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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. Jeremey

    Well, I can say we all should be thankful for the freedom to express our opinion. That right is not there in some parts of the world.

    That being said, you can things you are against anywhere. There are references in the Old Testament that were neglected regarding the behavior you speak of. You miss the mark while trying to argue your point. Hope you find peace.

    July 15, 2011 at 9:40 pm |
    • Jeremey

      Sorry for the typo, you can find things you are against anywhere.

      July 15, 2011 at 9:41 pm |
  2. J florida

    The writer talks of nature. If he hasn't noticed, male and female have a natural fit, sort of like they were made for each other-anything else not only does not but creates very real medical issues that are not at all pleasant. Instead of arguing the Scripture, try this instead, ask Him yourself. Ask Jesus, if He is real, to enter your heart and show you Himself who He is and how it all is supposed to work. If you mean it-He'll do it. The Scripture is there simply to point you to Jesus, that you might find life. He loved enough to pay all your debt to conscience by His death

    July 15, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
    • John Roberts

      Okay, I'm asking Jesus to come inside me right now.

      July 15, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
  3. RM

    I think this blogger was just trying to impress us that he graduated from Yale. He didnt really say anything profound or anything we didn't know already. We already know religious people are hypocrites and they pick and choose what they want to believe out of the Bible. Don't need a Yale degree for that. Just b/c people get divorce and have abortions doesn't clear the way for other transgressions. That is like saying one commandment is more important than the others. Everyone falls short of the glory of God and you can't good deed your way into heaven. The best you can do is love the sinner and hate the sin.

    July 15, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
    • LinCA

      @RM

      You said "The best you can do is love the sinner and hate the sin."

      Even better, you can just live and let live.

      Keep your bigoted views to yourself and let others live as they see fit. If you wish to stay ignorant and believe in that religious nonsense, that's your business. Don't try to force it onto anyone else.

      July 15, 2011 at 8:09 pm |
  4. cezst2

    The truth of a teaching is when more that one reference can be made to it. I really think people need to realize God has an ideal, but do we follow that ideal... a dare say rarely do we follow. I look at the statement "For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife" as a statement of what God intended the marriage relationship to be. It is mentioned in Genesis 2:24 and then by Jesus in Matthew 19:5 and Mark 10:7, and Paul cites it again in Ephesians 5:31. Paul does cite celebacy as a calling because there is not as much distraction from following God when you don't have to worry about taking care of kids and spouse. However, I do believe God advocates marriage between genders, a diversity in marriage, trying to understand each others make up when one part is testosterone and the other is influenced by estrogen and progesteron along with a monthly cycle. I guess I look at the Bible and would ask our fellow bloggers this questons... what is being promoted throughout the book? What ideals is it promoting? What does God call us to do. Matthew chapters 5-7 or Ephesians 5:16-26 or even the ten commandments in Exodus 20:1-17 and repeated again in Deutoronomy 5:6-21

    July 15, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
    • Observer

      cezst2,

      Jesus didn't say anything bad about gays, but he had plenty bad to say about hetero relationships. He said that people who divorce and remarry are committing the Ten Commandment sin of adultery. Since there are far, far more Christians committing adultery than there are total gays, why are you picking on them here? If you are so concerned about marriage, why aren't you trashing the GREATER number of Christians who commit adultery? Is there any explanation other than "pick and choose" hypocrisy?

      July 15, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
  5. Jacky

    Would Jesus marry another man?

    July 15, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
    • cezst2

      The question is, did Jesus perform any marriage ceremonies? I don't know if any in the Bible. Jesus is recorded repeating what Genesis records God's intention of marriage. (Matthew 19:5 and Mark 10:7) but he also makes a comment about the resurrection and marriage, recorded in Luke 10:27-39.

      July 15, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
  6. guest2011

    OH MY GOSH. So many bloggers who have NO clue about our Lord and Savior. When the Lord returns, you'll understand how WRONG you ALL are.

    July 15, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
    • tallulah13

      2000 years and counting....

      July 15, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
  7. Al

    4freedom32 How the hell do you know what Jesus would or would not do? He was not very pleased with the priests who he encountered in his own time, in fact THEY had him crucified! I think Jesus would be very understanding of differences and would not place a bronze age prejudice on it (this prejudice from a tribe that could not even figure out what PI was or that a rabbit doesn't eat its own CUD)! Yes, I think if Jesus had been a real person and lived now, he would be fighting for gay rights not against them. You really can't see that truth can you??? I feel sorry for you, I really do – You are a bigot and that will not win you any friends in heaven (if such a place even exists)!

    July 15, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
    • cezst2

      Interesting accusations agains another blogger... Why are your reading this article in the first place if you don't even believe in heaven? This article primarily deals with the New Testament, I would say this article is missing a key verse that is reitereated from Genesis in two of the gospels and one of Pauls' epistles. The statement "For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united with his wife." is mentioned in Genesis 2:24, reitereated by Jesus in Matthew 19:5 and Mark 10:7, and Paul cites the same wording in Ephesians 5:31. So, I would say that God is advocating diversity in the Marriage through two different genders.

      July 15, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
    • Observer

      "God is advocating diversity in the Marriage through two different genders."

      You don't get much diversity for a very long time when you use incest to populate the world twice.

      July 15, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
  8. StThomas`

    Does Yale also offer a degree in Santa Clausology? People, this is all made up. We're arguing between one group's opinion of the imaginary being and the other group's. Know God – No Peace! No God – Know Peace!

    July 15, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
    • Robert

      I know, how ridiculous to study and think about one of the most important intellectual forces in Western history.

      July 15, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
    • Rebecca

      No God, No Peace. Know God, Know Peace. He is the Prince of Peace, and not imaginary at all. As real as every breath you take. As real as the words on this screen and as just as any law has been or ever wil be. He is the Beginning and the End. At the End, sadly is when a lot of people will realize that He wasnt a fairytale made up to make people feel better about their lives. He IS, and forever will be.

      July 15, 2011 at 11:32 pm |
    • LetsThink123

      @Rebecca
      u mentioned that he is real many times, but can you show me that he is real other than just using words. I can very well say that santa claus is real by replacing 'He' in your statement. You are just using words, and nothing u said shows that he is real.

      August 24, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
  9. Jacky

    Jesus was the first gay rights activist and Jesus wanted to get married and start a family with the male "disciple whom Jesus loved."

    July 15, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
    • guest2011

      OH PULLLLLLEEEEEZ. You've got to be Kidding me? You actually believe that??? You and EVERYONE else in the universe are in for a very RUDE awakening when the Lord returns and you find out just how WRONG you are.

      July 15, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
    • Jacky

      Yes I do believe it. The Bible says it.

      July 15, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
    • Rebecca

      Jesus would not bless gay marriage. Couple enter into marriage as "Holy Matrimony". It is a sacred union, that sadly many people tend to forget. When marrying you come before God and witness to vow to be faithful and "ONE" for life. It is the highest and HOLIEST form of commitment there is on planet earth. That is the crux of the matter. It is Holy state that is entered into even if the individuals dont take it seriously or are fully committed to being Holy. A man and a woman living together in a FAITHFUL marriage is Holy in the sight of God and is the blueprint for the continuance of humanity.

      July 15, 2011 at 11:43 pm |
  10. William

    God demonstrates His love toward us that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. We are all sinners and unless we repent we will all likewise persih.

    July 15, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
    • Richard S Kaiser

      GOD Gave to this World of mostly Human Omnivores, HIS 1st Born Son of Womanhood Within the Throngs of Manliness whereby The Jewish Religious did denounce Christ but not without the Roman Governance abiding with these Jews, the Pharisees of Old. The Sons of Man are what today's RCC and Christianic Churches have elongated Miserably to and their dedications toward Scrutinizing each and every Laborer of Lawful Perfectionisms of Manliness, which raises the thoughtful aspirations of the Lowly People who are barred from Superlative Devotionals whereby the Secrecies of our Most High toward such becomes the Paramount of Lewd Mediocracies of the Religious Naysayer to Religious Revulsions of those less Free and bound up in the bondage of the Age. .

      July 15, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
    • Maybe

      We are going to perish anyway...

      July 15, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
  11. MEandMine

    if you legalize gay marriage then you have to legalize polygamy

    July 15, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • Observer

      Are they different? Yes or no?

      July 15, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • Richard S Kaiser

      Likewise you will have to legalize one marrying their pets. I do so love my Kitty which is named tigger

      July 15, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
    • Maybe

      How so?

      July 15, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
    • Wisdom

      You can't stop at polygamy, you'll eventually have to include: beastiality, pedophillia, and necrophillia too.

      July 15, 2011 at 7:29 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Animals, children and corpses cannot give CONSENT (for the millionth time)
      CONSENT CONSENT CONSENT
      What consenting adults do in private is nobody's business. Keep your religion out of people's bedrooms.
      As for polygamy, so long as all participants are willing adults and all children and loved and provided for, what's the problem?
      Besides, God loves polygamy!

      GENESIS 4:19
      "Then Lamech took for himself two wives : the name of one was Adah, and the name of the second was Zillah."
      Deuteronomy 21:15
      "If a man have two wives, one beloved and another hated, and they have born him children, both the beloved and the hated; and if the firstborn son be hers that was hated:"
      Exodus 21:10
      "If he takes another wife, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, and her marriage rights."
      King David is called "a man after God's own heart" and he had multiple wives.
      1 Samuel 25:43 states:
      "David also took Ahinoam of Jezreel, and so both of them were his wives."
      2 Samuel 5:13:
      "And David took more concubines and wives from Jerusalem, after he had come from Hebron. Also more sons and daughters were born to David."
      2 Samuel 12:8
      "Then Nathan said to David, "You are the man! Thus says the LORD God of Israel : 'I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. ' I gave you your master's house and your master's wives into your keeping, and gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if that had been too little, I also would have given you much more!"
      GENESIS 32:32
      "And he [Jacob] arose that night and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven sons, and crossed over the ford of Jabbok."
      2 CHRONICLES 11:21
      "Now Rehoboam loved Maachah the granddaughter of Absalom more than all his wives and his concubines; for he took eighteen wives and sixty concubines, and begot twenty-eight sons and sixty daughters."

      July 20, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
  12. MEandMine

    NO I don't believe he would, but I do believe he would love them

    July 15, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
  13. MEandMine

    I don't see anyt hing about this? Lev 20:13 If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

    It is written as clearly as it can be.

    July 15, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • Observer

      Since several states have legalized marriage, how many gays have you killed?

      "they shall surely be put to death" or just hypocrisy?

      July 15, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
    • Pattie

      Amen

      July 15, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
    • Pattie

      The Amen was sent to MEandMine

      July 15, 2011 at 8:02 pm |
  14. Puhleeze

    Jonathan, whomever allowed you to graduate from seminary should have their head examined. This quote blew mw away...."Opponents of gay marriage aren’t defending the Bible’s values. They’re using the Bible to defend their own." This quote is like saying that Christians only read the Bible for the stories, and use those stories to impose laws. I hope you realize that the Bible is the guidebook to how you should live your life.

    July 15, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • Observer

      The author was correct. If Christians REALLY were concerned about sinners they'd spend their time dealing with the FAR FAR greater number of Christians who commit adultery.

      Have you ever seen Christians protest at Red Lobster for their abominations?

      It's all pick and choose your favorite sins that agree with your own prejudices and then blame the Bible.

      July 15, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
    • Maybe

      The bible is a guidebook to how Christians should live their lives.

      July 15, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
    • LinCA

      @Maybe

      You said "The bible is a guidebook to how Christians should live their lives."

      If you wish to live your life according to that rag, go right ahead. Don't force that shit on anyone else.

      July 15, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
    • Maybe

      @LinCA

      🙂 Well said.

      July 16, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
  15. Kate S

    This is such a well-written account of the crap that goes on inside Evangelical circles – I know because I lived and breathed in those same circles for the last 25 years, happy to be out. They are full of lies and numerous double standards.

    July 15, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
  16. on the path

    re bigots, great article at http://tinyurl.com/AFJr2bw

    July 15, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
  17. Michael

    I totally agree, Dudley. These evangelical and traditional Christians also twist what their holy book says about murder and incest. They are so self serving! The nerve!

    July 15, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • Wisdom

      Not all Christians are hippocrytes

      July 15, 2011 at 7:42 pm |
  18. Jacky

    Was Jesus gay?????

    July 15, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
    • 4freedom32

      Jacky you are sick!!!!!!! To even think that God is gay is sick. The triune God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost is something that we simple people cannot fathom. God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. I am totally against anything gay, however I will not condem you or anyone else who claims to be gay, God will decide what to do on this matter. Only God can accept or condem it. Read your Bible

      July 15, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
    • Observer

      He's in his 30's.
      He's never married.
      He's never even had a date.
      He's never trashed gays.
      He lets other men rest their heads on his chest.
      He hangs around with 11 or 12 single guys all the time.

      Read the Bible and make an educated guess.

      July 15, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
    • JW

      I hate when people say God created Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve. That is so childish.

      July 15, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
    • Jacky

      So who created Steve?

      July 15, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
    • Boston

      Jesus looks gay and sounds gay. The church is full of gay men. It's the insecure self-loathing closet cases that perpetuate hate because they don't love themselves.

      July 15, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
  19. JT

    dear young man, it is a good thing not to lie to your self.......

    July 15, 2011 at 10:40 am |
    • Seer

      How is he lying to himself? He's correctly identified that the vast majority of evangelical (and traditional) religious thought revolves around glorifying the vast egos of religious leaders by acceding to their worldly power. Go and read another recent article in here, "That's not in the Bible" to get an idea of how much of what people THINK is religion is actually projection.

      This is why the Gospel of Thomas teaches that the only true relationship with God can come from introspection and prayer, not from going to a church, and that in fact churches are doomed to always be about the church leaders and the politicians at their side, rather than about the seeker's spiritual quest.

      Aside from all that, this "young man" as you try to put him down, has a degree in Divinity, and you don't!

      July 15, 2011 at 11:35 am |
    • GodPot

      Hey now Seer, JT knows a thing or two about lying to yourself, if he's a Christian he's been doing it for years.

      July 15, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • Concerned

      My view of the Bible is that there is a lot missing. I know the law of Moses was done away with, however, certain laws were around before then. What is the authors view on the Old Testiment's statements on "gay marriage"?

      July 15, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
  20. Notcool

    Back to the religon argument again, religon is one big cult an the bible has been changed so much ur all falling under lies.

    Let them have marrige, why the hell is it such a big ordeal?

    July 15, 2011 at 10:35 am |
    • Narob

      Another lion-feeder speaks.

      July 15, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
    • GodPot

      @Narob – So he would be the one feeding the lions Christians? Or are you trying to say he would be the lion food?

      July 15, 2011 at 2:26 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.