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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. ThisIsTruth

    JESUS WAS GAY, YES GET USE TO IT

    July 4, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
    • Jathin Stevens

      Are you saying that Jesus engaged in sodomy?

      July 4, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
  2. Jathin Stevens

    Jesus had AIDS

    July 4, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
    • Asklepios417

      Jesus had AIDES. He called them Disciples.

      July 4, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
    • Jathin Stevens

      Oh yeah, that's what I meant to say. LOL

      July 4, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
  3. ThisIsTruth

    It boils down to the GAY JESUS,never showing interest in woman, and bringing forth truth, so that gay marriage as it has come to be is blessed and sanctioned by the Lord Jesus Christ

    July 4, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
  4. ThisIsTruth

    For goodness sake JESUS WAS GAY

    July 4, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
    • Joe Blow from Idaho

      You are blaspheming the Lord Jesus Christ. I hope you know that. Jesus was pure as Heaven.

      July 4, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
  5. TJustSaying

    And Christians do not have the right to condemn someone who is Gay.

    July 4, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
  6. TJustSaying

    We can agree that the bible calls it a sin, but the degree of the sin is not for us to decide.

    July 4, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
  7. TJustSaying

    And Christians do not have the right to condemn someone who is Gay. We can agree that the bible calls it a sin, but the degree of the sin is not for us to decide.

    July 4, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
  8. TJustSaying

    Having intercourse before marriage is also a sin but many Christians do it.

    July 4, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
    • Wayne

      Sorry, but I don't believe "Christians" do. If they do, I trust they seek forgiveness. Our Lord is faithful to do that for all of us.

      July 4, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
  9. TJustSaying

    Do we redefine the idea that a man was born as a man?

    July 4, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
  10. TJustSaying

    Was it once okay for men to try to turn themselves into women and women turn themselves into men? Would the bible also say it is okay to completely do away with natural child birth as many Gays do?

    July 4, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
  11. TJustSaying

    Does that mean God made a mistake with our gender?
    Do we allow for the teaching of Christian kids that gender is fluid and we should call ourselves ITS until we've had a chance to decide for ourselves what we are?

    July 4, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
  12. TJustSaying

    Did he make a mistake when he created a family unit with a father and a mother? Did he make a mistake when he spoke of honor they father and mother completely leaving out two mothers or two fathers? The problem is if this were simply about rights we could create civil unions draft in them the same benefits that occur in marriage and call it a day. Hey if people still complain all marriages could then be called civil unions. If this was just about rights we would be done with this issue. If this was about what man thought we could be done because man is allowed to change his mind.

    July 4, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
  13. TJustSaying

    God however defines laws and holds us accountable. Seeking permission from fellow Christians is a foolish pursuit because it is not theirs to give no more then they have the power to condemn. All of us are EQUALLY accountable to God. And he is the JUDGE, JURY, and SALVATION holder. So the only opinion that really matters on Gay marriage is the LORD's.

    July 4, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
    • Joe Blow from Idaho

      Yes, but we are called on to uphold the laws of God.

      July 4, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
    • Observer

      It isn't God that is denying gays equal rights.

      July 4, 2011 at 8:07 pm |
  14. Muneef

    Real Worship in Islam ;

    The concept of worship in Islam is misunderstood by many people including some Muslims. Worship is commonly taken to mean performing ritualistic acts such as prayers, fasting, charity, etc. This limited understanding of worship is only one part of the meaning of worship in Islam. That is why the traditional definition that includes almost everything in any individual's activities. The definition goes something like this, "Worship is an all inclusive term for all that Gods love of external and internal sayings and actions of a person." In other words, worship is everything one says or does for the pleasure of Allah. This, of course, includes rituals as well as beliefs, social activities, and personal contributions to the welfare of one's fellow human beings.

     [5:2] You shall cooperate in matters of righteousness and piety; do not cooperate in matters that are sinful and evil. You shall observe GOD. GOD is strict in enforcing retribution.

    http://islam4all.com/concept_of_worship_in_islam.htm

    July 4, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
    • Muneef

      Joe.
      You said; "But they will never get America to accept the unacceptable." this way they will brand you being against human rights,terrorist or extremes...so on of blackmails until you become to give up to them one by one until there is nothing left that could be considered Rightous....!

      July 4, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
  15. Joe Blow from Idaho

    This author is just twisting and redefining Christian scriptures to make it look as though his buggery is just another sin and not the abomination that it is. Sod.omites might get America to tolerate them. But they will never get America to accept the unacceptable.

    July 4, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
    • Rachel Carper

      Why do you assume the author is gay?

      July 4, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
    • Joe Blow from Idaho

      Because he comes across as someone trying to justify a filthy lifestyle.

      July 4, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
    • Muneef

      OMG.
      Shame on us, I guess us writing here will get others to doubt us being gays....?!
      Since they say that who drinks spirits have the same guilt of those producing it....!
      So he prepared this drink for us and we drunk it so now we are condemned like him....!?

      July 4, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
    • Muneef

      Sorry...
      Joe.
      You said; "But they will never get America to accept the unacceptable." this way they will brand you being against human rights,terrorist or extremes...so on of blackmails until you become to give up to them one by one until there is nothing left that could be considered Rightous....!

      July 4, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
    • Joe Blow from Idaho

      @Muneef

      They can brand me however they want. I will not be silent and watch my nation come under the wrath of God because of their filthy sinful lifestyle. And it's not about human rights. No one is against them for who they are. We are against them for what they do. It's about behavior. Contrast this to the civil rights movement where people were discriminated against simply because they were a different race. Sinful behavior was never a consideration.

      We all have sinful natures that we have to fight against. But the sod.omite says that he/she doesn't have to fight against it and their sinful behavior should be accepted. This is the road straight to he.ll, not only for the sod.omite but for America.

      July 4, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
    • Muneef

      Joe Blow Idaho.

      You have got my respect and you are a real American who cares for the country and his people...I wish many will be as of you might the world become better and cleaner from the filth it has reached by poisoning the brains of simple minded people to seek leisure on account of morals...! God bless...

      July 4, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
    • Yo!

      Joe, you are stuck in the rut of not putting the scriptures into historical context to justify your personal prejudice and bigotry. Sodo-my is defined as ana-l or or-al copulation with a member of the opposite se-x. Plus the word ho-m0-s-exual wasn't even invented yet. LOL! It might help if you look up the true meaning of reading comprehension.

      July 5, 2011 at 11:09 am |
  16. John

    Jesus dealt with us sinners directly and kindly. He wants us to be in a loving relationship with God and to live a life free from sin (sin being those against what God tells us to do or not do). So while Christians aren't perfect (which we all know) they have received forgiveness freely given by God. And if we're forgiven, we should not continue doing sin. - Now if you aren't into Jesus and want to do your own thing, I understand and God gives you freedom to reject Him. But someone who follows Jesus and does not simply study religion cannot continue doing what the Bible says is wrong. To do so, they are deceiving themselves.

    July 4, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
  17. Rachel Carper

    It's unfortunate that evangelicals are unable to acknowledge valid arguments agains their beliefs. Evangelical Christian virtues = ignorance and bigotry.

    July 4, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • William

      Rachel,

      Your reply to the Reformed Theologian gives eveidence to the fact that your lack of understanding concerning scripture is evident.
      You attack the oppositions intelligence by surendering your own.

      July 4, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
    • Joe Blow from Idaho

      Bigotry? Bigotry? Are you a bigot against murders? Are you a bigot against thieves? Sin is sin in the eyes of God. The sod.omite is no different from the murderer in the eyes of God. This is why you need a Savior.

      July 4, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
    • Rachel Carper

      "Your reply to the Reformed Theologian gives eveidence to the fact that your lack of understanding concerning scripture is evident."

      Do you have an argument to support that contention or is it simply a naked assertion?

      July 4, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
    • Rachel Carper

      To say gay people are morally equivalent to murderers reveal how twisted and dangerous you idiots are. I consider people like yourself to have more in common with murderers than gay people.

      July 4, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
    • Joe Blow from Idaho

      @Rachel Carper

      Well, you see, it doesn't matter what you consider. All that matters is God, and God clearly made himself known when it comes to sin.

      July 4, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
    • Rachel Carper

      @ Joe Blow

      God considers you to be on par with a murderer as well.

      July 4, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
    • Joe Blow from Idaho

      Wow, snappy comeback! Did you think that up all by yourself or did you have help?

      July 4, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
    • Joe Blow from Idaho

      You see, I was no better than a murderer until I got saved and washed in the blood of Jesus. I put aside my sinful lifestyle for the sake of God.

      July 4, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
    • Rachel Carper

      No, I had help - from God. God told me that's what He thinks about you. Don't blame me, I just telling you what God said.

      July 4, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
    • Rachel Carper

      I'm sorry, but I'm afraid God told me that He still considers you on par with a murderer. That whole "getting saved" bit didn't fool Him. Again, just passing on what the man upstairs is telling me.

      July 4, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
    • Joe Blow from Idaho

      You can make a mockery out of God and his scriptures all you want. But in the end, you will be burning in the lake of fire if not for you sod.omy then for your blasphemy.

      July 4, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
    • Rachel Carper

      I think you're confusing me with you. God just told me you will be eternally tortured for your bigotry.

      July 4, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
    • Yo!

      "All that matters is God, and God clearly made himself known when it comes to sin."

      Which is why God gave us science to prove that gays are born the way they are, that they are his creation and your literally interpretation of the scriptures is corrupting your heart.

      July 5, 2011 at 11:10 am |
  18. ReformedTheologian

    Only with nutty hermeneutics like the one found in this article that we are able to find double standards in Paul's declarations. Yale Divinity School huh?!? Your liberal tone doesn't surprise me.

    July 4, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
    • Rachel Carper

      He doesn't say there are double standards in Paul's declarations but in how evangelicals appropriate them. And he doesn't employ "hermeneutics" at all in the article, he just points out the inconsistencies in evangelical hermeneutics.

      Do you read the Bible as carelessly and lazily as you read Op-Ed pieces?

      July 4, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  19. Bobby

    What about this: 1Corinthians 6:9
    9 What! Do YOU not know that unrighteous persons will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be misled. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men kept for unnatural purposes, nor men who lie with men, 10 nor thieves, nor greedy persons, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit God’s kingdom. 11 And yet that is what some of YOU were. But YOU have been washed clean, but YOU have been sanctified, but YOU have been declared righteous in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and with the spirit of our God.

    July 4, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • Yo!

      Bobby pick up a history book dude and put the scriptures into historical context and stop taking it so literally. What it's describing is pagan rituals using s-ex to worship a pagan god, male prost-itution and idolatry. It has nothing to do with the saved loving gay relationship that is married before God. Part of reading comprehension 101 is puting the text into historical context to get the real meaning.

      July 5, 2011 at 11:13 am |
  20. Dana

    God has revealed this truth to mankind through nature. I think each creature that he has created is male and female. Also, with plants. He has given this to show us the way over and over in everything he has created on earth. It is important because the male+female relationship in nature and humankind are a mirror of our relationship with God. The "male" so to speak represents God and the "female" represents humankind. God created us to have a spiritual love relationship with Him. Do you see? We are his companion if we choose. It is the most beautiful and deeply fulfilling relationship in existence.

    July 4, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
    • Joe

      Male represents God and female represents humankind? Really?

      July 4, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
    • Yo!

      "God has revealed this truth to mankind through nature. "

      Which is why over 1500 other species have been docu-mented having ho-m0-se-xual relationships. LOL!

      July 5, 2011 at 11:15 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.