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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. Esu Osmisquk

    obviously this person doesn't read the rest of the Bible.

    July 13, 2011 at 10:48 am |
    • ron

      obviously YOU didn't read the article

      July 13, 2011 at 10:20 pm |
  2. Jose

    It all makes sense when someone educated and cultured speaks about it. Good piece Dudley.

    July 13, 2011 at 3:34 am |
    • Tim

      Please go educate yourself first – his "Divinity" education taught him God is stupid and can't protect His own communication. Not true – God taught on this matter but it's not what the "Divinity" students and teachers want to hear – they know better because of their education.

      July 14, 2011 at 1:50 am |
  3. bored

    i don't know why people get so mad when 2 gay people get together what they do and what i do is not the same so why should i care let people live their lives the way they want to and get over it.

    July 13, 2011 at 1:06 am |
  4. period pie

    Author of this article makes some valid points, but in a SECULAR society, thank God we don't have to hold as gospel the writings of unknowns from 2000 years ago. You can have your Christianity however you prefer, but please don't let it affect my life.

    BTW, my own personal Christianity tells me that anyone who propagates hatred against others is not on God's path.

    July 12, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
  5. Giving some love

    To the author of this piece! Very well done on this bravely written and well researched blog!

    July 12, 2011 at 10:16 pm |
  6. Just a guy...

    America was meant to be free, let’s just drop this argument once and for all. It’s never been really finalized, just reiterated and restated and over and over again.

    We’re all beating a dead horse. Get over yourselves, and just accept that unnatural things occur. Get over it, and cry elsewhere. I don’t care who the hell you are that don’t agree with what i say, but you wouldn’t want to be ridiculed for something you yourself can’t change. Or would you? Try hiding 21 Years of your life in secrecy then get back to me and see what it feels like to be afraid of every person you either trust or don’t trust.

    July 12, 2011 at 10:11 pm |
  7. samuel amos

    Wow, we've really relaxed the standards on what we call Christian. This Dudley fellow should contact Yale about a refund. Why would someone study Christianity for so many years only to disbelieve and refute the New testaments' primary inspired author who wasn't even given the courtesy of a mention. Or would the mention of the Apostle Paul immediately throw this kids' argument into disrepute. Peter says ... they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures , unto their own destruction 2Pet 3:16. Hey, Dudley, are you smarter than Peter? Paul? These men sealed their testimony of Jesus Christ with their own blood. What have you done? You should examine yourself to see if you're in the faith. 2Cor.13:5

    July 12, 2011 at 9:32 pm |
    • Sara

      So I imagine you also think it's wrong for woman to have long hair and that women in physically abusive relationships should not be allowed to get a divorce?

      Another asinine response from a reactionary conservative.

      July 12, 2011 at 10:12 pm |
    • samuel amos

      Who said I was a conservative?

      July 12, 2011 at 11:00 pm |
    • Observer

      Paul wrote in support of slavery; the inferiority of women; said people should NOT get married; and that marriage was for those too weak to resist lust.

      That certainly should be remembered when judging his intelligence in trashing gays.

      July 13, 2011 at 12:07 am |
    • Scott

      Hollow arguments Observer. Maybe you should consider background and context before making such assumptions.

      July 13, 2011 at 12:32 am |
    • Observer

      Scott,

      I'm always willing to listen to opposing views. So tell me where YOU THINK I didn't tell the truth.

      July 13, 2011 at 12:37 am |
    • Scott

      Observer,
      You said:
      "Paul wrote in support of slavery; the inferiority of women; said people should NOT get married; and that marriage was for those too weak to resist lust. "

      The passages where Paul says it is better to be unmarried are not written as commands from God. In fact, Paul says they are his opinion. He says he understands that people are going to want to get married. 1st Corinthians 7 pretty much sums this up, along with the argument that women are inferior. Paul says that husbands and wives are to submit to one another, which would imply equality. In verse 21 he tells slaves to gain their freedom if they can do so. He's not in a position to make policy or effect socioeconomic change for society- he's talking to Christians living in a time when slavery was accepted. I'm not sure how that's an endorsement of slavery. I understand that you are a skeptic for many reasons, and that's fine, but these are the reasons I said your assertion was hollow.

      July 13, 2011 at 2:13 am |
    • Observer

      Scott,
      It appears that you are saying that Christians who claim the Bible is God's word are wrong. Instead, significant portions of the New Testament are just one man's opinon and that man's comments don't reflect God's words, but reflect being politically correct at the time.

      Please spread the word.

      July 13, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
  8. TexasShell

    Note to self: If I want to learn the truth about the Bible...DO NOT go to Yale Divinity School!! Jonathan, you wasted your money (or your parents money). All you had to do was read the Bible for yourself. 1) Show me even ONE Bible reference where a man can marry a man or a woman can marry a woman. Just one!! Uh-huh. Just as I thought. You can't because there aren't any. From Genesis to Revelation you will not find even ONE verse that says it's okay with God! 2) Read Psalm 139: 15-16 and see where life begins. 3) Just because a Christian magazine says divorce is okay doesn't make it so. God gives his opinion in Malachi 2:16. READ THE BIBLE FOR YOURSELF, JONATHAN!

    July 12, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
    • TexasShell

      I meant Psalm 139: 13-16.

      July 12, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
    • Sara

      Show me even ONE Bible reference where an evangelical is allowed to vote. Just one!! Uh-huh. Just as I thought. You can't because there aren't any. From Genesis to Revelation you will not find even ONE verse that says it's okay with God!

      Yep, that argument fails.

      July 12, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
    • H.Clay

      @TexasShell : With this logic you would never be able to drive a car, turn on a light or read this blog post as the bible never tells us it's ok to do these things either.

      July 12, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
    • TexasShell

      Sara and H.: this might be a little hard for you to understand, so I'll try to say it as simply as I can: This article is about biblical do's and don't's, not general life stuff. Please try to keep up.

      July 12, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
    • AvdBerg

      Only God can reveal Himself to you (John 14:26). For a better understanding please read the article Ye Need Not That Any Man Teach You on our website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca

      July 12, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
    • Observer

      TexasShell,

      READ the Bible yourself. What does Jesus says about gays? What does Jesus say about heteros' relations?

      Now please tell us why you are so concerned about gays which is a FAR FAR SMALLER problem in our country?

      July 12, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
    • Sara

      Or you could just admit that that argument doesn't work. Just because the Bible doesn't explicitly condone something doesn't mean it's wrong. Duh.

      And just because there are condemnations of something in the Bible doesn't mean it's wrong, or else women with short hair would be violating nature.

      July 12, 2011 at 9:04 pm |
    • FYI

      AvdBerg is a troll and is only promoting their own interest don't bother following the link it's total B.S.

      July 12, 2011 at 10:40 pm |
    • Observer

      FYI,

      Yep. Her site is just an ad to sell a book. The most interesting part is all the futile efforts to get correspondence from the president, Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly and "Russ" Limbaugh. Yep, "Russ".

      July 12, 2011 at 11:00 pm |
  9. Gay

    Just like the author of this article

    July 12, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
    • Prove it

      Just like you are gay for making this stupid comment.

      July 12, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • Sara

      Only someone who is prejudiced would consider it an insult to be called gay.

      July 12, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
  10. jasser

    The guy doesn't reason in a way that is consistent with what the Bible teaches,. So yes of course you'd like him to use secular humanist infused yale divintiy school blather. Its in line with secular morals and ideas, NOT biblical ones and that's why this guy is such a poor scholar although he clams to be a Christian

    July 12, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
    • Reality

      "a poor scholar although he clams to be a Christian"

      You're the poor scholar since you probably take the bible literally and not put it into historical context to get the true meaning.

      July 12, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
  11. jasser

    So why did you ;moderate; OUT my 3 comments, moderators? Please just state upfront will you,. that any reasoned responses more than 5 words long that are NOT applauding the authors are not allowed so people wont waste their time here, ok?

    One way Ive come to know how unbalanced an organization CNN is is by the way ttheirarticles are moderated. Its very unfair and liberal slanted,. So don't get on FOX NEWS about any conservative bias–you yourselves are very biased. if you cant even allow americans who dont agree with your bloggers to have a say here, thats pretty cowardly of you

    July 12, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • jasser

      oh and allowing my complant to be posted is not the same as allowing my opinion on the article to be posted here–so you don't get any points for that at all. Same gamesmeship goes on at HUFF POST too The liberal medis is always pushing their agenda through biased moderating

      July 12, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • Helpful

      Jasser you are talking to yourself, that's funny.

      The moderators of this blog have set up a secret forbidden word filter which unfortunately not only will delete or put your comment in the dreaded "waiting for moderation" category but also will do the same to words having fragments of these words. For example, "t-it" is in the set but the filter will also pick up words like Hitt-ite, t-itle, beati-tude, practi-tioner and const-tution. Then there are words like "an-al" thereby flagging words like an-alysis and "c-um" flagging acc-umulate or doc-ument. And there is also "r-a-pe", “a-pe” and “gra-pe”, "s-ex", and "hom-ose-xual". You would think that the moderators would have corrected this by now considering the number of times this has been commented on but they have not. To be safe, I typically add hyphens in any word that said filter might judge "of-fensive".
      • More than one web address will also activate “waiting for moderation”. Make sure the web address does not have any forbidden word or fragment.
      Two of the most filtered words are those containing the fragments "t-it" and "c-um". To quickly check your comments for these fragments, click on "Edit" on the Tool Bar and then "Find" on the menu. Add a fragment (without hyphens) one at a time in the "Find" slot and the offending fragment will be highlighted in your comments before you hit the Post button. Hyphenate the fragment(s) and then hit Post. And remember more than one full web address will also gain a "Waiting for Moderation".
      And said moderators still have not solved the chronological placement of comments once the number of comments gets above about 100. They recently have taken to dividing the comments in batches of 50 or so, for some strange reason. Maybe they did this to solve the chronology problem only to make comment reviews beyond the tedious.
      “Raison's Filter Fiber© (joking about the copyright)
      1. Here's my latest list – this seems like a good spot to set this down, as nobody's posting much on this thread.....
      ––
      bad letter combinations / words to avoid if you want to post that wonderful argument:
      Many, if not most are buried within other words, but I am not shooting for the perfect list, so use your imagination and add any words I have missed as a comment (no one has done this yet)
      – I found some but forgot to write them down. (shrugs).
      s-ex
      c-um.........as in doc-ument, accu-mulate, etc.
      sp-ic........as in disp-icable (look out Sylvester the cat!)
      ho-mo...whether ho-mo sapiens or ho-mose-xual, etc.
      t-it.........const-itution, att-itude, ent-ities, etc.
      an-al......ban-al
      sh-it
      fu-ck...
      who-re
      tw-at.....as in wristw-atch, (an unexpected one)
      pr-ick
      sl-ut
      c-lit
      va-g....as in extrava-gant, va-gina, va-grant
      hor-ny
      ar-se....yet "ass" is not filtered!
      nip-ple
      po-rn
      c-ock
      nig-ger
      cu-nt
      b-itch
      ra-pe
      jacka-ss...but ass is fine lol
      p-is.....as in pi-stol, lapi-s, pi-ssed, etc.
      o ficti-tious, repeti-tion, competi-tion.
      Sna-tch
      soft-ware
      Ja-panese
      Span-king
      hoo-ters
      There are more, so do not as-sume that this is complete

      July 12, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
  12. Jen

    Nothing like a well researched article 🙂 Finally someone does CNN proud

    July 12, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
    • jasser

      how much did anderson copper pay you to say that?

      July 12, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • LOL

      "how much did anderson copper pay you to say that?"

      The same amount he paid you.

      July 12, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
  13. Jessica

    For a second there I had the humorous vision that the heads of evangelicals all across America were exploding as they read this but then reality set in as I realized they would just attribute this interesting and factual article to the mental delusions of a mad man bent on the destruction of the human race much less America.

    July 12, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
  14. Jeff

    I guess we should all attend and graduate from Yale Divinity School to be educated and be enlightened to the "real" truth, since Jesus's teachings are obviously not sufficient enough and I guess come to realize also that He isn't the only Way, Truth and Light- Yale Divinity School is the other.

    July 12, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
  15. JoeNavy

    I like how the author tries to show some honesty with his first argument but I think he is sitll completely missing the point/s.
    1) What the hell does not-natural mean and how can it be used to make public policies.
    2) Legally The bible is fiction and it should not be used in any way to make public policy.

    July 12, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
  16. R

    You ignore several passages includng Romans chapter 11. But coming from Yale "Divinity" School, I am not surprised.

    July 12, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
    • R

      Romans chapter 1, not 11.

      July 12, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
    • Stevie7

      And I think that you missed the point of the article entirely.

      July 12, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
  17. madiesmith

    "If men were supposed to marry other men then they should be able to procreate, since that is one of the main outcomes of most male female marriages".

    July 12, 2011 at 7:39 am |
    • LOL

      Procreation is not the only thing to having a relationship plus many gay and lesbian couples do have children. There are also many straight couples that are married and can't procreate, it's a lame argument to deny civil rights.

      July 12, 2011 at 8:12 am |
    • myweightinwords

      That is not a valid argument unless you are willing to deny marriage to any relationship that does not result in children. Thus, anyone over the child bearing age can not be married. If they are already married, that marriage would need to be dissolved. Anyone who has had their ability to have children surgically removed can not be married. Anyone who biologically can not have children can not get married. And, if in the course of time, one partner or the other becomes incapable or is unwilling, to procreate the marriage would then need to be dissolved.

      That argument fails. Care to try another?

      July 12, 2011 at 10:46 am |
    • Observer

      Gays and lesbians can procreate. Invalid argument.

      July 12, 2011 at 11:02 am |
    • jasser

      The author is just puhsing his own agenda–he says if Paul said it its not inerrant word of God, but anything that advances his ideas, thats from God.

      All scripture is God breathed– the BIble states that about itself

      That means that Pauls statment that its 'not natural ' is God's statement that its 'not natural.' And if it were 'natural' nature is life affirning and promoting– it could reproduce children–but two men cannot do that. together.

      July 12, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
    • LOL

      "That means that Pauls statment that its 'not natural ' is God's statement that its 'not natural.' And if it were 'natural' nature is life affirning and promoting– it could reproduce children–but two men cannot do that. together."

      So based on your poor logic a couple that can't promote life is "not natural" too or how about older people who can't "promote." This is one lame argument and by the way gays and lesbians do have children in their homes, many are adopting the children straights have produced and couldn't take care of them.

      July 12, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
  18. Joe

    It is a great article but the author confuses Christianity with churches. Christianity is not a church, building, priests, methodist, baptist or any other organized religion. Christianity is simple. Christ died for our sins and we should try to live a Christ-like life, obey the 10 commandments. If men were supposed to marry other men then they should be able to procreate, since that is one of the main outcomes of most male female marriages. He had me until he said he was educated at Yale school of divinity. you don't need no schoolin to read the bible.

    July 11, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
    • Observer

      "If men were supposed to marry other men then they should be able to procreate, since that is one of the main outcomes of most male female marriages"

      Please take a biology class. Gays and lesbians can reproduce. If procreation was the reason for a marriage, then where is your support for banning marriage for infertile couples and elderly women?

      July 11, 2011 at 10:07 pm |
    • Nathan

      Joe your argument is lame since it doesn't consider the facts of today about gays and lesbians or do Christians like you ignore that to justify their personal prejudice and hatred?

      July 11, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
    • AvdBerg

      @Observer

      Are you a CNN Moderator?

      July 12, 2011 at 9:26 am |
    • Mike from Maine

      Joe, what is it with so many people of faith that reject education as you do. You said "He had me until he said he was educated at Yale school of divinity. you don't need no schoolin to read the bible." I'd like to point out that anyone who can read can read a book on quantum mechanics but without an education they mont be able to UNDERSTAND it. Maybe it is you and your fellow believers who should spend more time EDUCATING yourselves about the bible rather than just reading it. The educating part is why more atheists and agnostics score better on religious knowledge than most believers do.

      July 12, 2011 at 9:54 am |
    • GodPot

      @Joe – "Christ died for our sins and we should try to live a Christ-like life"

      So your advice about marriage is to live more "Christ-like"? Newsflash!! Christ never married and didn't have kid's, unless you want to believe that Davinci code c r a p. So to be more like Christ we should never marry, hang out with a group of guy's all day and night and let your male best friend "recline" on your chest during meals.

      July 12, 2011 at 9:55 am |
    • myweightinwords

      As I said above,

      That is not a valid argument unless you are willing to deny marriage to any relationship that does not result in children. Thus, anyone over the child bearing age can not be married. If they are already married, that marriage would need to be dissolved. Anyone who has had their ability to have children surgically removed can not be married. Anyone who biologically can not have children can not get married. And, if in the course of time, one partner or the other becomes incapable or is unwilling, to procreate the marriage would then need to be dissolved.

      That argument fails. Care to try another?

      July 12, 2011 at 10:47 am |
    • Observer

      AvdBerg,

      Apparently you assume that CNN has hired an army of moderators to handle the thousands and thousands of comments that are blogged to them daily. Or is it all done by JUST ONE? Apparently each moderator is able to read each comment, make a decision on whether they like it, and send a message to the "rejects", usually FASTER than you can read your own message.

      Hopefully, the website you constantly peddle, reflects a higher level of reasoning and logic.

      July 12, 2011 at 11:07 am |
    • Thomas

      Joe I see you have the right purpose with your message, but there are many flaws that make it invalid. "Christianity is simple. Christ died for our sins and we should try to live a Christ-like life, obey the 10 commandments." First, where in the Bible does it say, follow the 10 commandments and you will get to heaven? Also, I know many people who are atheist and are more moral than some "christians". Does this mean that my atheist friend is going to heaven and the "christians" won't? It's all about repentance, belief, and faith. Ephesians 2:8, Acts 16:31, Galatians 2:20, etc. all of these passages require repentance, belief, and faith in order to receive salvation. Joe, if you or anyone else would like to DISCUSS things of this sort, not argue, shoot an email to thomascannon24@gmail.com

      July 12, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • Observer

      Godpot,

      "let your male best friend "recline" on your chest during meals."

      Where did you get that? It doesn't look like it's from one of the most common Bibles.

      July 12, 2011 at 8:23 pm |
    • GodPot

      John 13:23 – "There was reclining on Jesus' bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved." New American Standard

      "Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved" King James

      "There was at table one of his disciples, the one dear to Jesus, resting his head on Jesus' breast." Bible in Basic English

      July 14, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
  19. Audrey

    Very well written. I only wish that logic could be used on the Christians that oppose gay marriage. Then again, these are the same people that believe an all-powerful God needed a rib to make a woman and the proof of evolution is erroneous.

    July 11, 2011 at 9:10 pm |
    • Jessica

      Oh no, that rib again! In nursing school one of the other students, and evangelical, swore up and down that that man had one less rib than women did. Even after the instructor counted the ribs on both the male and female skeleton in the classroom she still denied the facts. Even with them hanging right in front of her.

      July 12, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
  20. Sara

    Jonathan Dudley is hottt!!!!!!!!!!!!

    July 11, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
    • Audrey

      Second!

      July 11, 2011 at 9:11 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.