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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. chris

    They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator– who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. (NIV, Romans 1:25-27)

    July 24, 2011 at 9:37 pm |
    • LOL

      Chris you need to pick up a history book so that you can understand the true meaning of this scripture. It's about pagan rituals worshiping a pagan god using se-x. It has nothing to do with being gay as we know and understand that scientists today agree that se-xual orientation is most likely the result of a complex interaction of environmental, cognitive and biological factors. In most people, se-xual orientation is shaped at an early age. There is also considerable evidence to suggest that biology, including genetic or inborn hormonal factors, play a significant role in a person's se-xuality.

      July 25, 2011 at 8:38 am |
  2. NateF

    Maybe I skimmed too fast, but is he saying that because our society has accepted some things the Bible says are wrong... we should just accept everything? The only thing this article is doing is laying the groundwork for a huge argument...

    July 24, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
  3. Ebony

    CNN, it is unfair that you allow those comments that berate and twist the scriptures and disallow those that stand in its defence. For there to be a healthy discussion, both sides should be allowed.

    July 24, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
    • ...

      They have allowed the other side. Robert Gagnon posted his opinion on the subject very recently. It's absurd to think that every time someone argues in favor of gay marriage there needs to be an immediate rebuttal.

      July 24, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
  4. Nathan Langford

    "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."

    But, based upon your article, and referencing of the Bible, you are also in fact using the Bible to defend your own.

    July 24, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
    • fff

      No he isn't, he doesn't argue that the Bible supports gay marriage or condemns it, just that evangelicals are hypocrites.

      July 24, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
  5. stoirin

    The bottom line is that Christians are taught that Jesus was sent by God the father to educate us in the "correct" way to live. And what Jesus taught - in word and deed - was that we must create PEACE. We must LOVE our neighbor - whether that neighbor is the most reviled of people (a leper) or poor, or lame or from a different cultural background/tribe/ethnicity that our own has hated for years (Samaritan, for example), or that person offends us (turn the other cheek.) NO MATTER WHAT, we are to be loving, kind, compassionate and understanding. It is NOT up to us to judge but to God who sees all and knows all. I am in my 50s. I have seen many, many social changes that are difficult for me. the word "marriage" to me means a man and a woman, and it has a religious/ moral/historical meaning to me. However, given that one of the glories of my country's legal system is that it separates church and state in order to assure that all people are allowed to practice their religion without interference or prejudice by the government... I have come to the conclusion that the civil contract that results in the co-mingling of two people's assets is a civil matter and should be handled that way. Any people who want to hve their union blessed in a religious ceremony are perfectly free to do so, but that should have nothing to do with the creation of the contract. therefore, I think no religiouns figure (priest, minister, rabbi) should have the power to declare people LEGALLY married; spiritually, yes. I came to this after a long struggle over whehter to vote for "gay marriage". I have a lovely couple living next door to me who moved in when they were expecting a baby . It turns out that they are two women. they have been fine neighbors for 4 years. Their daughter, now 3, is a beautiful and precious and "girly" as can be - and her grandparents, aunts and uncles are very involved. My neighbors fit right in to our (very mixed, very middle-class neighborhood) - and I could not see how if I were a Christian, I could turn on my neighbors and say that their relationship and their lovely little family were "wrong." HOW could that be Christian? How could I smile at them and greet them as a neighbor and then vote against their right to be each other's legal and personal partner - a right that any other couple just like them would have - as long as one was a man? I believe I did the only thing that a Christian could do - I was a good neighbor, a decent human being, a person who would not sow discord but would support peace and harmony amongst neighbors.

    July 24, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
    • AvdBerg

      Who is my neighbor? Please read Luke 10:29-36. To be able to understand the Mystery of God and what you must do to be able to understand the Bible and the parables, we invite you to read all the pages and articles of the website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca
      The Bible is not a story book as it is spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:14).

      July 24, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
    • Observer

      "Lying lips" are an abomination to God so ignor the hypocrite.

      July 24, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
    • .....

      AvdBerg is part of a cult promoting their own book, don't bother with their trash.

      July 25, 2011 at 8:44 am |
    • sps

      I am a Christian and i agree with your behavior and heart towards your neighbors. My only thought is that you should make sure that you are loving them but still holding to what God says is right or wrong.

      July 25, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
  6. LC

    How can anyone possibly see the Bible as a legitimate source for creating public policy? This whole thing is pointless and pathetic. I should approve of something because its not in the Bible? The Bible is fiction. Can we start citing John Grisham when making laws about abortion? Nowhere in The Firm does Grisham write that abortion is wrong. So let them have abortions! Wake up.

    July 24, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
    • NateF

      "The whole thing is pointless and pathetic"? Well this just shows how ignorant you are. You know the whole 10 Commandments that our society is based off of? Such as “You shall not murder." & "You shall not steal."

      July 24, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
    • Observer

      NateF,

      "You know the whole 10 Commandments that our society is based off of?"

      Don't forget that 40% of them that have to do with "Worship me – signed God". Our govenment isn't based on those and the other commandments are just common sense for any society that wants respect for its people.

      July 24, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
  7. Baby

    I cant yet confirm that Aquinas actually said "before the body has organs in any way whatever, it cannot be receptive of the soul.” However, by the third week, the heart and brain are already developing so I can guarantee that Thomas Aquinas would be opposed to abortion because a woman can't even know she is pregnant before 3 weeks.

    July 24, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
    • theologian

      Not necessarily. It's likely Aquinas thought sentience was a precondition for ensoulment, which doesn't occur until 5-6 months after conception. And even if we do say 3 weeks, it still invalidates opposition to embryonic stem cell research.

      July 24, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
    • I'm just saying....

      When st. Thomas was alive they didn't have ultrasounds and stethoscopes to hear heartbeats. So unless I hear it from the horses mouth, it's just heresay.

      July 24, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
    • fff

      they also didn't know anything about the biology of se.xual orientation

      July 24, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
  8. Mary

    there are so many mix-ups here. The problem is that many Protestant denominatiosn have fallen away from the faith. The Catholic Church (ie the original church, the church of St. Augustine & Thomas Aquinas, and the canonizers of the two) still maintains that remarriage after divorce is adultry. The passage of hair length means that a man should not try to look like a woman and vice versa. (and the church today, though not particular about the hair still would not condone cross-dressing.) Abortion was not an issue in Biblical times so obviously it would not be an issue in the Bible.

    July 24, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
    • I'm just saying....

      I'm catholic and I'm sure women were having abortions either they did them themselves or had someone do them for them. Most probably died doing them.

      July 24, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
    • Jeremy

      Exactly because abortion is murder. It kills people. Then and now

      July 25, 2011 at 1:21 am |
    • Observer

      Jeremy,

      So does having a baby. The fatality rate for deliveries is much higher than for abortions if anyone actually cares about the MOTHER'S HEALTH.

      July 25, 2011 at 1:40 am |
  9. Ellis

    Jonathan's unfortunate tirade definitely reflects what Michael called "the drivel that passes for theology" in seminaries today.
    The new era, liberal progressive higher education is revisionist. In this case, Yale has apparently taught Jonathan that it is entirely appropriate to question the Bible although Jesus said that we would see false prophets, of which Jonathan is one.
    The Bible is not wrong ; Yale and Jonathan's "modern day" interpretation is wrong.
    I trust that Jonathan will be a better doctor than a theologian.

    July 24, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • asdf

      Tirade? Jonathan offers argument an evidence. You respond with name-calling and ad hominem attacks. I think we know which one is drivel.

      July 24, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
    • I'm just saying....

      Jonathan looks 12 to me.

      July 24, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
    • Who cares?

      He's smarter than 99% of "Christians" in the debates on the issue

      July 24, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
    • LinCA

      @Ellis

      You said "I trust that Jonathan will be a better doctor than a theologian."

      You are probably correct, as he has already shown himself to be a much better person than most theologians

      July 24, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
  10. Holly

    The myth that illegal aliens only hold jobs that American workers won’t do is just that — a myth. Recent studies estimate that 20 percent of cooks, 25 percent of construction workers, 22 percent of maids and housekeeping personnel, and 25 percent of groundskeepers are illegal aliens. In addition, 40 percent of illegal aliens are visa overstays, many of whom take high-end jobs from Americans.
    When fast-food company Chipotle was audited and hundreds of its illegal workers were fired, American citizens lined up the next day for a chance to work at those jobs. . .
    U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services data from last year show that 98.3 percent of employees were confirmed as work-authorized instantly or within 24 hours using E-Verify. A 2009 report by research firm Westat found that those eligible to work are immediately confirmed 99.5 percent of the time.
    E-Verify is free, very accurate and reduces paperwork for American businesses.
    Please put your efforts into helping the truly down and out Americans. Please put your efforts in helping mothers, fathers, teenagers find work. There are generations of families who cannot compete with the under the table dealings of illegal’s and have gone out of business. Fax your representative today. Faxes and calls work and are free at Numbers…..(look it up and just do it!)

    July 24, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
  11. UHHO

    asdf - is obviously gay lol

    July 24, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
  12. Doug

    Sure would be nice if we had a prophet to lead us through all this confusion

    July 24, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
  13. Anonymous

    I'm thinking Mr. Dudley is just trying to justify his own lifestyle.

    July 24, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
    • asdf

      I know, right? Because EVERYONE who supports gay rights is gay. everyone.

      July 24, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
    • abc

      Anonymous since you seem to be able to read between the lines, you must be one too since you recognize it in another. Your gaydar is on!

      July 24, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
  14. Um...its in the bible

    If God intended man for man, He would have named them Adam and Steve...need I say more???

    July 24, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
    • toma

      col comment man ...u make sense ......... don't let'em tell u otherwise ....?????

      July 24, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • abc

      Wow how original....NOT Can't even think for yourself how pathetic.

      July 24, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
    • Sarah

      Yeah yeah yeah, that line of crap.

      If God didn't create Steve, then where did Steve come from? Hmm?

      July 24, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
  15. asdf

    isn't hilarious that so many people here are bashing the author because he went to an academically rigorous seminary? it just shows how much the evangelical community has come to value willful ignorance. the less educated you are, the better in their minds.

    July 24, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
  16. billsf

    Today is Sunday. We all must go out and "stone to death" those who are working today!
    Religion creates an "us vs. them" mentality, which is unfortunately the opposite of universal love.

    July 24, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
    • Um...its in the bible

      Question for you...then is universal love where folks shack up with whomever and how many ever? Just sayin'

      July 24, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • Drew

      Except that Jesus preached nothing but universal love.

      July 24, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
    • Josh

      your absolutely right, Jesus said if your not with me then your against me. He said Ive come not to bring peace but a sword. He said brother would turn against brother, and mother against daughter because of him. Its not us vs them as you say, its either your with Christ or your against him, simple as that.

      July 24, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
    • Drew

      And I could pull out as many, probably more, verses where Jesus says to "love your enemies" and "pray for those who persecute you". How hate should not be in your heart. How love conquers all.
      Jesus said a lot of things and it's important to look at the things he said that don't mesh well with our culture. But you seem to be willfully ignoring all of the things he said that do fit well with our culture today. Actually pick up the Bible and read it in the context it's meant to be read in.

      July 24, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
  17. sz

    As a physician, it is incredible to watch a fetus grow into a human being. Let me tell you first hand, that a child in the womb has organs. So well formed, that one can perform surgical corrections (i.e. on heart defects) while the fetus is still in the womb. Please do not throw around sentences as: : “before the body has organs in any way whatever, it cannot be receptive of the soul., without having an understanding of the magnificent this that is the human fetal development.

    July 24, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
    • asdf

      FYI: according to his bio at jonathan-dudley.com, Jonathan Dudley is currently an M.D. student at Johns Hopkins. Sooo, I think he's aware of the science surrounding human development.

      July 24, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
    • asdf

      FYI: according to his bio at jonathan-dudley.com, Jonathan Dudley is currently an M.D. student at Johns Hopkins. Sooo, I think he's aware of the science of human development.

      July 24, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
  18. Writing on The Wall

    God is love. Those that DO NOT love, do not know God.
    Simple, but true.
    Love does not harm it's neighbor.
    Don't judge, and you won't be judged. Don't accuse others of being guilty, and you will not be accused of being guilty.
    As for Doctrine of what is sin and what is not?
    Sin is the breaking of God's Law.
    The Law we are referring to was given to Moses.
    It is impossible for anyone to keep the whole Law.
    If you break on law, just one, even if not known that it was an offense....it is a sin, and must be paid for by sacrifice.
    That is how it worked.
    The Jewish people struggled hard with God's Law, and demonstrated through years of sacrificing the blood of animals that the Law can't save people.
    God's LOVE is Salvation. He chose to demonstrate this through His Son Jesus The Christ.
    It was His blood shed for all humanity, that bought our Salvation and forgiveness for all our transgressions.
    How can we be right with God then?
    Believe in Jesus Christ, His atoning Blood sacrifice for all of Humanity. Believe and accept Christ
    His Blood...our Salvation.
    Simple, but True.
    LOVE and BE LOVED, all else is secondary.

    July 24, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • AvdBerg

      But I know you (spiritually), that ye have not the love of God in you (John 5:42). For a better understanding of God's love and what mankind must do to be reunited with God, we invite you to read all the pages and articles of the website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca
      All of the other pages and articles listed on the website explain how this whole world has been deceived as confirmed in Revelation 12:9. The Bible is true in all things and is a discerner and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4;12)

      July 24, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
    • abc

      AvdBerg belongs to a cult! This person is delusional and not saved by Christ but works for Satan!

      July 24, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
  19. noly972

    Not being Christian, I haven't studied the New Testament at the level many of you may have. I'm curious about something: What did Jesus, Himself, actually say about the subject? Were same-s3x relationships ever mentioned in the Gospels? I've read enough Old Testament references here to start thinking that it isn't the Christians, but Jewish people driving this argument. What did the man upon whose life Christianity is based say? Did he mention it during The Sermon On the Mount? Or, did he rather say to love one another as children of God?

    Mr Dudley makes a valid point. Selective enforcement of sacred 'laws' is as bad as (maybe worse than) selective enforcement of secular laws. It's funny, I don't remember Jesus being selective when he said to love mankind. He didn't say, "...Except the gays." When he taught not to judge, he didn't say, "...Except lesbians." Please correct me if I'm not interpreting 'correctly'.

    July 24, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • AvdBerg

      Romans 1:26,27. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet.

      For a better understanding of the above scriptural reference we invite you to read the latest entry of the Current Events page on our website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca

      All of the other pages and articles on the website explain how this whole world has been deceived as confirmed by the Word of God in Revelation 12:9. The Bible is true in all things and is the discerner of every thought and the intent of the heart (Hebrews 5:12).

      In Summary:

      Ho*mose#xuality is a personal choice based on a person’s free will. Things like Reparative and conversion Therapy are an abomination and are according to man’s wisdom (1 Cor. 2:4-13). However, there is another choice and all a person requires to do is turn to the right source (spirit) and belief in the Only Physician that is able to provide a Cure (Matthew 9:12; Mark 2:17; Luke 5:31).

      To repent means to turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan (spirit of man) unto God (Acts 26:18) and through the Baptism of Repentance (Mark 1:4) God will bring about the conversion and transformation of spirits and bring healing to all those that belief.

      July 24, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
    • LOL

      Since you are repeating yourself Avdberg so will I.

      The experts have stated that human beings cannot choose to be either gay or straight. For most people, se-xual orientation emerges in early adolescence without any prior se-xual experience. Psychologists do not consider se-xual orientation to be a conscious choice that can be voluntarily changed.

      What you are quoting from the bible has been proven that this was pagan rituals worshiping a pagan god, male prost-itution, and the abomination was when Christians turned back to this paganism. You just proved you take the scriptures literally and don't but it into historical context to get the true meaning of what is written, that is reading comprehension 101. This also shows why your site and book is crap. Did you even bother to pick up a history book or are you to lazy to make the effort.

      July 24, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
  20. NW

    "Opponents of gay marriage aren’t defending the Bible’s values. They’re using the Bible to defend their own" Case in point concerning the author. Leviticus 18:22 Seems to be conveniently left out. That scripture passage states :"‘Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable." If people who are gay are allowed the same marriage rights as straight people then who is to stop that man over there who wants to marry his dog? Nothing, it already happened. There is a whole Internet story about it. There has to be perimeters set here. It's sad, because if there were 30 gay people stranded on one island and 30 straight people on another, in 80 years the gays on the island will be gone; died off, no children. Assuming they stick with their gay partners; It's a dead end. God created us in such a way to come together and create more life. But I suppose if some people want to get together with primates and marry who's to stop that? No one, if a man can marry his dog and a man can marry a man than I suppose it's alright to marry a chimpanzee... Right?

    July 24, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
    • asdf

      Really, you're citing leviticus? So I assume you advocate the death penalty for gays and also think eating shellfish and ostrich are an abomination?

      July 24, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
    • NW

      "people prefer knowing biblical passages that reinforce their pre-existing beliefs."

      July 24, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
    • asdf

      i'm glad you have that level of self-knowledge

      July 24, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • LOL

      All your post proves is you haven't done your homework on this subject and are speaking out of pure ignorance. Why don't you stop being so lazy and actually find out the truth and stop spreading lies and nonsense.

      July 24, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • to asdf

      The purpose of the Gospel is to tell the good news, tell all that the old way of acquiring forgiveness was no more, that Christ has died in place of our sin so that the OT manner of reconciling our sins with God was demolished (i.e. the sacrifices of the OT), and forgiveness was simple: belief in Christ Jesus as our Lord and Savior.

      July 24, 2011 at 4:19 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.