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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. Stanky1

    An honest Christian. How refreshing.

    July 8, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
  2. Disciple Mikey

    @SURVIVOR

    what's the difference? And the word here rendered detestable is a little more serious than that. take alook at this from the prophet Jeremiah.
    Jeremiah 44:4- 4 And I kept sending to YOU all my servants the prophets, rising up early and sending, saying: “Do not do, please, this detestable sort of thing that I have hated.” Yes God does in fact HATE things that are detestable to him.

    July 8, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
  3. Disciple Mikey

    "All of my extensive research has shown that we create a god in our own image who never condemns what we like and always sides with us against those who disagree with our presuppositions."

    Yes this is true for most people. But for true Christians, they dont mold a religion of God out of their likes and dislikes. rather they mold themselves. thats why the apostle paul called it a "transformation". If a person doesnt have to make changes to be a Christian, something is wrong.

    July 8, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • LOL

      The Bogus LOL wrote the Mikey.

      July 8, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
  4. Disciple Mikey

    "Now pickup a history book too, because back when this was happening men dressed up as women and women dressed up like men to have se-x in a temple and worship their god. Men became "soft" and submitted themselves like a women would and that is what was considered wrong. Now stop being so lazy and do some real research."

    If this is true then why is God upset about the fact that theyre dressing up cross gender and not worshipping another God. Thats another sin altogether. remember he's talking to his people. Why would he care how they worshipped another God? I cant reason with you because you already have your mind made up but if you truly reason with yourself then you will see that none of this makes sense.

    July 8, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • LOL

      "Thats another sin altogether. remember he's talking to his people. "

      It's because Christian crossed over to paga-nism.

      July 8, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
  5. Disciple Mikey

    @ LOL-
    there is no difference in my friend who feels he was born g-ay. was never attracted to women, still isnt attracted to women. But was able to surpress his selfish desires because pleasing God was more important to him.

    @Jason-
    I'm not looking for pity. nor am i prejudice. i'm only relaying what I know from god's word, which youre obviously not familiar with since you say "prejudice invites discrimination" because Jesus said to Love even your enemies

    July 8, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
    • LOL

      "there is no difference in my friend who feels he was born g-ay. was never attracted to women, still isnt attracted to women. But was able to surpress his selfish desires because pleasing God was more important to him."

      It's been proven and this question has been answered already conversion therapy's don't work. They have been done by bias and prejudice people who wrote bogus reports to try and prove they were right. They have now been shown to be wrong.

      July 8, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
  6. Disciple Mikey

    "Yes your arrogance has been really apparent but I attribute that to all the brainwashing you get from your church."

    just because you feel ashamed doesnt mean that I'm being arrogant. Everything I've said has been with mildness. These are not my thoughts but God's.

    @GODSWORD- thank you. and the comment he made to you about scholars just shows how reliant he is on man and not God. he's not as confused as he seem's. As obvious as he is, God may not even need to read his heart.

    July 8, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • LOL

      "just because you feel ashamed doesnt mean that I'm being arrogant. Everything I've said has been with mildness. These are not my thoughts but God's."

      Who's ashamed and what for? You are not speaking for God that is your arrogance. It's your interpretation of the scriptures and it happens to be WRONG.

      July 8, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  7. Justified

    Paganism is defined by creating a "god" in your own image. That is exactly what we do, if we enjoy g-ay s-ex, we'll so does my "god". In Isaiah God states to humans that "My ways are not your ways, my thoughts are not your thoughts...my ways are higher than your ways, my thoughts, higher than your thoughts" He is not the Wizard of Oz, that we can peak around the curtain and change his mind. Actually read the bible my friends.

    July 8, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
    • LOL

      "Paganism is defined by creating a "god" in your own image. That is exactly what we do, if we enjoy g-ay s-ex, "

      Now pickup a history book too, because back when this was happening men dressed up as women and women dressed up like men to have se-x in a temple and worship their god. Men became "soft" and submitted themselves like a women would and that is what was considered wrong. Now stop being so lazy and do some real research.

      July 8, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
  8. Disciple Mikey

    "It's been proven through 35 years of research that they are not capable of changing since they are born this way...duh!"

    Again, i know people personally who have changed. Even someone who was g-ay since a child and believd that he was born that way. But he didnt listen to the people who take the easy way and do what they want. he listened to god. Change is possible, its just hard when so many people who dont want to answer to anyone tell you something is alright. These tests are based on the fact that soneone is born with a "desire". a desire can be defeated.

    "That's why so many scholars disagree with you now and say being gay is not a sin. LOL!'

    Again, that shows your faith in man and not God. and i think you were being srcastic but yes- its lots of downtime at my job on friday and i have nothing better to do 🙂

    @ GODS WORD- thank you. as you knw these arent my thoughts so i cant take credit for it.

    July 8, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • LOL

      "Again, i know people personally who have changed. Even someone who was g-ay since a child and believd that he was born that way. But he didnt listen to the people who take the easy way and do what they want. he listened to god. Change is possible, its just hard when so many people who dont want to answer to anyone tell you something is alright. These tests are based on the fact that soneone is born with a "desire". a desire can be defeated."

      Conversion therapies have been proven to be done by bias people writing prejudice reports and that the DON"T work.

      The person you are talking about wasn't truly gay but a bise-xual and I hope we don't have to play the definition game on this one.

      July 8, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
  9. Disciple Mikey

    "Do you follow all the rules in Leviticus, or do you just cherry pick the passages that help justify your bigotry?"

    @Doc Vestibule.... Yes I sure do. As my response to your remark stated, I do my best to adhere closely to the Bible. Even though the mosaic law was only meant for the Israelites we can still benefit from ALL the scriptures. Like the one reagrding the specific robes they could and couldnt wear...... the reason for that is because they were to stand out as God's people and not resemble the pagan nations around them. And yes today, True Christians should dress in a way that dignifies God. I think someone earlier in the post mentioned the Apostle Paul when he spoke about a man's hair being long as a womans. you see, the application is repeated in the greek scriptures. Wow its funny how people are really mad when g-ays are called disrespectful names, but I've been called a bi-got and brainwashed all in one day.

    July 8, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • Jason

      No one feels sorry for you. Prejudice invites discrimination against itself.

      July 8, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
  10. Disciple Mikey

    "Pickup a history book.... There are also rules on when you can and can't enter a women's bed. It's not about gays as we know it today."

    Not familiar with that but it's obvious youre looking for loopholes. Lying down with someone in this text, comes from a word meaning to have se-xual intercourse with. Why do you think it says in the "same way that lie down with a woman"? This chat was fun and I hope beneficial for some who read it, but i must move on for now.

    July 8, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
    • LOL

      "This chat was fun and I hope beneficial for some who read it, but i must move on for now."

      Yes your arrogance has been really apparent but I attribute that to all the brainwashing you get from your church.

      July 8, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
    • LOL

      "get from the media and fake research by 154,000 people doing hundreds of studies over 3 decades..."

      Oh poor bogus LOL aka Joe since you didn't do your research you have to stoop to childish games, it shows your true low grade mentality. LOL!

      July 11, 2011 at 8:48 am |
  11. Justified

    Why are all my post's being blocked? CNN?

    July 8, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  12. Disciple Mikey

    "That is between God and his creation because he knows what is in their hearts, you don't!"

    That's very true. I never said that they would be condemned to hell or destroyed. Like you said, God has the ability to read hearts....not me. But i know who does know.... the person who is ho-mose-xual. They know what they're capable of, if they can change, or if theyve only tried to justify it. I'm not judging nor condemning, I'm merely preaching God's word as i was commanded.

    July 8, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • LOL

      "They know what they're capable of, if they can change, or if theyve only tried to justify it."

      It's been proven through 35 years of research that they are not capable of changing since they are born this way...duh!

      July 8, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • Budhist one

      Great – where can i get it?

      July 9, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
    • LOL

      "And I have tons of resources for all this research which I can point you to. Just ask."

      OH poor Joe aka bogus LOL since you didn't do your homework and have been proven wrong by the experts your true low grade mentality has to stoop to childish games. Lying and stealing is a sin by the way since you don't actually comprehend the bible.

      July 11, 2011 at 8:50 am |
  13. GEM

    I cannot believe this guy went to Yale Divinity School, but therein lies the problem: man's teachings vs. the Bible's teachings. He quotes many different men, yet manages to come up with one quote in the Bible by Paul which is totally out of context. How did he possibly "overlook" all the very obvious and direct quotes in the Bible by God Himself addressing this subject, in relation to which the word "abomination" is used? This is clearly an example where he's making a case to suit his viewpoint, which is ironic, since that's what his point is apparently about. The Bible was written by God Who selected and inspired certain men to preserve His Word. God will never change, no matter how much societies do. That's the amazing thing, and the reason you can always count on Him.

    July 8, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
    • pm77

      Well then, "God" also called shelfish abominations. Hope you don't like seafood.

      July 8, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
  14. Disciple Mikey

    Again LOL, i agree with the fact that man has interpreted the Bible in ways that benefit him. But when someone has done true research to know the greek and hebrew renderings of words that were used in that time, as well as read the whole Bible (instead of used a couple scripture to their advantage)in the correct context and meditated on it with prayer to God for a correct understanding so they can understand the theme of it, and the same ideas and thoughts of God are evident in what they read...... it becomes obvious.

    July 8, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
    • GODsWORD

      @ Diciple Mikey, keep the faith. Sounds like you know your Bible.

      @ LOL, your desperation is apparent, you’re grasping at straws. The Bible does not support your wants.

      July 8, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
    • LOL

      "@ LOL, your desperation is apparent, you’re grasping at straws. The Bible does not support your wants."

      That's why so many scholars disagree with you now and say being gay is not a sin. LOL!

      July 8, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • Stevie7

      In what context should I be reading the bible to know why god condones slavery and selling one's daughter? Please enlighten me on how god thinks those practices are fine – so long as you abide by his rules for them.

      July 8, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
  15. Disciple Mikey

    @ Doc Vestibule

    Not at all. As you know the old or mosaic law was done away with after Christ. Even though we are no longer binded by that law, in fact some of it would seem pretty extreme today, there are still principles to be taken even from the extreme of the mosaic laws. 2 Timothy 3:16 16 "ALL SCRIPTURE is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness," but tell me, what other possible lesson could you learn from Leviticus 18:22? And besides there are scriptures in the greek writings as well that condemn it.

    July 8, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
  16. Disciple Mikey

    @ LOL....

    "So when it says "So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them."
    Gays are male and lesbians are females... LOL!"

    You cant be serious! it doesnt say he created a ga-y man and a ga-y woman in his image. What you said doesnt justify anything. he created Adam and Eve (man and woman)

    July 8, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • LOL

      "You cant be serious! it doesnt say he created a ga-y man and a ga-y woman in his image."

      It's been proven they are created this way and they are men and women just like you.

      July 8, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  17. Disciple Mikey

    @ lol...... "So let them have equal civil rights, adopt children and marry so they can live peaceful happy lives like everyone else."

    I am all for that. I dont get involved at all in political affairs so i dont have an opinion as to whether or not a g-ay person should be married. I just won't agree with someone who believes they can be Christian and a hom-ose-xual at the same time.

    July 8, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • LOL

      "I just won't agree with someone who believes they can be Christian and a hom-ose-xual at the same time."

      That is between God and his creation because he knows what is in their hearts, you don't!

      July 8, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
  18. EKP

    With so much war, famine, cruelty and hatred in the world...I don't see why a little love is so wrong. As I remember correctly, church taught me to love. Maybe thats what you all should be doing too. Be peaceful and peace will remain with you.

    July 8, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • Justified

      EKP..."a little love"? Have you seen a g-ay Pride parade? There is as much love there as a p-orn convention

      July 8, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
  19. Mark

    What I fine interesting about the bible is the commandements are actually God's laws. These are all choices that people make to break daily. There isn't a one that says Thou shall not be gay. This is because being gay is not a choice just like being straight is not a choice.

    July 8, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
    • Disciple Mikey

      If youre referring to the 10 commandments, those were only the first of a long list of standards that GOD HIMSELF gave to the Israelites in the book of Leviticus. I sited leviticus 18;22 earlier but if you didnt notice it it says "And you must not lie down with a male the same as you lie down with a woman. It is a detestable thing." i dont disagree with the fact that you can be born with INCLINATIONS to do certain things. Lots of people struggle with imperfect inclinations every day because of Adam and Eve. I struggle with being faithful to my wife. I've had a strong se-xual desire since I was a child but is it ok for me to cheat on her? Even if I didnt get married would it be ok for me to fornicate? No. God gives us free will to choose whether or not we keep his standards no matter how hard it is to keep them. And it is possible because lots of people are a living testament. in fact, I know people who were once hom-ose-xual but with the help of God were able to change.

      July 8, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
    • LOL

      "And you must not lie down with a male the same as you lie down with a woman. It is a detestable thing.""

      Pickup a history book.... There are also rules on when you can and can't enter a women's bed. It's not about gays as we know it today.

      July 8, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
    • LOL

      "Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error."

      This passage is an attack on heteros-exual persons who were formerly Christians, who reverted to Paganism, and who engaged in ritual s-exual behavior as a part of their newly adopted Pagan services. During these rituals, the Pagans were whipped into such a state of s-exual frenzy that they went against their basic heteros-exual nature and started engaging in s-exual behavior with members of the same s-ex. It has nothing to do with what we now know about gays today.

      July 8, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
  20. Disciple Mikey

    and i am not the least bit prejudice. I have never once treated a gay coworker or associate differently than anyone else. But if they were to tell me that god is ok with them being gay, i would have to object. but i guess this really doesnt apply to you anyway since you dont believe in God or at least what the bible says about him. That being said we probably have nothing further to talk about because we trust 2 different sources...

    @ inerrant... God created 2 people, Adam and Eve, who were perfect. The rest of "mankind" were born to them (not created) in an imperfect state due to Adam and Eve's sinful course.

    July 8, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
    • LOL

      "and i am not the least bit prejudice. I have never once treated a gay coworker or associate differently than anyone else. But if they were to tell me that god is ok with them being gay, i would have to object."

      So let them have equal civil rights, adopt children and marry so they can live peaceful happy lives like everyone else.

      July 8, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • LOL

      "God created 2 people, Adam and Eve, who were perfect. The rest of "mankind" were born to them (not created) in an imperfect state due to Adam and Eve's sinful course."

      So when it says "So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them."

      Gays are male and lesbians are females... LOL!

      July 8, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • Not inerrant

      See you are prejudiced, I never said I didn't believe in God. What I did say is that the bible is not inerrant. Look up my previous post and prove me wrong if you don't believe me. My bottom line is this, you are wasting so much time and effort worrying about everyone else's "sin". God doesn't force himself on anyone, and people who claim to be his followers should either. People have every right not to believe the way you do. That is between them and God and is of little if any effect to you. There is one book, the bible and many different Christain religions. Why cannot all of you agree on the teachings of one book? Maybe because people interpret it different. Maybe when all Christian groups can come together and teach the same things maybe other people will listen to what you have to say. Maybe when the "church" can get back to its roots and work in love and charity people will take notice. Until then you are going to have to realize that just because you can quote the bible or have strong opinions and interpretations doesn't mean people are listening to you.

      July 8, 2011 at 5:01 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.