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. Who Would Jesus Do

    Jesus is gay; he was WAY into washing other dudes' feet - that's really REALLY gay (and I'm cool with that, no judgement here, to each his own, right?). What parts jesus washed in private and off the record is left to the imagination. Jesus preferred the company of men and the cultural bias against women was the perfect cover for jesus' gay lifestyle - he was EXPECTED to hang out with guys all the time and that was fine with him. .Jesus' entire entourage was male and they probably went all "Brokeback Mountain" on each other out there in the wilderness between towns where they scammed people for free room and board with their "son of god" con-job. God impregnated Mary without touching her because the thought of touching - eww! - a woman was too gross for him to do it himself, so he got her pregnant with "magic" insemination, so he didn't have to touch her. God created man first, which proves he's gay because a straight guy would have created a WOMAN first; only a gay guy would create a man first. Pretty simple facts to understand people. God and jesus are gay, accept and deal with it.

    May 19, 2012 at 9:25 am |
    • BamaDaniel

      Then why make straight people.you can't reproduce. Ha ha ha ha make baby with your soulmate ,you can't.see yourself reborn,you can't.

      May 19, 2012 at 9:31 am |
    • Joeyjoejoe

      You are so right! Let's start our own church based on this no less reasonable interpretation than others. One question: Who are we going to discriminate against? Gotta discriminate and stick your nose in stranger's lives..... Lefties? OK, we will seek to disenfranchise all left handed people!

      May 19, 2012 at 9:31 am |
  2. Mahatma

    The world would be christian, but for the Christians...

    May 19, 2012 at 9:25 am |
  3. AZ

    If gay marriage was acceptable, why none of the prophets were ever gay ?
    Do we really know the meaning of a marriage ?

    May 19, 2012 at 9:25 am |
    • JWT

      Marriage is simple
      1) Two or more people that love one another and make that commitment – with or without formailty
      2) A legal interpretation that allows for certain laws to be applied to partners.

      May 19, 2012 at 9:34 am |
  4. VerySad

    Figures this came from a lawyer. Always pushing the bounds of iniquity. When will America be ripe for destruction being pushed to the brink by people like this?

    God loves all his children. All of them. But he can never approve of sin in any degree.

    Next you'll be pushing that the scriptures approve of adultery.

    May 19, 2012 at 9:24 am |
    • R. Smith

      Very Sad,
      I'm sorry to say that you have missed the point of both Mr. Osler's message and the New Testament. Why did Christ die on the cross? So that we may ALL be forgiven our sins against God.

      May 19, 2012 at 9:34 am |
  5. Rex

    Good article, Mark. Thank you for writing it.

    May 19, 2012 at 9:24 am |
  6. Colin

    Can a Christian please help me? I am having trouble distinguishing the third example of circular reasoning from the first two. Perhaps you can explain the difference.

    “I believe Obama is a great man because his biography says so, and the reason I believe his biography is that it is about Obama, who is a great man.”

    “I believe David Koresh was a wise and great prophet because the Branch Davidians wrote a book saying he is. I believe that book because it was inspired by David Koresh, a wise and great prophet.”

    “I believe God exists because it says so in the Bible, and I believe the Bible because it is the inspired word of God.”

    May 19, 2012 at 9:23 am |
    • Rob

      "God Spoke It, The Bible Say's It, I Believe It." That kind of reasoning is not where I pesonally am at. Scripture, along with Tradition, Reason and Experience are how we understand God. If it was scripture alone, I would not believe. As what I read in scripture is made real through the Christian tradition (yes, it is a bad track record because we fail and have failed) as undersood to our reason and personal experience, I am compelled to believe. Beyond that, when I see the Gospel lived out in the lives in service to others, it is made real and I am compelled even further. So, the Bible is a source, but not the only source for the Christian faith.

      May 19, 2012 at 9:38 am |
    • Luis Servellon

      The difference is: Nature itself points to a Creator. Nature speaks of intelligent design not of an accident.

      May 19, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • preacherman


      May 20, 2012 at 12:07 am |
  7. Do us a favor

    Please don't use the Bible to justify sinfulness. We all are sinners and need to repent and require grace to be forgiven.

    May 19, 2012 at 9:22 am |
    • Cq

      The author's point is that marriage is a sacrament, just like baptism, and you would actually encourage a sinner to get baptized, right?

      May 19, 2012 at 9:30 am |
  8. PJ

    Good article and very true. However, the biggots will not agree, though so many are in the closet.

    May 19, 2012 at 9:22 am |
    • Jason

      Not true. Do not be lead astray. The Bible clearly states that a man that lies with another man shall be put to death. How arrogant we have become to deny the word of God. He will come to judge the living and the dead and His kingdom will have no end.

      May 19, 2012 at 9:42 am |
  9. PraiseTheLard

    Amazing how many people take a bunch of ancient fairy tales seriously...

    May 19, 2012 at 9:21 am |
  10. not again

    Philippians 2:10-11

    So that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Do it now or do it later either way you will do it the only difference is where you will spend eternity.

    May 19, 2012 at 9:20 am |
    • Cq

      By accepting gays wouldn't MORE knees bend and tongues ... whatever ... to Jesus? Wouldn't that be a good thing?

      May 19, 2012 at 9:32 am |
    • JWT

      That may apply to you but noen of it applies to me not-again.

      May 19, 2012 at 9:35 am |
  11. Strawberry Field

    Jesus also told the sinners to "Go, and sin no more".

    May 19, 2012 at 9:20 am |
    • Cq

      Do you think eating shellfish is a sin? The Bible puts being gay in the same category: Ritually unclean. Do you follow kosher Law?

      May 19, 2012 at 9:34 am |
  12. goodNplenty

    "I am for gay marriage because of my faith."
    "I am against gay marriage because of my faith"

    I've heard both sides of many issues taken "because of my faith"
    Maybe it's time to drop faith as a mechanism for deciding moral and factual issues.

    May 19, 2012 at 9:20 am |
    • chefdugan

      Amen! Faith, that eternal bridge to nowhere, is what Christians use to explain the unexplainable. It is the most successful con game in the history of the world. Just suppose you were selling cars, told a prospect that this was the best car in the world, and when they doubted you, all you have to say is "have faith". If it weren't for faith all of those BS artists called ministers and priests would be out of work.

      May 19, 2012 at 9:27 am |
    • R. Smith

      We've been trying it your way for the last 30 years as religious participation has fallen to historic lows. How do all of you anti-religion people think its working so far. Remove all moral barriers to depravity and what do you get? DEPRAVITY !!!

      May 19, 2012 at 10:54 am |
  13. Spangler

    The only named abomination in the NT is Luke 16:15 where Jesus calls the love of money an abomination. You may draw your own conclusions about that one.

    May 19, 2012 at 9:20 am |
  14. Mike

    The problem with Osler??? There's way too man "I" words in his comments..... Not very scriptural

    May 19, 2012 at 9:18 am |
  15. jungleboo

    Love-ly ideas in this article. It will not reach the hearts of those who are hardened, witness the fundamentalist comments thus far. Their comments are stone cold evidence that they are more deeply involved in disapproval and hatred, imbuing their Jesus/God with the same personality as theirs. Civilizations have always done so, but that is no indication that they survive.

    The three monotheisms that sprang from the Eastern Mediterranean will suffer the Apocalypse that they so righteously yearn for, as they maintain and strengthen their disrespect for their fellow man through persecution, suicide bombings and isolationism. I prefer to think of any "gospel" as folk tales that impart wisdom, not meant to be taken literally. However, the grandaddy of all Churches, the Catholic, invoked its power through an alliance with the Roman Emperor, hence "The Holy Roman Empire". Crushing gnostic thought was their speciality. They did. We are living the remnants of their tyranny. Thankfully, it amounts to not much more than disapproving looks and posts nowadays, a far cry from the inevitable burnings, beheadings and excommunications that was their specialty for centuries. Ask Galileo and countless others.

    May 19, 2012 at 9:18 am |
  16. diane

    Well said...very well said.

    May 19, 2012 at 9:17 am |
    • Jason

      If you walk in darkness, you will not find your way. Jesus said," I am the light of the world. He who believes in me shall not die, but have eternal life."

      May 19, 2012 at 9:48 am |
  17. palintwit

    If I was Sarah Palin I'd fill my anus with quick drying concrete. And you can take that to the bank !

    May 19, 2012 at 9:16 am |
    • Jb

      Since your aren't, what do you use instead?

      May 19, 2012 at 9:28 am |
  18. Mike

    It's always easier to change the scripture rather than to live it..... not very Christian....

    May 19, 2012 at 9:16 am |
    • DeeCee1000

      It's always easier to let someone else do the thinking. . .than to use your own brain. . . .kinda like what some animals do.

      May 19, 2012 at 9:19 am |
    • jungleboo

      And even harder to have a change of heart. You might consider it and sweeten up.

      May 19, 2012 at 9:20 am |
  19. Josh Maxus

    Romans 1:26-27
    26 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: 27 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.

    Genesis 2:24
    Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh

    I suppose a mother can be a man...a male? Show one instance in human history. In the same vein a wife can be a man?

    Give your head a shake you poor blind individual.

    May 19, 2012 at 9:15 am |
    • DeeCee1000

      LOL. Look at all the religious fanatics, the US equivalents of Al-Qaida throwing a hissy fit. It's hilarious!

      May 19, 2012 at 9:23 am |
    • BamaDaniel

      They cant

      May 19, 2012 at 9:23 am |
    • DeeCee1000

      Fortunately, my gay marriage has nothing to do with your evil religion.

      May 19, 2012 at 9:23 am |
    • Liz

      I think the author of this article represents his own take on gay marriage....but to say that is the bibles take on gay marriage? The last I did my research no where in the bible that allows this.

      May 19, 2012 at 9:30 am |
  20. Mike

    Some distort scripture to suit their agenda.. Not a good thing if you are really a Christian...

    May 19, 2012 at 9:13 am |
    • DeeCee1000

      Thou shalt not eat shellfish. . .blah blah blah. . .abomination unto the Lord . blah blah blah. Have YOU "distorted" what your book of myths has instructed you to do and not do?

      May 19, 2012 at 9:21 am |
    • annierooney

      Mike, I so agree with you. No one is disputing the fact that Jesus loves us all gay and straight. But because he loves us does not mean he loves our sins whatever it may be. He loves serial killers, child molesters, etc... but does that mean these sins are ok? I think not. Obviiously, he skipped over Leviticus.

      May 19, 2012 at 9:21 am |
    • jungleboo

      My thoughts about your actions precisely. Leave it alone and let it (NT) be the song of love it was meant to be.

      May 19, 2012 at 9:22 am |
    • DeeCee1000

      I personally like Horus. He's one of my favorite "gods". . . .I'm sure most of you religious fanatics will find him pleasing since the events of his "life" are almost identical to the Christians' "Jesus" god. . .except that Horus eventually grew wings once he was taken up to heaven, after resurrecting on the third day, after being crucified, after turning water into wine, after walking on water, after having 12 disciples, after being born of a virgin. . . on and on. Then again there are others. Take your pick. LOL

      May 19, 2012 at 9:29 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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.