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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. Lee Cherry

    The Catholic religion is responsible for TWISTING, CONFUSING, DECEIVING, CONDEMNING, and KILLING

    July 3, 2011 at 9:32 am |
    • hermes

      The Catholic religion is just as guilty as any other organized religion. Catholicism = Christians.

      July 3, 2011 at 10:21 am |
    • frank carter

      your silly!

      July 4, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
  2. Matthew

    "For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh." (Ephesians 5:31) Can the Bible be any clearer? Do people believe in right and wrong anymore? I guess this foolish author thinks murder is ok too.

    July 3, 2011 at 8:53 am |
    • Possum

      Yet the bible support the stoning death of that same man and women, if they divorce. Sounds like group participation murder to me. Folks can't pick and choose the juicy parts to use as a tool to discriminate against others and conveniently ignore the bits that plainly point a finger at their own selves. Either prove you are capable of following all the words – to the letter – or shut up and stay out of other peoples' lives with your hand-picked, abridged bible rules.

      July 3, 2011 at 9:11 am |
    • John

      And you got your Divinity degree where?

      July 3, 2011 at 9:19 am |
  3. Muneef

    The West is heading down the drain morally and taking with it all that is there...

    July 3, 2011 at 7:51 am |
    • Possum

      Nah, it's looking pretty good on improved human rights and crawling out from under the would-be theocracy of a bunch of self-righteous old geezers. Freedom isn't an ideal that can be put in a cage and kept as a pet only a few people are given opportunity to view. If you want a limited form of Freedom, that only fits your specifications, you are not really for Freedom, at all. You might want to pack for Pakistan, if you want laws that enforced by strict religious code.

      July 3, 2011 at 9:22 am |
    • Muneef

      Am not in the west but surely wouldn't want to live in Pakistan nor KSA...although am Muslim...

      July 3, 2011 at 11:16 am |
    • PRISM 1234

      "The West is heading down the drain morally and taking with it all that is there..."

      And that's a mouthful of TRUTH!

      July 3, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
    • Zouzou

      WHOOHOO!!!! I have been waiting for this for so long!! I am tlehlird that you have the film, but alas while I will see it probably about 10 times at your theater Opening night is for IMAX!!! You will see me the next day over and over and over LOL!! I am so happy about Harry and that YOU ARE THE BEST cinema around !!

      April 4, 2012 at 12:19 am |
  4. eyetalian26

    Religion..the mental crutch for the weak and scared

    July 3, 2011 at 6:35 am |
    • PRISM 1234

      Atheism / Secular Humanism/ Darwinism – the crutch of shallow minded, numbed down, vision-less half – there humans, who can not tell the truth from a lie, gullibly swallowing anything that any fool with PhD in front of his name feeds them!
      The blind leading th blind, while all together tripping over the obvious!

      But so long you love the sin that's in your heart, you'll never come out of your blindness!

      And that's about the plainest truth you can get!

      July 3, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
    • LetsThink123

      Atheism / Secular Humanism/ Darwinism -> based on evidence and facts
      religion -> based on imaginary, unprovable concepts

      do u understand that prism?

      August 5, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
  5. Joseph

    Graduating from Yale Divinity School doesn't mean jack. TWO THOUSAND YEARS of meaningful bibilical discourse means everything. Try the Cathlic Church!

    July 3, 2011 at 12:35 am |
    • John

      Oh yes... men cant marry each other but its ok to fondle and diddle little children.

      July 3, 2011 at 9:21 am |
  6. Nicholas Voss

    I can't believe he wasted his parent's money on divinity school. Dudley is an amateurish expositor. These dumb dog-like hillbilly Yale grads certainly are stupid.

    July 2, 2011 at 9:09 pm |
    • Roy Rogers

      Yeah, Yale is a terrible school, just horrible. If only Liberty University graduates had more sway in our culture.....

      LOL

      July 2, 2011 at 9:33 pm |
    • John

      What... Yale wouldnt accept your application... where did you go to college?

      July 3, 2011 at 9:25 am |
    • Texasboy

      You're an idiot.

      July 3, 2011 at 9:43 am |
  7. Roy Rogers

    Terrific article. I'm sending it to my friends.

    July 2, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
  8. norm - not that one

    Nice to see that the religious morons and fanatics will hold their self absorbed views not matter how many facts contradict them.

    July 2, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
    • Muneef

      What facts are you talking about ??
      Are you saying that there are facts stating that H-omo$exuality is good for you people? OMG.

      July 3, 2011 at 8:34 am |
  9. ruemorgue

    Woe, I'm *so* surprsed. Another religious nut-case finds *exactly* what he wants to be true in the Holy Babble. The Holy Babble has been used to condone slavery and to condemn slavery. It has been used to condone butt-firetruckers and to condemn butt-firetruckers. What else are we going to find in this collection of fairy tales (or should I say *tails* for all the BFers)? LOL

    July 2, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
  10. shelou

    . Many Christians with friends, family, children, and colleagues, who are gay, do not support the brand of religious activism that supports "persecution". Jesus was not shy and had plenty of time to make it clear in the last days spent with his disciples, if he wanted them to turn into a band of persecutors hunting done sinners throughout the land with a watchful eye out toward any gays. Ironic that the conservatives have ditched Jesus and use the same methods of persecution that killed him. I am sympathetic with Bachmann's grief at the loss of child through a miscarriage, but am alarmed at her “Stepford wife/mother” disconnect that her methods of persecution drive our gay children to suicide. Jesus lived for thirty three years during very difficult violent times and never once thought they he would convert or save all sinners in his lifetime nor did he make it our charge to end "sinning" in our lifetimes using fast tract persecution. Bachmann is no Jesus and neither are any persecutors. Let’s hope that Bachmann and her followers find peace in carving out a few states where they can persecute each other to their heart’s content.

    July 2, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
    • Muneef

      [5:77] Say, "O people of the scripture, do not tran-sg-ress the limits of your religion beyond the truth, and do not follow the opin-i-ons of people who have gone astray, and have mi-s-led mult-it-udes of people; they are far astray from the right path."

      @shelou.

      My belief is Live & Let Live under some code of conduct respected by all as one lot...this should say as a believer that Adam & Eve PBUH having eaten from the forbidden tree,they had to to cover them selves with the Garden leaves to cover their shame of parts that might had grown or became when before then they were not needed nor there they were...!!

      Therefore, it means mankind is required to cover his shame for breaking the universal law and go about with it openly into changing God's Laws to Mankind who is nothing but like tenants on earth that are to pay for the rent later...and unless we have what proves our Goodwill and Good-intentions to God messages and towards God's creations then we pay more than just the rent....

      Meaning we ought to have shame and undercover our mischief swimming against the tide of Humenity and the message they carry the message of Abraham that there are no Gods other than the only God he who has all the beautiful names...our message is a message of mercy and saviour from going astray from the path of Rightous. There is no compulsion in religion nor there should be...since those compelled will only slow you movements rather than be with you heart and soul....God has created for us to see the colors of the rainbows,all shapes of things,all tastes of things so are we mankind in all colors,cultures, beliefs, we are a basket full of many kinds of fruits,vegetables,livestock....that are there to serve mankind who in turn should serve God who had created that for mankind among his other creations...that we know of and do not know of....! God is the major force that created all forces and the scale on which this whole universe is balancing on "One side of the scale is Bad Deed the other side is of the scale is  Good Deeds...and what ever happens on this earth and universe good or bad is by the acts of those nations of generations who corrupted every living or non living thing on earth lands, seas,rivers..every prophet and messenger of God that were known or unknown have had stories with their people trying to get them to believe the "Message" but many were not able to save theirs from angering the only force the creator of all forces ignoring the message "the miracles ,the disasters"  we have been offered every examples within their stories in the Holy Quran and Holy Bibles.... 

      Hope did not wonder much from the point, that is we should not go on breaking every law that the Holy Books and the Quran agrees upon....?!
      We have Two Laws that Controls our Lives....The Spiritual Heavenly Laws and The Laws which we created for our selves as Secular Public Laws... For which you find believers compelled t respect both while non believers will be compelled by the secular law only....
      As it seems the only way out is to find a way where can make a one combination out of the Heavenly laws and secular laws to become one system of conduct respected by all. Meaning it is time Religions should get into the system but not as one branch or path of religion as they try to do but rather of all Religions and faiths therefore the whole are under one Sami Secular system that accepted and respected by all.

      July 2, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
  11. Jack Johnson

    This is the best article I have ever read on gay marriage. Bravo, sir!

    July 2, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
    • Jack Johnson

      ...and I can't wait to read your book!

      July 2, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
  12. Muneef

    [5:77] Say, "O people of the scripture, do not tran-sg-ress the limits of your religion beyond the truth, and do not follow the opin-i-ons of people who have gone astray, and have mi-s-led mult-it-udes of people; they are far astray from the right path."

    July 2, 2011 at 10:59 am |
    • Texasboy

      You're an idiot, too. And what's with all the hy-phens?

      July 3, 2011 at 9:47 am |
    • Muneef

      Sorry CowBoy but that was necessary to pass the moderation filters and Marlboro cancers....

      July 3, 2011 at 11:20 am |
  13. God is Bliss

    God is like sunshine on a stormy day

    My friends and I are reading a series of books on Christianity. It isn't what we were always told it was. If you want to know the truth about this whole thing go to the top of the food chain. Someone who is the best in the field. Someone who went to the best colleges for his research and has something worthwhile to say. Bart D. Ehrman is the author of more than twenty books, including the New York Times bestselling Misquoting Jesus and God's Problem. You will enjoy any of the lectures or books by Bart D. Ehrman. He is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and is a leading authority on the Bible and the life of Jesus. He has been featured in Time and has appeared on Dateline NBC, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, CNN, the History Channel, major NPR shows, and other top media outlets. History should be based on scientific research not gossip. Religion is not historically proven to be accurate. Stories told at camp fires by drunks, snake charmers and wackos.

    July 2, 2011 at 9:46 am |
  14. seth

    Darkness shall cover the earth and GROSS darkness the people. Professing themselves to be wise they became fools. They wrest the scriptures to their own destruction. This about sums up what is comming out the the semitaries I mean seminaries these days. I am sure the Lord is very impressed with you divinity degree.

    July 2, 2011 at 6:49 am |
    • Girth

      Circular logic... You haz it!

      July 2, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
    • Chanjobe1

      You spelled "cemetery" wrong, silly.

      July 3, 2011 at 7:02 am |
  15. Rubbish Exposed

    You exposed yourself when you mentioned race – which is completely irrelevant in this debate. However, it is always part of the liberal, enlightened, intellectual agenda to find a way to attack white males when promoting a pro-gay, pro-abortion, or any other position in their twisted, hateful,agenda toward God and Christianity. Sin is sin, my brother. If this is what Yale Divinity School is turning out, God truly help us all.

    July 2, 2011 at 6:03 am |
    • TrueReality

      Agreed! I'm tired of the media only telling one side (the liberal side) of every story, and if they bother to mention the conservative side at all, they grossly misrepresent it. They call conservatives intolerant, ignorant bigots – yet that is what they are themselves. Intolerant, because they are utterly convinced that they are correct and justified in all their beliefs, and anyone who disagrees is wrong. Ignorant, because they refuse to take the time to understand other positions before misrepresenting and criticizing them. And bigots, because of the staggering level of hate they direct towards conservatives.

      I am sincerely worried that if the current liberal intolerance and agenda continue, religious freedom will be seriously at risk at in this country.

      July 2, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • Zing!

      It's nice to know that conservatives accept that liberals are enlightened and intellectual.

      July 2, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • Travis

      @ true reality... okay... so you wrote a paragraph accusing one side of saying things against your side, and then said that the other side is guilty of the same things your side is accused of. Unfortunately you did not take the opportunity in your post to explain what you believe about the subject. I think gay people are who they are, and religious people are who they are... I respect both as long as they are able to say what they believe in rather than attack one another.

      July 3, 2011 at 3:44 am |
    • Jeff Orlando

      This has nothing to do with liberals. This has everything to do with YOUR MISUNDERSTANDING of scripture, how they were written, how they were edited, how they were compiled and how they have been reinterpreted by EACH generation of people. But you place yourself on such a pedestal, only YOU understand this ancient compilation of religious and cultural writings. HOG WASH to you and RUBBISH to you....

      July 3, 2011 at 5:52 am |
    • Jeff Orlando

      And furthermore, get POLITICS out of a religious discussion. Good God. Is that all you conservatards ever think of? IS THER NOTHING ELSE in your minds but politics? Join a larger debate. Not everything is about Sarah Palin or Obama. GEEZ....

      July 3, 2011 at 5:59 am |
  16. Aaron Darlington

    You wrote, "I don’t doubt that the one New Testament author who wrote on the subject of male-male intercourse thought it a sin," and then you write an entire article expressing the fact that you, however, doubt that male-male intercourse is a sin. So, although you believe that you correctly understand the apostle Paul, you also believe that you have more insight into the mind of God than he had. Do you believe that God is best understood by Jonathan Dudley, recent graduate at Yale Divinity School? Since you no longer believe in the authority that Jesus Christ gave to Paul, and instead believe in the authority that Yale Divinity School has bestowed upon Jonathan Dudley, would you please enlighten us with your own sacred scripture? Perhaps this article could be the first inspired text.

    July 2, 2011 at 5:31 am |
    • Jmacq1

      Given that the words attributed to Paul may never have been uttered or written by him in the first place, and even if they were, Paul was just a man, driven by his own beliefs and biases like anyone else, I see absolutely no reason that this article should be immediately dismissed as any more or less valid than Paul's supposed Gospel.

      Maybe God's trying to tell people something, but they"re too wrapped up in the dogma of their mortal-created and mortal-administered religious organization to listen.

      July 2, 2011 at 11:12 am |
    • Aaron Darlington

      "Given that the words attributed to Paul may never have been uttered or written by him in the first place..."

      Wow, such wisdom! Maybe Oliver Twist wasn't really written by Dickens. Maybe The Lord of the Rings wasn't really written by Tolkien. Maybe Star Wars wasn't written by George Lucas. Maybe this article wasn't really written by Jonathan Dudley? Maybe my comment is really being written by a devious little schemer named Fred who hopes for the chance that, in two thousand years, someone might be deceived and think that Fred was really Aaron! Who knows, right?

      July 3, 2011 at 2:03 am |
  17. L.V.

    Ahhh CNN, thanks for allowing yet another pro-gay agenda article! Thanks to higher level education, people think they know everything there is to know. And before anyone reading this assumes I don't have a higher education, that's incorrect. All this author is doing is using what he's learned to rationalize what he believes in. His argument doesn't fly, though. He picks and chooses aspects of the Bible he wants to use, and bits and pieces of things Christians in the past have said. Then comes to the conclusion he wants to come to. Bias at its best!

    July 2, 2011 at 2:12 am |
    • Jmacq1

      And yet along the way he points out that this has been the modus operandi of most Christian denominations for several years now. Where's your response to that? Why is it right if one group does it but not the other? Oh right...because you agree with the former, but not the latter, allowing your own biases to dictate your conclusion.

      July 2, 2011 at 11:19 am |
  18. Jo Ho

    My son is gay. Since coming out, he has never been happier, heathier, or better employed. His life is finally full of what we all take for granted. He moved out of NY State to a more accepting city where he can live in peace.
    This article is most helpful at a time when I am struggling with my role in my church which has taken a stand against gay marriage. I know in my heart that most gay couples are just being who they are as they came into the world. (probably most) We don't do the judging on earth; only God will do that. It is for us to love others and allow God to reveal truths, mainly about ourselves, in our hearts.

    July 2, 2011 at 1:04 am |
    • LinCA

      @Jo Ho

      You said "I am struggling with my role in my church which has taken a stand against gay marriage."
      Don't walk away. Run!
      I'm sure you can find a church that isn't spreading hate and bigotry.

      You said "I know in my heart that most gay couples are just being who they are as they came into the world. (probably most)"
      You can safely make that "all". Being gay isn't a choice. Anyone who claims it is should ask themselves when they chose to be straight. Nobody does.

      Peace.

      July 2, 2011 at 1:13 am |
    • Robert

      The Bible is God's manual to us to be able to judge our own actions as well as the actions of others. It is completely possible to be happy and yet not be following God's will. What is really, eternally, more important: to be happy on earth, or to be happy for eternity in heaven?

      July 2, 2011 at 2:01 am |
    • LinCA

      @Robert

      You said "The Bible is God's manual to us to be able to judge our own actions as well as the actions of others. It is completely possible to be happy and yet not be following God's will. What is really, eternally, more important: to be happy on earth, or to be happy for eternity in heaven?"
      Are you sure you got the correct manual? Trying to operate your toaster with the manual for the leaf blower isn't going to do you any good.

      There isn't any evidence there is a god, let alone yours. The one life you know you have is the one you are currently living. Odds are, it's the only one.

      July 2, 2011 at 2:07 am |
    • John

      Thats another jewel in your crown. Good for you. Judge not, les ye be judged.

      July 3, 2011 at 9:42 am |
  19. Keith

    The author is out of his mind if he thinks only one verse in the Bible condemns hom-os-exuality. wow.

    July 1, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
  20. JFK57

    Bttom line, a statue of two dudes on a wedding cake is just wrong!

    July 1, 2011 at 8:23 pm |
    • LinCA

      @JFK57

      You said "Bttom line, a statue of two dudes on a wedding cake is just wrong!"

      Better not have one on your cake then.

      July 1, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
    • turtle

      Too bad your wern't drowned with the rest of the litter's runts.

      July 1, 2011 at 10:24 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Why is it wrong?

      July 1, 2011 at 11:03 pm |
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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.