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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. rationality rules :)

    Sadly, I'm not sure the majority of people on the Internet have the faculties to read and contemplate an article that doesn't pander to their comfy cliche notions.

    The author makes a good argument ... but the comments on here against the author ... are silly and sad. If you can't question the notions you have about your own religion .... what in the world are your cherishing so dearly?

    I applaud the author.

    June 21, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  2. Double OH

    Why?????
    "Your comment is awaiting moderation."
    and how long will I be in 'moderation limbo'?

    June 21, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • Colin

      It will never emerge. it is an automatic filter. use periods to seperate words like t.it or c.um even in the middle of words, like const.itution.

      June 21, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • Platypus

      This is a most prudish filter used by a most prudish CNN. Dinosors!

      July 4, 2011 at 1:55 am |
  3. John

    When I saw Yale Divinity School, I knew the author would be spouting rubbish.

    June 21, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • George

      Its only rubbish to you because you are too stupid to understand it.

      June 21, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
  4. Pastor Evans

    So now that you have graduated from Yale your degree trumps the Bible? Sin is Sin!!! There are many who misinterpret the Bible because without the Holy Spirit, nothing in the Bible can be clearly understood. Without stepping foot into one of your Yale classrooms, I know the Holy Spirit had nothing to do with what you learned!!! Therefore you have been decieved by the opionions and philsophies of mankinds human rationale who believe they are smarter than God. The letter kills, but it is the Holy Spirit that gives life. Get in tune with Holy Spirit young man and get out of your own self-made illusions!!!

    June 21, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • Yo!

      The Holy Spirit is speaking through science and the experts to show prejudice people like you that gays are a creation by God. Your the one passing judgments, blind and deaf to your own personal hate and prejudice. You know nothing of the truth. Where is your degree from Satan university.

      June 21, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • Eric G

      Sorry, Pastor Evans, you will need to demonstrate the existence of your "Holy Spirit" before you can make claims of actions or effects thereof. This demonstration must include verifiable evidencial support that can be tested with repeatable results.

      Without this evidencial support, your claims are invalid.

      June 21, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • Tim Jordan

      Yes, get in tune with frauds like Benny Hinn, Peter Popoff, and Ted Haggard. Amen, Bruddah. How many more children have to be molested? How many more elderly drained of their bank accounts? How many more "christians" like Scott Lively need to forment persecution of gays in foreign countries? Your religion is nonsense and you need to get a real job, pal.

      June 21, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • Cameron

      There is no such thing as a holy spirit.

      June 21, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • Robert

      Well said Pastor!

      We also must pray for alot of the people on here; they're deceived by the enemy.

      June 21, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
    • Yo!

      "We also must pray for alot of the people on here; they're deceived by the enemy."

      You are the one being deceived and will stop at nothing to justify your prejudice beliefs. God created gays to show people like you that Satan has your heart, not God.

      June 21, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • CHARLEY60

      Pastor, with all due respect, you sound a lot like those "men in black" that come by and say my KJV Bible is misinterpreted so I have to join there Church and use the correct version to understand Gods word.

      June 22, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • dannyboy49

      No such thing as the HOLY SPIRIT?
      Over 2000 years ago the word HOLY SPIRIT was spoken by man. so as for one person to say that there is no HOLY SPIRIT is like unto a person saying there is no Air even though you can't see it, it is there. Ask other humans who know more than you about the subject HOLY SPIRIT? Lying about the Holy Spirit is suppose to be a unpardonable sin based on what I have read and been told by many other humans.

      July 17, 2011 at 9:27 am |
  5. bravado in boston

    this oped needs to be circulated widely.

    June 21, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • John

      It's garbage. People have been trying to find biblical justifications for sin for a long time.

      June 21, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
  6. Steve

    If one views the evangelical community from a non-indoctrinated perspective, the hypocrisy can be overwhelming. I experienced it in my youth, as a teenager at church camp. I studied religion in college and the more I learned about the history of Christianity, the more it felt a creation of man than a creation of God. So...what does one do with the teachings of the Bible? Well, God gave us a great gift – a brain – and I would suspect he'd like us to us it.

    June 21, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • Brian

      "God gave us a great gift – a brain – and I would suspect he'd like us to us it."

      this is probably the best line I've ever read

      June 21, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
  7. Tak

    Some conservatives/evangelicals do the same thing to the Bible as what Al Qeda and the Taliban do to the Koran – they DISTORT the teaching of either holy book to further/justify their own potilitcal and social programs.

    Such actions and teaching are abominations in the eyes of God.

    June 21, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • John

      It's an abomination to call sodomy the sin that it is?

      June 21, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • jsc5326

      @John – Yes! In fact, let me quote from the Gospel of Matthew,

      "Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again."

      So yes, if you take the Bible at its word, it is.

      June 21, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
    • Jose

      Luke 17:3
      "If another believer sins, rebuke that person; then if there is repentance, forgive."

      June 22, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
    • Stevie7

      Jose – thanks for pointing out the Matthew and Luke disagree. Of course, its not like that's the only thing they disagree on – they can't even get Jesus' grandfather straight. You'd think with all of the emphasis on geanology, that's something there would be consistency on. So, who do we believe?

      June 22, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
  8. Mike in Green Bay

    I think Mr. Dudley clearly points out the fact that one can not interpret the Bible literally as so many people do. They use the book to separate and criticize people instead of looking for ways to bring people together for humanity's benefit. Politicians continually complain that they are "quoted out of context" - the Bible is likely the most mis-quoted book in history.

    June 21, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
  9. Jamie

    Congratulations on figuring out religion is load of BS.

    June 21, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
  10. Joy

    Jonathan, very well written but there are many you will never be able to convince they are wrong in their beliefs no matter how much you write. I especially like the last two sentences of your article.

    June 21, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
  11. Tim Jordan

    Tax the damn churches and religious organizations. USA deficit solved.

    June 21, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
    • George

      Lame.

      June 21, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • dannyboy49

      Very Lame indeed!

      July 17, 2011 at 9:32 am |
  12. guest

    Bravo. it's good to see that there can be sanity with religious belief.

    June 21, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
  13. Colin

    "So let’s stop the charade and be honest" Mr Dudly says.

    Given that he was able to extricate himself from the more egregious aspects of the evangelical community and given the seeming prescience he has exhibited in this article, I give this guy two years tops, before he is an atheist.

    All he has to do is realize that the same fundamental flaws he sees in their rational apply equally to the whole silly idea of an all-loving, wish-granting, mind-reading, immortal sky-god.

    Go ahead Mr Dudly, shine the penetrating light of reason upon your remaining beliefs with courage and honesty. One with a mind you have demonstrated can only keep themselves fooled for so long.

    PS: Might I commend to you Ayann Hirsi Ali’s article on her “coming out” from the dark supersti.tions of Islam. She describes in detail how the inexorable pull of reason eventually overwhelmed the childhood stories she had been taught never to oquestion. Citation anybody? I don't have it.

    June 21, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
  14. George

    Say what you want and deny what you want but you cannot change the fact that you will answer for your ignorance one day. Its just a matter of time. You may fool yourselves but you will never fool the creator.

    June 21, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • Joel

      What manner of man lives for and admires the love of a God they turn about and cite as being firey venom to foes they have defined as such? In the profession of religion, fear steers the people and gives them someone to feel above. You will see that one day, most likely at the hands of your god.

      June 21, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • Colin

      George, you don't get it do you. you are the kind of small minded simpleton he has already left behind. You are like the kids in kindergarten who called names. Long gone and irrelevant.

      June 21, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • lulz

      That's not what you said last night when you were sucking my dick, Tiny...

      June 21, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • @George

      Amen to that! This author just did the same thing he proclaims the sinning Christians do...used the scriptures to defend his own beliefs too. People need to understand there are some things you just can't change. Some people can be swayed by society's acceptance of all kinds of unnatural things, but the bible never changes on that. Let me repeat, it NEVER changes on that. That's also not to say we go out and chastise and torture those living alterntive lifestyles because we are not God and we can't judge on that final day. Everyone has to answer to God, including me...

      June 21, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
    • Frogist

      @ @George: The author did not just use some bible verses to prove his point. which was the hypocrisy and short-sightedness of Christians who justify their bigotry with their relgion. He used historical analysis and an examination of the changing views of Christians over their different cultural and social environments. He proved quite soundly that most Christians who are so gung ho about being anti-gay (and a number of other popular positions) are very different from the way Christians used to interpret the Bible in the past. I find it kind of sad that so many Christians commenting on this article refuse to deal with that very insightful point.

      June 22, 2011 at 11:53 am |
    • dannyboy49

      If you live in another Country where the Laws are very strict on Gays in their country. You can very well know that you will lose your head. Great to live in America where you can be free to say you are GAY?

      July 17, 2011 at 9:39 am |
  15. Paul

    Jonathan,

    Good writing. Your also still young. So, the more you reason the more you'll realize that the Bible is nothing more than a bunch of stories written by men to support their values, beliefs and to control the general population. If anyone reads it cover to cover with an once or reason and common sense they'll realize it's nothing but stories.

    I was a Christian for 30 years. My dad was a deacon, my mom a church secretary and I taught Bible study and lead many to Christ but I opened my mind to reason about 3 years ago and realized I had been living a lie. I've not changed but my faith has. Hopefully yours will too some day.

    June 21, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • George

      I would bet you were never a Christian to begin with! Your ignorance is very sad!

      June 21, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • Adrian

      Does anyone find it ironic that posters who try to sound educated through their diction and prose can't spell worth a damn?

      June 21, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • Why do atheists proselytize?

      I never understand why atheists are so interested in seeing others become atheists? You folks might be the most committed evangelists there are.

      June 21, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • Colin

      Paul, congratulations. I graduated in my teens and never looked back. As you will see from my post above, this young guy seems destined for enlightenment from the dark supersti.tions of religion.

      June 21, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • Frogist

      @George: Who are you to say who is/was a Christian and who is not? Either you have insight into men's hearts equal to God himself or you have a mighty high opinion of yourself.

      June 21, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
    • dannyboy49

      I WILL SAY A HEART FELT PRAYER FOR YOU. Think about where you will go after you die. Now think about What If, What if I was wrong. Too late to change your mind after you die. Unless you might be able to change your mind on your death bed.

      July 17, 2011 at 9:45 am |
  16. mak

    you need more than Yale Divinity School and self justification to convince me. This is why this country is in trouble,
    Based on the schooling you had , do not worry as an ape you can be anything you want to be, but keep the Bible out of it
    and do not add or delete anything to the scripture.

    June 21, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • I'MABeliever

      Amen and Amen!!!!!!!!

      June 21, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
  17. Sinner

    Christ did not go around looking for an arguement. He was giving you salvation at his expense. Accept it or not. That is not an arguement or a statement. So, Why are you talking?

    June 21, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • Another Sinner

      Well now, whether or not he died for our salvation actually remains up to debate. It all depends on whether or not you believe the Gospel of John supersedes that of Luke, or Mathew. Because the four stories the Gospels tell are very different stories, with dramatically different endings.

      June 21, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
  18. Robert

    Unfortunately, Jonathon is using the lack of obedience to justify gay marriage. The enemy (satan) has deceived/blinded Jonathon to the utmost; very sad.

    June 21, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • Yo!

      Robert you are the one blinded by Satan that you can't even see the prejudice in your own heart. God created gay people for this purpose to show people like you that your hatred and prejudice will not be welcomed in heaven.

      June 21, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
  19. dekons

    This is a good article.

    I agree with the author's assertions.

    June 21, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • steve

      Me to.

      June 21, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • Mike

      This article is misinformation. Anybody can pick out a line from the bible and make it sound like anything they want it to. This guy needs to go back to school and actually due his research.

      June 21, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Mike: Exactly. Anyone can interpret the Bible anyway they wish. The author has chosen to use his interpretation to show the hypocrisy of those who use the Bible to treat gays as lesser human beings. Good for him.

      June 21, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
  20. BDL

    The church hasn't always held that life begins at conception, but it has always held that abortion is the equivalent of murder. How can the author quote Aquinas and Augustine on abortion and not mention that both men opposed it? Does nobody do any real fact checking or try to tell the whole story?

    June 21, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
    • jsc5326

      Funny you would criticize others for not "fact checking" yet you mistate facts yourself.

      While both St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas did believe abortion was wrong, you're conveniently leaving out their definition of abortion. Both of them considered early abortions fine, it wasn't until the fetus became "animated" after the first trimester that they deemed it a sin.

      Those in stone houses...

      June 21, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • Mike

      I never found anything regarding that quote from Aquainas. What i did find was the belief that the soul was the human body. Yeah this author putting loosely seems to just picking what helps his arguement. All Im gonna say is "unnatural" there must be a reason.

      June 21, 2011 at 2:59 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.