gospels, how credible or trustworthy they were, what ulterior motives they had (other than to promote their religion) or what they based their views on. We know that the traditional story of it being Matthew, Mark, Luke and John is almost certainly wrong. For example, the Gospel of Matthew includes a scene in which Jesus meets Matthew, recounted entirely in the third person!! Nevertheless, we are called upon to accept the most extraordinary claims by these unknown people, who wrote between 35 to 65 years after Christ died and do not even claim to have been witnesses. It is like taking the word of an unknown Branch Davidian about what happened to David Koresh at Waco – who wrote 35 years after the fact and wasn’t there.

    9. When backed into a corner, Christianity admits it requires a “leap of faith” to believe it. However, once one accepts that pure faith is a legitimate reason to believe in something (which it most certainly is not, any more than “faith” that pixies exist is) one has to accept all other gods based on exactly the same reasoning. One cannot be a Christian based on the “leap of faith” – and then turn around and say those who believe in, for example, the Hindu gods, based on the same leap, got it wrong. In a dark room without features, any guess by a blind man at the direction of the door is as valid as the other 359 degrees.

    Geography and birthplace dictates what god(s) one believes in. Every culture that has ever existed has had its own gods and they all seem to favor that particular culture, its hopes, dreams, and prejudices. Do you think they all exist? If not, why only yours?

    Faith is not belief in a god. It is a mere hope for a god, a wish for a god, no more substantial than the hope for a good future and no more universal than the language you speak or the baseball team you support.

    May 19, 2012 at 8:11 am |
    • BamaDaniel

      And after all that you and your boyfriend can't make a new life from your flesh

      May 19, 2012 at 8:14 am |
    • Thomas

      Nice post. Might I suggest decafe?

      May 19, 2012 at 8:15 am |
    • BamaDaniel

      Might I suggest a woman

      May 19, 2012 at 8:19 am |
    • Crom

      Might I suggest going into a hospital full of sick christians and laughing at them? LOL

      May 19, 2012 at 8:20 am |
    • Your Credentials Do Not Make You a Decent Person Osler

      Create your own original living human cell, then, Colin.
      Other than procreating, that is.
      When you can do that, I will call you a god.
      Make mountains. Construct vast oceans.
      Develop original plant life by your tremendous power and authority as a deity.
      Build your own galaxies.
      Until that day comes, shut your mouth. It blasphemes the living God Almighty, Lord over all on Heaven and Earth, even disgusting filth like you.

      May 19, 2012 at 8:22 am |
    • ch

      Wow, I have never seen so many our right misconceptions and lies, I would love to debae you for you don't know what you are saying at all, only a fool says ther is no God

      May 19, 2012 at 8:28 am |
    • martog

      Colin, as always a GREAT well thought out post! I love how the illiterate name calling ALWAYS follows your posts. Obviously your arrows find their mark!

      May 19, 2012 at 8:28 am |
    • Andrew

      Very well put. An enjoyable read with so much logic. The changing "ways" in the Bible (written by man) also can't seem to explain why incest is bad (not that I condone it), yet, how do you think Adam and Eve procreated after them? The kids certainly didn't hook up with the neighbors.

      May 19, 2012 at 8:29 am |
    • ATXMaxQ

      So are you trying to make an intelligent argument for gay marriage advocacy or just trying to prove a billion and a half people wrong and anger them in the process?

      As a Christian I could go into the "Christian perspective" on everything you just discussed (as yours is a fairly common viewpoint among non-believers) but my guess is that you don't give CNN message boards any more validity than I do.

      If you're genuinely curious as to how we can believe that which we do, my challenge to you would be to take your queries before trained clergy (an LCMS pastor or Catholic priest would be my suggestions). Contrary to what you may believe I can guarantee they would consider it a privilege to spend time with you to answer any questions you may have, and you will receive no obligation to agree with what they have to say.

      May 19, 2012 at 8:46 am |
    • Dave

      This may come as a shock to you – BUT- evolution could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in court – if it is a "Law" of science and not a theory explain to me why Scientist in the same field have differing opinions theory has undergone massive changes since the 1850's when Darwin first came up with the THEORY – there are a lot of interesting similarities to true science which makes it sound so plausible, but it should sound good – After all the top scientist / humanists in the world promote it and they are all pretty smart

      May 19, 2012 at 9:15 am |
  20. Areverend

    This is just plain wrong.. Just look back at sodom and gamora (sorry cant spell it) GOD is clearly against it. There is no question. Gays are forbidden clearly in the bible. Some of you need to read it better if you think they are not. You know what is ok but is not allowed in todays culture poligimy. Yep the bible teaches it but the mormons took it out of their way of life to make the public happy. If GAYS can get married then we need to allow plural marriage. Thats all there is to that...

    May 19, 2012 at 8:11 am |
    • Colin

      Yes, what a great idea. Let's ase 21st Century social policy on Iron Age Palestinian mythology.

      May 19, 2012 at 8:14 am |
    • JWT

      Nothing wrong with polygamy either. Both should should be legal and the religions stay out of it as it is none of their business.

      May 19, 2012 at 8:15 am |
    • Of course polygamy should be legal

      Any number of men and women can live together legally in this country, but only multiple marriage certificates are illegal, and in some states, the marriage ceremony itself is all you need to prosecute a felony. Imagine that! We're a theocracy and we tell everyone we have freedom of religion.

      May 19, 2012 at 8:22 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.