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. kellyinmn

    Thank you Mr. Osler for publishing this article. It reflects the kinder side of Christianity. I have always believed that God loves everyone and judgement is reserved only for him, but he judges with love not hate. Now if only the people in this country and around the world could try, at a minimum, to judge with love rather than hate.

    May 23, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • Scott

      I agree with kelly, beautiful article... we need to get past using god for hate and just accept life... leave the judgement to god.

      May 23, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
  2. JoeBananas

    That HolyMolyBibleBook has Much Wisdom, Beautiful Poetry, and Malarky Also!!
    Gotta separate out the Good in that MolyBook from the Foolishness in it!!
    VirginMary Preggies after meeting an angel?!! Walk on Water?!! COME ON NOW!! WAKE THE FLOCK UP!!
    This is OUR 21st Century and America is STUCK in DarkAges with Kings and Thrones and DroolingJealousGods!!

    May 23, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
  3. Erik

    There's no logic in this article. The argument against gay marriage has nothing to do with excluding sinners from sacriments, which we agree should not be done. The argument is that we should not change the sacrements to embrace sin as something holy.

    May 23, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • Bruce

      But we already have, for a very long time, accepted the sin of adultery (aka divorce and remarriage) within the sacrament of marriage.

      May 23, 2012 at 11:50 am |
  4. brown

    bralenx, you need to come back to earth!!!

    May 23, 2012 at 11:44 am |
  5. Bruce

    This is spot-on. One thing that reinforces Osler's words here is the "one man and one woman" passage in the gospels where Jesus equates divorce and remarriage with adultery, and does not go on to suggest that divorcees should be denied the sacrament of marriage based on their sin of adultery. In fact he points to Moses who allowed the practice as a "mercy" because our hearts are hard.

    Adultery is undoubtedly a sin, and Jesus makes no bones about labeling divorce and remarriage as adultery. The adulterous (re)marriage, however, is still a marriage, in spite of it being sinful adultery. The same kind of mercy could, and I think should, be worked out for gays and the sacrament of marriage, based on this example.

    May 23, 2012 at 11:42 am |
  6. Steve

    Ron Paul is right, MYOB, the problem is the Fed laws from FDR that defined marriage and gave tax breaks to married couple to fund the ponzi of ss by having children. Be done with Feds in personal life of consenting adults and stop making this a religious issue people have rights to their own religious beliefs as well as personal beliefs. End the Fed. Liberty for one and all.

    May 23, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • testing 1...2...3


      May 23, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
  7. alaskaproudandstrong1

    Gay marriage is a sin just like lying, stealing, and murder. And God will judge it accordingly

    May 23, 2012 at 10:47 am |
    • Kandric

      Just like interracial marriage, right?

      You can believe what you want as long as it does not deny rights to others. By not allowing gay marriage you are denying rights to others.

      May 23, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • onestarman

      YOU stating something means NOTHING about how GOD views it

      May 23, 2012 at 11:46 am |

      Think of Matthew 19 when Jesus says, "What God has put together let no man put asunder." A man in the crowd states that if this is so he prefers not to marry at ll. Didn't want to get locked in? Jesus referred him to the classes of those who customarily didn't want to marry or couldn't marry - monks (for the sake of the kingdom of heaven -men damaged by the practice of making eunuchs for use as governmental servants (Egypt generally) and the class of people who "from their mother's womb"are not suited (for women?) He thus referred the man to a look at his real motivation -desire for freedom to loose the bonds of matrimony not for legitimate reasons – adultery- but for whim. It was only" a by the way" this –"from their mother's womb" but think about what it could imply– no choice and natural state. This from Jesus.

      May 23, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • Rick

      Just like Gluttony! I see an awful lot of Gluttons in Church, how come they are not excluded from the sacraments? Seems like Hypocracy to me!

      However, with that said, Gay Marriage is a Civil Right, as well as a Religious Rite. While any Church who wants to exclude gays should be allowed to do so, Gays should NOT be excluded from the Civil Right!

      If you use the arguement that if we allow Gay Marriage, the Government will force Churches to perform Gay Marriages is Crazy. We have Divorce in this country, yet the Government has NEVER forced the Catholic Church to perform marriages to Diorced Persons. Though many religious organizations do not allow marriage of church members to non-members, the government has NEVER stepped in and forced them to perform thses marriages. If our Pastor is using that arguement, he/she is either Lying, or is Uninformed!

      May 23, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • Bruce

      @Rick: Right on!

      FYI, the Roman Catholic Church doesn't allow divorce and remarriage, but they DO have this thing called "annulment" where they simply created a word that was not divorce and substi.tuted that word and *poof* it's not a divorce–brilliant!

      So what we can do is simply re-label hom.o.se.x as something like "Fred," and say that we don't allow gay marriages, but Fred marriages are a-okay...

      May 23, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • kellyinmn

      Just as God will judge you for judging others when that is most clearly reserved for him and him alone in the eyes of Christianity.

      May 23, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
  8. Carl

    From Romans 1 – Verses 22-27 (Part of "The Bible")
    22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,

    23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

    24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:

    25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

    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.

    May 23, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • Paul Grisham

      Great Job Carl, God does not change we are the weak and follow our own lusts. By the way the Author is dead wrong & Peter is not the rock, Christ is the Rock or Cornersone of the church.

      May 23, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • Bruce

      Paul: "And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it." Matthew 16:18

      Sorry man, you are just completely wrong about that one...

      May 23, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • Mohammed_Islam


      In reference of verse 25:
      Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

      If the Lord God (according to Genesis) created the entire creation and I believe Jesus (PBUH) also part of the creation and so the holy spirit... now doesn't it mean that the Christianity also serving the creature more than the Creator?

      If you read bible and be open minded/nutral – then you will see the contradicts within the bible... for example – Luke says that the Jesus was there before the world was made whereas Genesis says about only 'Lord God' which it talks about the creation... we can go on with the examples like this...

      Just a thought to share and with due respect to all..... at the end of the day it YOU who decides to be what and not for anyone else.... the same way when every single human regarless of faith in this earthly life will be stainding in front of The Almighty, there will not be any counsalor or helper, you are on your own... so we should ask ourselves how much preparation we are doing for ourselves....


      May 23, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
    • Brampt

      Bruce- look at the context of mat 16:18 and see who Christ is talking about. By the way Peter never identified himself as the rock... Explain to me these passages,
      Acts 4:8-11" then,Peter, filled with holy spirit, said to them: “Rulers of the people and older men, 9 if we are this day being examined, on the basis of a good deed to an ailing man, as to by whom this man has been made well, 10 let it be known to all of YOU and to all the people of Israel, that in the name of Jesus Christ the Naz·a·rene´, whom YOU impaled but whom God raised up from the dead, by this one does this man stand here sound in front of YOU. 11 This is ‘the stone that was treated by YOU builders as of no account that has become the head of the corner.’
      1 Peter 2:4-8 " 4 Coming to him as to a living stone, rejected, it is true, by men, but chosen, precious, with God, 5 YOU yourselves also as living stones are being built up a spiritual house for the purpose of a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it is contained in Scripture: “Look! I am laying in Zion a stone, chosen, a foundation cornerstone, precious; and no one exercising faith in it will by any means come to disappointment.”, It is to YOU, therefore, that he is precious, because YOU are believers; but to those not believing, “the identical stone that the builders rejected has become [the] head of [the] corner,” 8 and “a stone of stumbling and a rock-mass of offense.” These are stumbling because they are disobedient to the word. To this very end they were also appointed.
      Efesians 2:20- and YOU have been built up upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, while Christ Jesus himself is the foundation cornerstone.

      May 23, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • Brampt

      The rock your church is founded on is on the emperor Constantine. The teaching and acts of ur church doesn't reflect at all what was the true christianism. Ur priest created the " saint inquisition" who had a bible would be killed, who would try to speck the truth would be killed as well...and ur church warships idols and Virgen Mary rather then God. Definatly u guys were not founded upon Christ... Sorry to tell u but it's true and written in the pages of history.

      May 23, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • Bruce

      Brampt, you are aware, are you not, what Peter's name means in the Greek language at the time of writing that particular gospel?

      (LOL probably doesn't even phase you. You're one of those "Jesus spoke in KJV language" people, and don't understand the importance of the Greek language to your own religion, in spite of the fact that Jesus, if he existed at all, spoke Aramaic and not Greek...)

      May 23, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • Brampt

      You still haven't explained me the meaning of those passages yet... Peter means rock in Greek, and so what? For example in the bible the name of Jehu, means " Yahweh is him" does that mean Jehu is God?. If the church is suposly founded on the "rock" why %90 of it's teachings is based on myths, non biblical based??.. Explains to me those 3 passages??

      May 23, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
  9. NationalForestHunter

    JESUS came to rescue a dying world – not from the FIRST DEATH, but from the SECOND DEATH. God will not be mocked – The soul that sinneth shall surely die. However, because of what JESUS did at CALVARY, the sting of death has been removed. Death has not yet been destroyed but it will be destroyed in the future by God. JESUS is the first born from among the dead and is the first to be resurrected. All of us will be resurrected from the dead – every single person who has ever lived – and we will all be judged. Some will be found "righteous" and be rewarded with eternal life and some will be found "unrighteous" and will suffer the SECOND DEATH. God simply says – Repent and believe. Even though you were born spiritually DEAD ON ARRIVAL, I will make you ALIVE by filling you with my Holy Spirit.

    May 23, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • Harry Coverston

      "JESUS came to rescue a dying world – not from the FIRST DEATH, but from the SECOND DEATH. God will not be mocked – The soul that sinneth shall surely die."

      Of course, it is never G-d who is mocked when people disagree about religion. Rather, it is social constructions which are confused with the mind of G-d that are mocked. And the ferocity of the tenor of the responses points toward what these socially constructed understandings – the work of human hands and minds – have become: idols.

      Most idolatry demands some kind of human sacrifice to survive. Not surprisingly, idolators are more than happy to sacrifice those outside the circled wagons of the tribe. But this is not the demand of the G_d who is author of all creation; it is the imperative of the god of the socially constructed idol which demands unthinking obedience. And, like all idols, it is brittle and subject to shattering.

      May 23, 2012 at 10:41 am |
  10. Buck Mast

    Is the Bible the Word of God or not??

    May 23, 2012 at 9:57 am |
    • Bruce

      Depends on what you mean by "Word of God." If you are thinking in terms of the first chapter of John's gospel, then most-certainly not. The Word of God is not the Bible, but Jesus.


      May 23, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • Mohammed_Islam

      Is the Bible the Word of God or not??

      To know that you would have to spend time to study and definitely have to use your God gifted intelectuals/brain as you use it when it comes to make a decision of your daily life...

      Here are the points that you may consider of studying:
      – When was these chapters written
      – The writters of these gospels: were they during the time of Jesus
      – Would you teach your children that your dream/vision/whispassing yourself are same as talking to God
      – The early history of Christianity when State and Church were together and the head of the state was the head of the church, now you can imagine what would a head of the state do if anything goes out of his desires where there was no technology like what we have now...
      – Also read the content of the books and use your brain – can a human come up with these wordings... if there is something that a human can not come up then you can consider that these are not word of human... for example when the Quran talks about the human embryo which was revealed fortreen hundreds plus years ago and recently our scientists discovered this one, another one the human finger prints are unique as per the quran and recently our technology discovered these stuffs... etc
      – you have to be open when you study and need to be able to accept the truth
      – and then you see there are thousands of religions around you and everyone will be telling you that he is the only one who is truth but you have to figure out which one would be truth by studying all of these
      – and so on....

      i hope this will help you to find the way you are looking for...


      May 23, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
  11. Buck Mast

    Is the Bible the Word of God Or not

    May 23, 2012 at 9:56 am |
  12. Lessye DeMoss

    I think this article reflects the spirit of compassion and acceptance that is embodied in the question modern Christians often ask: "What would Jesus do?"

    The underlying flaw in the argument is the assumption that marriage in the legal sense is something that Christian doctrine should determine. While our secular legal system is based on Christian custom, the main point is that Biblical teaching should not be the basis for deciding laws for a nation of diverse religious viewpoints.

    Marriage is a holy sacrament, and the participants in that sacrament should be governed by the doctrines of the religion to which they subscribe. The government should have no say in who may or may not be married, but should honor all recipients of those sacraments with the same legal protections and privileges. If my church decides that gay marriage is the most compassionate choice, then the state should not be able to discriminate against gays who are married in my church.

    May 23, 2012 at 9:49 am |
    • Bruce

      Actually marriage in a legal sense was addressed by Jesus when they asked him about divorce and remarriage. He responded by citing what Moses allowed through the "Law," which was not entirely religiously-based but often had very practical aspects to it.

      What's interesting about that passage is the (very anti-marriage) conclusion that it is better for a man to not marry at all...

      May 23, 2012 at 11:45 am |
  13. macdonaldbank

    Christianity is basically a fiction which turned out to be one of the most hateful & evil concoctions ever perpetrated on the world.

    May 23, 2012 at 9:36 am |
    • Dommer

      The first part of your sentiment is painfully obvious. The second is either intentionally idiotic or just hyperbolic. In either case, you should be embarrassed for feigning any amount of novelty of sentiment.

      May 23, 2012 at 9:54 am |
  14. macdonaldbank

    The pope and churches fully aware that Leviticus 18:22 applies only to priests; refuse to remove this stigma maliciously persecuting gays – and many kids bullied into suicide …!

    May 23, 2012 at 9:35 am |
    • KCArrowhead

      The fact that kids are bullied because they are gay, does not make homôsëxuality moral from a Christian perspective. Those who persecute homôsëxuals are, in my opinion, worse offenders. Especially if they "claim" to be Christian. Hatred is not a characteristic of a true follower of Jesus.

      Be that as is may, homôsëxuality is defined as an abomination in the Bible, anywhere it is mentioned. If you don't like it, don't be a Christian.

      May 23, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
  15. macdonaldbank


    May 23, 2012 at 9:33 am |
  16. Acts

    Acts 10:47 is a passage about the fact that Gentiles too can be baptized, and doesn't mention communion or marriage. This passage illustrates that anyone can receive the Holy Spirit, that we don't decide but God alone. This passage doesn't say anything about marriage, but I guess if the author wanted to make the point that gays have the ability to receive the Holy Spirit just like anyone else, then he is correct. If you read the scripture surrounding this verse, then making the claim that it allows any kind of marriage is simply taking out of context.

    May 23, 2012 at 9:27 am |
    • Edward

      I think a lot of people are taking the Scriptures out of context. We find away to justify any acts that suits us. Men and Women will soon seek to make it legal to marry a 10 year old based on the direction that we are going. Based on the logic of compassion and discrimination it will be a good argument for a Child Predator to make himself right. This says that if we feel that the law does not allow us to do this then we will fight and lobby just like Blacks did. Is that really a good sound legal argument for Gays?

      May 23, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • Edward

      Bruce, I think that you need to re-read The Book of Genesis. God asked Lot to go find him 50 righteous men. He found none he ask for less and so on and so on till it got down to God asking him to just find five righteous men he found none. Then God destroyed both cities. The men came to Lots door and were turned away because they were trying to force there way into Lots house because of the Stranger in Lots house. They believed that he could save them from what was to come. No man in the city wanted to change their ways. If you believe what you say then there would not have been a need for God to turn Lots wife into a peeler of Salt. She looked back because she longed for the life she led in the City. God would not have turned her into stone because of the way they treated a stranger.

      May 23, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • Edward

      You can also read Ephesians 5 It talks of marriage and Husbands responsibilities to the Wife, Wife to the Husband Both to the kids and the Kids to the Parents. It is very clear there and in Deuteronomy 1-18..

      May 23, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  17. Kate

    Thank you for getting this perspective out there! Jesus didn't teach us to hate or exclude and it makes me sad to see modern Christianity perverted by so much hatred.

    May 23, 2012 at 9:24 am |
    • Hunter2

      Yes Jesus loved the sinner and hates the sin- go and sin no more! Be logical people, did God say in creation man with man, woman with woman? No perversion is in the old testiment and God hated it. Zodom and Gomora (sp) anyone? You can velieve some of the Bible and then totally throw out the other half- in that case you would be as stupid as the people who totally ignore, it call it fiction, or are ignorant. Christains don't hate gays, we hate that they are trying to indoctornate us and our children and our gneration. I would love to have them come to church and hear God word and repeant of their sin. It is a sin eriod. If they hve to live that way that is their own choice and they will be judged like all of us- everyone one of us will stand beofre God at the second coming of Jesus. God is perfect and Justice for the poor, oppressed, murdered, etc will be handed out.

      May 23, 2012 at 10:46 am |
    • Edward

      I do not think it is about hatred. It is more about the Truth and the Bible. In the Book of Genesis God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for a reason.

      May 23, 2012 at 10:54 am |
    • Bruce

      Edward, you need to go back and read that stuff in Genesis again. So.dom and Gomorrah were not destroyed because of all the hom.ose.x. They were destroyed because of the way they treated strangers (angels in this case) and how they vi.olated the codes of hos.pita.lity.

      May 23, 2012 at 11:49 am |
  18. Bc

    I think Franklin Graham's article in his magazine this month represents real Christians just a tad better. This article is written by a CINO

    May 23, 2012 at 9:04 am |
  19. anothermuse

    Well said..Of course, it shows the challenge of biblical interpretation as you can find a similiar article, justifying the hatred for gays, using very simliar passages. But, bravo for this minisiter in preaching what I was taught in sunday school. Jesus love you, and judgement is the lord's, not mans.

    May 23, 2012 at 8:37 am |
    • Edward

      Judgement is the Lords but, he does hold us accountable for following what we know to be the Truth. In that respect he condemns the World. There is forgiveness for all also. Jesus for gave the Woman at the well for saying a Husband she has not. That does not say that we can just say what one dose is ok!!!! We have a obligation to Minister to those that need it. The Bible says, " to those that are lost". That is not preaching hate it is trying to Preach LOVE. But, since some want what they do to be ok. They perceive it to be HATE. I am a Ordained Minister myself. I never Teach or Preach Hate. I preach the word as it was then and is now. Remember, "My word is the same now as it was then". We are changing the Word of the Bible because we want to accommodate all in their own choice or situation they find themselves in.

      May 23, 2012 at 11:07 am |
  20. JR

    Confused by this article... I thought Paul (the missionary to the Gentiles) was the one who separated himself from Jewish customs whereas Peter was the one telling Gentiles to be baptised? Something's just not right in the words above.

    May 23, 2012 at 8:03 am |
    • CZ Sommers

      Then you had better go and re-read your Bible, from cover to cover.

      May 23, 2012 at 8:48 am |
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About this blog

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.