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My Take: Bible condemns a lot, so why focus on homosexuality?
June 21st, 2011
10:10 AM ET

My Take: Bible condemns a lot, so why focus on homosexuality?

Editor's Note: Jonathan Dudley is the author of Broken Words: The Abuse of Science and Faith in American Politics.

By Jonathan Dudley, Special to CNN

Growing up in the evangelical community, I learned the Bible’s stance on homosexuality is clear-cut. God condemns it, I was taught, and those who disagree just haven’t read their Bibles closely enough.

Having recently graduated from Yale Divinity School, I can say that my childhood community’s approach to gay rights—though well intentioned—is riddled with self-serving double standards.

I don’t doubt that the one New Testament author who wrote on the subject of male-male intercourse thought it a sin. In Romans 1, the only passage in the Bible where a reason is explicitly given for opposing same-sex relations, the Apostle Paul calls them “unnatural.”

Problem is, Paul’s only other moral argument from nature is the following: “Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair, it is degrading to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory?” (1 Corinthians 11:14-15).

Few Christians would answer that question with a “yes.”

In short, Paul objects to two things as unnatural: one is male-male sex and the other is long hair on men and short hair on women. The community opposed to gay marriage takes one condemnation as timeless and universal and the other as culturally relative.

I also don’t doubt that those who advocate gay marriage are advocating a revision of the Christian tradition.

But the community opposed to gay marriage has itself revised the Christian tradition in a host of ways. For the first 1500 years of Christianity, for example, marriage was deemed morally inferior to celibacy. When a theologian named Jovinian challenged that hierarchy in 390 A.D. — merely by suggesting that marriage and celibacy might be equally worthwhile endeavors — he was deemed a heretic and excommunicated from the church.

How does that sit with “family values” activism today?

Yale New Testament professor Dale B. Martin has noted that today’s "pro-family" activism, despite its pretense to be representing traditional Christian values, would have been considered “heresy” for most of the church’s history.

The community opposed to gay marriage has also departed from the Christian tradition on another issue at the heart of its social agenda: abortion.

Unbeknownst to most lay Christians, the vast majority of Christian theologians and saints throughout history have not believed life begins at conception.

Although he admitted some uncertainty on the matter, the hugely influential 4th and 5th century Christian thinker Saint Augustine wrote, “it could not be said that there was a living soul in [a] body” if it is “not yet endowed with senses.”

Thomas Aquinas, a Catholic saint and a giant of mediaeval theology, argued: “before the body has organs in any way whatever, it cannot be receptive of the soul.”

American evangelicals, meanwhile, widely opposed the idea that life begins at conception until the 1970s, with some even advocating looser abortion laws based on their reading of the Bible before then.

It won’t do to oppose gay marriage because it’s not traditional while advocating other positions that are not traditional.

And then there’s the topic of divorce. Although there is only one uncontested reference to same-sex relations in the New Testament, divorce is condemned throughout, both by Jesus and Paul. To quote Jesus from the Gospel of Mark: “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery.”

A possible exception is made only for unfaithfulness.

The community most opposed to gay marriage usually reads these condemnations very leniently. A 2007 issue of Christianity Today, for example, featured a story on its cover about divorce that concluded that Christians should permit divorce for “adultery,” “emotional and physical neglect” and “abandonment and abuse.”

The author emphasizes how impractical it would be to apply a strict interpretation of Jesus on this matter: “It is difficult to believe the Bible can be as impractical as this interpretation implies.”

Indeed it is.

On the other hand, it’s not at all difficult for a community of Christian leaders, who are almost exclusively white, heterosexual men, to advocate interpretations that can be very impractical for a historically oppressed minority to which they do not belong – homosexuals.

Whether the topic is hair length, celibacy, when life begins, or divorce, time and again, the leaders most opposed to gay marriage have demonstrated an incredible willingness to consider nuances and complicating considerations when their own interests are at stake.

Since graduating from seminary, I no longer identify with the evangelical community of my youth. The community gave me many fond memories and sound values but it also taught me to take the very human perspectives of its leaders and attribute them to God.

So let’s stop the charade and be honest.

Opponents of gay marriage aren’t defending the Bible’s values. They’re using the Bible to defend their own.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jonathan Dudley.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Bible • Christianity • Homosexuality • Opinion

soundoff (6,474 Responses)
  1. Wordmom

    If the 3 Hebrew boys were not well trained in the scriptures, know what to eat and what to refuse and know their God, they would have been just as confused as this young person. Parents pray for your children when they go to college and university because the devil is waiting to deceive them as this child is. What is he going to do in ministry, start a same gender loving church. As a mother, I pray and declare that the resurrection power of Almighty God will transform this child's mind, heart and spirit and the truth of the Word of God will bring light to him. In Jesus name Amen.

    June 21, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Your kids are toast.

      You are stammering bull cookies like the mother from Carrie, and it would be funny as hell, but I know somewhere out there is another red neck kid who brain is going to be scrambled before puberty.

      Can't you just keep your sickness to yourself.

      June 21, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
  2. QuestioningChristian

    Wow! The author raises some excellent points! Although I study theology, I was not aware of the fact that the early Church fathers did not believe that life begins at conception. This is a great contribution to a very difficult issue in the Christian Church.

    June 21, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • May

      There are some great books on the early church fathers, you will find that they were not protestant, but Catholic. A very good study.

      June 21, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
    • John Richardson

      Look up "Quickening of the soul"

      June 21, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
  3. Fidei Coticula Crux

    I'll leave the judging to God. The only thing I need to do is to let him be the Lord and Savior of my life.

    June 21, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • William Demuth

      I believe you also have to pay shipping and handling fees of $9.99.

      Otherwise, your salvation is totaly free!

      June 21, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
    • John Richardson

      @William DeMuth I'll have to doublecheck, but I think you can get the handling fee waived at Amazon. But that's only if you buy $50 or more of other stuff, if I recall correctly. But hey, even with the fee, eternal salvation for under ten bucks! That's a slammin' good deal, no?

      June 21, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
    • Rick

      I'm still confused about what type of haircut to get. This Bible teaching scares me. Does Amazon do haircuts?

      June 21, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
  4. hulu@yahoo.com

    This dude is stupid, and simple. That txt is not even talking about gays or man, but just about a religious practice of a single misguided church. Go back to college fool gay.

    June 21, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
  5. Kevin L

    So with your Ad Hominen attack you dismiss everything he said.

    I think your argument is that he must be gay to defend the rights of gays. What a sad small world you must live in that you have to tear down others that produce a rational and well reasoned argument against your dearly held beliefs.

    June 21, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
  6. Buddy R

    Sir, the Old and New Testament both call male-male and female-female sin. Also, Jesus stated marriage is between a man and a woman. (Matthew 19:4-6.)

    What Paul wrote was not "just his opinion." What he wrote was inspired by the Spirit of God and is the Word of God according to the Apostle Peter (2Peter 3:15,16.)

    Also, male-male and female-female is a special type of sin called an abomination. Something that is truly reprehensible to God.

    I would love to give an in depth analysis of all the relevant passages but CNN would put in on "awaiting moderation" forever.

    You are also wrong about a fetus not being human. A fetus has unique human DNA, is the product of human conception, and has multiplying cells, and so from a scientific perspective is in fact a unique human life. Also, that if confirmed in many passages in the Bible. For example, do you remember the account of Elizabeth meeting Mary while both were pregnant? The Bible says that even as a fetus John the Baptist recognized the fetus that was Jesus Christ and "leaped" in the womb of Elizabeth.

    For any person who is a Christian the Bible should be the standard of doctrine. Not political correctness. Christians are to love everyone but to excuse the sin of no one. All are called to repent of their sins and live the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    June 21, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Is buggering altar boys an example of Christian love?

      June 21, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • Bruce

      FYI, John the Baptist (if we are to believe the scripture) was well into the third trimester when he did the whole jumping in the womb thingy...

      June 21, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • Rebeka

      But its proven that Johnn and Paul were Gay! They both swore off women and admitted enjoying the company of men. Clear enough. Thats why they only allow pedophile preists into the Church.

      June 21, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
  7. Terre

    I guess you couldn't be bothered to comment on the divorce part?

    June 21, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  8. ridiferous

    Nothing has changed. This is typical C_N_N... It's been a while since I've viewed them. how do they stay afloat? bye again

    June 21, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  9. Richard

    Dis kids goin' to Johns Hopkins. I hope I get a docker from skid row. He's gotta be smatta than this kid.

    June 21, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  10. Kevin L

    Well Said!!! There is, of course, the passage in Leviticus that says " "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination."

    But that same Book also tells me that "Of the Cloven hoof I should eat not" and that I shouldn't wear clothes of mixed fiber. Along with a lot of other rules that those Christan Leaders don't think are too important.

    I too have been apalled at how the Evangelicals pick and choose the biblical passages that are important and those that are unimportant based on their own needs.

    This was a well reasoned opinion peace!!

    June 21, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
    • Richard

      Feel free to take a piece of my braincake.

      June 21, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • Rebeka

      If the Christians REALLY followed the bible, they'd be Jewish! Instead they ignore the old testament except when making movies!

      June 21, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
  11. fred

    Lacking Evidence since 14 Billion BC says “there is no holy book of atheists” . For short lets refer to him as bc. Everything bc says is in the bible. Bc has a holy book written for him. Nothing new, everything bc uses to attack God is written in the bible. The main thread throughout the bible is a people who search after God and those who oppose these people and do not search after God. People who look forward to a hope, a Kingdom, a promised land and a people that do not acknowledge God, a hope or a Kingdom. A people who thirst for Righteousness and a people who love the things of this world. “ the light shines in the darkness but the darkness has not understood it”. The bible was written for bc just as it was for me. We are to pray for bc as this bible is the story of lost ones, all people called to worship God. If there are any Christians out there say a prayer today for bc and those like bc . We want everyone to come into the glory and light of God through Jesus sacrifice at the cross.

    June 21, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Sacrifice AT the cross?

      I thought that was Eric Clapton?

      And here I thought Jesus was actually ON the cross?

      Well thanks for clarifying that for me!

      June 21, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Duuuuude – Clapton IS god!

      June 21, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
  12. John

    The writer of this article must be gay and still wanhts to be a christian. You can't be both dude. i can always see right thru these gays.

    June 21, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • Richard

      You're totally cool dude.

      June 21, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • Rebeka

      Thank you for making it clear that you born again right wing haters have no trouble putting down EVERY around them. PS Your hate and put downs are NOT what Jesus would do – you phoney hypocrite. You need to live in Iran where you will fit right in! Start collecting stones.

      June 21, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • Me

      Wow..."these gays" and you don't have any poof whatsoever. I guess you can't argue the point if you have to make things up to belittle someone.

      June 21, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • adam

      Just as I can infer from your judgmental statement that you also are not a Christian.

      June 21, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
    • Consider This

      John it's because you're in denial, come out of the closet accept that you are gay since you have the gay radar. 😉

      June 21, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
  13. Let's tell it like it really is

    "They’re using the Bible to defend their own."... which they got from the Bible.

    June 21, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  14. Deb Wright

    The problem with his, and many peoples' thinking is that GOD created Adam. And GOD created Eve to be his companion. Adam is man and Eve is woman. This is GOD'S will for humanity. As for the argument of celibacy vs marriage, that is misguided thinking of the time. GOD provided us with the ability to mate and re-produce, therefore continuing the human race. Many of you will disagree with me, and I am not perfect by any means, this is why I believe in GOD and worship with other Christian. I would rather live as if there is a God and find out there is not, than live as if there isn't a God and find out there is.

    June 21, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • Richard

      You go girl!

      June 21, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
    • fuyuko

      eh, but many don't believe that adam and eve existed, any more than we believe that the world rides on the back of a giant turtle. I do believe that god created the world and everything in it, including gay people. but I do not believe in the bible or the words in it- because mankind wrote the bible. the only thing we know that god has done is what we observe in nature. the rest is merely hearsay or things attributed to god.

      June 21, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • 3lwood

      Who is the better person? Someone who does right because they know it decreases the amount of human suffering in the world? Or someone who does right because they are mandated to do right by an omniscient dictator at the penalty of eternal pain and suffering?

      June 21, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • William Demuth

      But Deb, what happens if you meet Allah at the Pearly gates?

      You will be a chew toy for the Taliban for all eternity, and they just love Christians.

      The worst hell in Christianity is where Allah rules the roost and Jesus is just sensual recepticle for Allahs anger!

      June 21, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • Richard

      Sorry Deb, you don't deserve all that non-brain stuff. And to all you who responded in the negative to Deb, feel free to take a piece of my braincake.

      June 21, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • Me

      It hurts to think...just believe...just beLIEve...be LIE...LIE...LIE.

      Oh yeah, I have a bridge to sell you. It is better to own a bridge than to find out there isn't one...whaa???

      It hurts to think...just believe...just beLIEve...be LIE...LIE...LIE.

      June 21, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • Phil

      Deb
      What part of Genesis are you referring to? The part where man and women were created at the same time or the part where man was created 1st? You do know there are two seperate Genesis stories that conflict with each other?

      June 21, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
    • adam

      So God created one man and one woman (only one of each) to populate the whole world but he also made incest a sin. How does that work?

      June 21, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • Ryan

      I guess what I'm saying is.....be stronger than the rest of the sheep. I kno it's hard....but think of it a lot like the movie "The Matrix". You need to get out from under the slavery you are in. The ironic thing is though, you only enslave yourself. There is no one doing it to you really. WAKE UP. We don't like in the dark ages anymore. It's time to act accordingly.

      June 21, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      And Adam lives to be almost 1000 years old.
      Then, everyone was killed except for four breeding pairs of humans, which included a 500 year old man and his children.
      I get that Creationists reject darwinian evolution, but to toss mendelian genetics out the window too?
      And God spake – "If thou cantst keep it in thy pants, keep it in thy genes."

      June 21, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
  15. karen

    Jonathan, you studied the Bible for years and THIS is what you conclude? Darlin, you missed the point. I'm surprised they gave you a diploma.

    June 21, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • Wootie

      Indeed...anyone who "graduates" from religious school without realizing it's all a crock of BS should just be sent back to high school...

      June 21, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
    • Deb Wright

      Hallelujah!

      June 21, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
    • Richard

      I don't know if you should be commenting on here, I think you're making too much sense.

      June 21, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
    • fuyuko

      eh, why should you be surprised? diplomas are easy to get for anyone with the right amount of money and a few braincells.

      June 21, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
  16. Wootie

    Religion is gay.

    June 21, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • Bill the Cat

      and gay means happy.

      June 21, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
  17. VERONICA

    Good article, much needed common-sense approach to what history and the Bible really say...

    June 21, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • Richard

      Would you like to try again?

      June 21, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • John

      Rediculous!

      June 21, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
  18. Richard

    The best argument on the subject I have read!

    June 21, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • Richard

      Really? OK, I'll give you another chance. Go ahead.

      June 21, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
  19. Richard

    This media outlet feeds off neophytes like this man. The author gets what he is looking for, name recognition; and the outlet gets what it is looking for, a certain perspective that has no credibility whatsoever. Shame on you, media outlet, for taking advantage of this young man who does not know what he is saying. Both hands are dirty in this case. One hand washing the other, that's fine; but one hand muddyng the other, that's tragic.

    June 21, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • twolfhound

      Yeah, I hate it when news stories point out the obvious flaws in my belief system, too. Unfortunately, I've had to discover that my disagreement doesn't make those flaws go away. (Though, to some people, it does remove them from their reality.) THe point of the article? How about we get some of the main points behind Christianity (my favorites are 'love thy neighbor' and 'he who has never sinned cast the first stone') before we decide to pick apart the hard to find lines that support our personal belief systems.

      June 21, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
    • denver2

      Doesn't know what he's saying? I'll wager just from the content of this article that he knows quite a bit more about the subject than you do. By all means, point out all the factual errors in the article so people can gauge your own credibility.

      June 21, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
  20. Ed

    Great editorial. However, in a free society (where religion is not supposed to be forced on anyone), what any particular religious text says or doesn't say about gay marriage should be irrelevant. Basic human rights should not be subject to any particular religious interpretation. It's clear that anyone who demands rights for themselves that they would deny to others is a bigot, and bigotry should not be a basis for law.

    June 21, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • Richard

      Sorry, you missed.

      June 21, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
    • fuyuko

      I agree.

      June 21, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • MomOf3

      @Ed – you hit the nail on the head!
      @Richard – you're an A$$

      June 21, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
    • Bruce

      Ed, that is interesting that you view marriage as a human right, rather than as something fundamentally religious that has evolved into something that the government gets involved in (for reasons I am not sure of).

      Has marriage completely transcended its religious roots and become a universal value? Aside from the man/woman distinction, what about the one-on-one aspect of it that distinguishes it from, say, polygamy (which sometimes is still recognized as "marriage")? What about the nature of divorce–if marriage is a universal value, does divorce become a universal evil?

      Just thinking out loud...

      June 21, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
    • twolfhound

      Bruce, interesting point. Maybe that can be said about marriage. But, what about the legal remifications of marriage? The legal authorities and permissions that 'court appointed marriage' gives? Marriage in a church, in the eyes of God, sure, whatever they want to interpret, regardless of how hypocritical. Marriage in the eyes of the state/federal? Equality for all.

      June 21, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • Richard

      To Momof3, I have some good braincake here; feel free to take a piece of it.

      June 21, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
    • TheyNotHim

      Last time I checked, you do not have to get married in a church, or even by a religious representative. You can stroll down to the courthouse this afternoon and get married if you want. So, why should the church have word one to say on this subject I ask you?

      June 21, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
    • Erica

      You are absolutely right!!! What ever happened to separation of church and state?!

      June 21, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.