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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. Zach

    This article is full of so many fallacies it is ridiculous. This is just a liberal rant against conservative biblical Christianity from a student who just graduated from Yale Divinity. He thinks he now knows what he's talking about.

    July 31, 2011 at 11:57 pm |
    • Observer

      Zach,

      He does know what he is talking about. Many comments from Christians on here have just proved their hypocrisy and especially when it comes to picking and choosing on verses about gays.

      August 1, 2011 at 12:04 am |
    • professor

      Full of so many fallacies, eh? Care to name some or is your comment sheer bluster from a bitter conservative who realizes his beliefs are untenable and have lost in the broader culture?

      I'm thinking the latter.

      August 1, 2011 at 12:04 am |
  2. Chelsea

    Every time a Christian comes in here to talk about how the author is somehow evil because he "supports" ho*m*ose*xuality, I laugh hard. They REALLY don't get what this article is about AT ALL do they? They just see the picture of two men on top of a wedding cake, and jump in Guns-ablazin' to talk about how "Then F*gs shuldunt murry!"

    The article. IS. NOT. ABOUT. THAT!

    The article just says that most Christians ignore 80% of the things the bible says and cherry pick the things they WANT to fight for.

    SERIOUSLY, SOMEBODY PLEASE! Some Christian in this argument, please, please, tell me why passing a G*y marriage banning law is good, but why a law banning adulterers from re-marrying is not something any of you fight for? Answer to me, why a one-off line in Leviticus is worth passing laws over, but one of the commandments is not.

    July 31, 2011 at 11:22 pm |
    • Me

      very nicley put. thank you...

      August 1, 2011 at 1:37 am |
    • Randy

      And no one responds. (crickets)

      August 1, 2011 at 7:49 am |
    • rob

      Reading the responses of this blog merely reinforces to me the fact that the educational system of our country has been failing for years. I wonder, if the truth were told to us, would we even notice? could we even tell? We care more for impact than for truth. We are so twisted by our own prejudices that we can't make sense of the simplest most obvious facts. We fight and argue over things we don't understand. And we do all this in the name of progress.... cavemen indeed!

      August 1, 2011 at 8:32 am |
  3. Colin Jacobs

    Is male-to-male intercourse wrong or not? Millions of people are not lobbying to gain the right to grow their hair long. Long-haired people are not lobbying to indoctrinate school children in the contributions of long-haired people. Many Christians are focusing on this issue because it is the focus of many in the LGBT community.

    This is the problem with so many Christian leaders today. Many pastors and professors muddy the water with irrelevant arguments to win the approval of the culture. Evangelicals do it. Liberal theologians do it. Didn’t seminary teach you “to use great plainness of speech”? But that’s way too rigid when moral truths interfere with the approval of the masses. The Bible is not meant to be culturally relevant. It is not meant to be “practical” as that ignoramus at Christianity Today seemed to indicate. A cross is impractical. Self-denial is not a popular trend.

    By the way, your usage of the words “mostly white” is pretty lame. Are you capable of an original thought, or do you just regurgitate talking points from your new intellectual masters? Do you know how many times “mostly white” is used as a pejorative these days? As if it’s white it can’t be alright. Your ignorance, arrogance, and trite expressions like that make your argument so predictably bad.

    And to give your tacit approval or at least obfuscate the issue of abortion so you can really seal the deal and get your reckless and poorly reasoned article posted on CNN is particularly craven. That’s just what this society needs from a freshly minted Pharisee like you - mass genocide simply because most of these children happen to be inconvenient. Why even bother with a seminary degree? You have the thinking of a caveman.

    July 31, 2011 at 9:17 pm |
    • professor

      devastating counterargument!!!!!

      lol, to conservatives, arguing = ignoring the facts and calling the other person bad names. yep, i think we know which side of this debate has the better arguments.

      July 31, 2011 at 9:22 pm |
    • Observer

      Colin Jacobs,

      The Bible does more to support abortion than oppose it, so what was your point?

      July 31, 2011 at 9:55 pm |
  4. JesusFreak800,000,942

    This renders his argument that the Bible does not oppose gay marriage invalid.

    July 31, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
  5. Observer

    Kindness,
    "yes the Bible only says Adultry and fornication are reasons to divorce but it also tell you how a man is to treat a woman with respect and love as a partner and not a punching bag."

    So do you believe NO ONE SHOULD DIVORCE except for adultery?
    As you said "You do not choose a part of the Bible it is all or nothing."

    July 31, 2011 at 8:50 pm |
    • Senor Sammystein

      The Bible emphasizes on living a clean life, because the wages of sin are death (Rom. 6:23). This being said, those who use their wives as "punching bags", as you say it, are living contrary to the Bible. Those who beat their wife will have their reward, either in this life or the next. The wife, however, is not encouraged to divorce from him, because through her example, he may be won over. Divorce is only permitted to divorce, except for adultery.
      If there is a divorce, and no adultery, and the people remarry, they commit adultery. Why? Because marriage is a lifelong bond , and holy before God, and those who God has put together, let no man break apart.

      July 31, 2011 at 9:46 pm |
    • Observer

      "Divorce is only permitted to divorce, except for adultery."

      Good 15th Century thinking. At least it's consistent with supporting slavery and the inferiority of women.

      July 31, 2011 at 11:38 pm |
  6. Dan613

    In the old times opposition to gays was mainly based on the need of reproduction. And the best way to solidify this is by putting that on god's mouth. Christians and others just repeat that notion. Jesus, if ever existed, wasn't concerned with the issue (or was probably gay). Le's forget the whole thing and move on. Christianity is almost defunct or metamorphed into a more liberal idea.

    July 31, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
    • heartrevealed

      Gee Dan, I have to argue whether they had any problems facing the population growth in those days–with no birth control methods or abortion, and given the fact that it is "claimed" such a small percent of the population is gay.

      Back then if you didn't have children you had noone to take help with everyday tasks of living in a harsh environment. People wanted children more than anything in those days. No nursing homes or modern conviniences...if you didnt have kids you were screwed as you aged.

      I don't think your idea is realistic.

      August 1, 2011 at 12:26 am |
  7. Dan613

    Jonathan is very handsome 🙂

    July 31, 2011 at 8:36 pm |
  8. Gay Male Christian Teen

    I decided that it's okay to be gay as a result of reading this Op-Ed a few weeks ago. Thanks, Jonathan Dudley! I now have a very loving partner and we engaged in ho.mos.exual in.ter.cour.se last night for the first time.

    July 31, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
    • Observer

      Tim,

      Shocking news for you. Many many heteros do that.

      August 1, 2011 at 1:11 am |
  9. Ismael

    I don't understand what this article is saying. Can someone enlighten please? I love to study the Word of God...but what this article says has no agreement to what the Bible says.

    July 31, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
    • LinCA

      @Ismael

      It highlights the perverted beliefs held by some (maybe even yourself). It highlights some of the things that make religion so evil and disgusting. It shows how intolerant, hateful and bigoted a lot of believers are. It shows that they justify this intolerance, hate and bigotry with their religion.

      July 31, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
    • ralpha1961

      @LinCA
      I do not see any sources to the authors opinions. The author merly pointed out his opinion and experiance from his point of view. Why is this biased hate towards the Bible on CNN's website?

      July 31, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
  10. MIkeH

    Dude, ask for your money back from the seminary, Yale or not, you got taken! The references you used from Paul had nothing to do with each other, Paul was addressing entirely different issues in both of those instances. But w/e, we are becoming a world of relativism and liberalism that is clearly on a self destructive course like every other culture that has ever existed.

    July 31, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • Expert

      Lol, I think you meant to say, "I'm a community college grad and I disagree with your conclusion." His use of Paul is entirely appropriate, as Paul uses exactly the same argument from nature in both verses.

      July 31, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
  11. SAW

    Why is an article attacking a faith by a wicked sinful perversion in the Belief section?

    July 31, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
    • Observer

      Because it's all about HYPOCRISY. Please read the article before commenting.

      July 31, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • LinCA

      @SAW

      You said "Why is an article attacking a faith by a wicked sinful perversion in the Belief section?"

      Was it really that hard to figure out? Are you really that stupid, or are you merely trolling?

      This opinion piece is in the Belief Blog because it is about beliefs.

      It highlights the perverted beliefs held by some (apparently much like yourself). It highlights some of the things that make religion so evil and disgusting. It shows how intolerant, hateful and bigoted a lot of believers are. It shows that they justify this intolerance, hate and bigotry by their religion.

      July 31, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
  12. Anon

    All Christians are screwed up in the head.

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wUVXEmJRGns&w=640&h=360]

    July 31, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • SAW

      You know not where even the end of your nose came from.
      If hell is real, it will suck.......

      July 31, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • MIkeH

      Yea, because Sam Harris said so, therefore it is true!!

      July 31, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
    • No

      Yes, because the Bible said so, therefore it is true!

      July 31, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
    • Jack

      So freaken stupid. Keep smoking crack!

      August 1, 2011 at 12:37 am |
  13. MikeFromLongIsland

    The word "bible" is not in Sacred Scripture, so I really don't get the "find what the Bible says about..." game.

    This is where we Catholics are so fortunate to have the Magisterium of the Church. It interprets and guides us in these matters where one couldn't really find a biblical explanation of or justification for. We believe in honoring life from conception to natural death, and we love and welcome all, though we don't love sin.

    July 31, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
  14. michael

    all religion is evil. they all teach bigotry and hatred of others. why would a loving god allow multiple religions that kill each other in his name. if we are created in his image, god must be a psychopath.

    July 31, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
    • Stephen Daniel Bennett

      Because that same God grants people free will and enough time to get to him. Look at it this way: if Christianity be true, then if God were to wipe out all the non-Christians, they'd all be condemned. Instantly.

      So it seems, out of love, more time is granted so people can find the truth.

      July 31, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
    • MIkeH

      by your logic all people are psychopathic because it is actually societies that allow people to be murdered, not God.

      July 31, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
  15. Chris

    Christians are by FAR are the most hypocritical group of people on the planet. They condemn one thing, but chose to ignore another because of THEIR own likes. See Leviticus. They want the freedom of their religion, but chose to take away freedoms of others because of THEIR own dislikes. Hypocrites...

    July 31, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
    • kd1971

      how easy it is to just say were al lsinners and therefore anything goes. some people are divorced so lets redefine marriage and kill babies. he paid all that money to go to yale seminary

      July 31, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • Observer

      kd1971,

      Speaking of "killing babies", what does the Bible say about abortion? Is there more to oppose abortion or more to support it?

      July 31, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
    • AvdBerg

      Observer, the bible is pretty big on killing just about anything. I've explained this on my website http://gaychristian101.com.

      July 31, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
    • Anthony

      I agree to a point. I say it's not the religion that's hypocritical, it's the ones who call themselves followers. True followers of Christ are the ones you barely see. A Christian who goes against his/her morals is nothing more than a hypocrite. Christianity itself is one of the most misunderstood religions out there because of the majority of followers that contradict themselves. Honestly, at some point, everyone becomes a hypocrite of their own words. It's really just hypocritical to call someone a hypocrite. As a follower of Christ myself, I can truly say you're(everyone in general) just as guilty as the person beside you. We're all in no place to judge.

      July 31, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
  16. Douglas

    Why is the banner at the top of the belief blog all anti-Christian except for the tornado family prayer story? If it were anti-Muslim or anti-Jewish there would be a outcry against religious bigotry. I guess it's "safe" to project all the problems with religion against the Christian faith.

    But that's OK. Jesus said we would be persecuted for our beliefs. Since he said that, and we are under attack, I know we are faithful to his teachings. Matthew 19 is abundantly clear. Marriage is between a man and a woman. There is no ambiguity about that. Satan is working overtime to harvest souls for his domain. If you want to wallow in sin, get on board Satan's express train to h*ll. No round trip tickets available and no getting off at the next station.

    July 31, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
    • Chris

      Doug, those banners aren't "anti-Christian"...stating facts doesn't make it anti anything.

      July 31, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
    • jean

      Why do you, and many like you, perceive that any criticism of anything related to christianity is anti christian? Most of the opinions that are expressed in those articles were actually written by christians. Devout christians in many cases.

      To ask christians to look at aspects of their beliefs in an honest and objective manner is certainly not anti christian.

      July 31, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • Ro

      Douglas and others like him are Fundamentalists. Whether Christianist or Islamist, it's like talking to a brick wall when trying to reason with them. And that's why they perpetrate violence, because when rational words fail them, they rely on irrational acts. September 11. Norway. They create their own hells and they want to bring us down with them.

      July 31, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
    • childofGod57

      Finally...someone who knows what they are talking about. God's word (yes, written by man but inspired by God) also tells us that you are not to add to or take away from his word....which mny seem intent on doing. Also, for anyone who REALLY understands the Bible, the OLD testament was the law BEFORE Christ. When Christ came into the world and began teaching, he told us that he was bringing us the New Law. The Old Testament is merely there for history and reference. And yes Douglas, we are told that we will be persecuted because of our faith. Being a Christian does not mean that I don't sin...I am human and I absolutely do sin. What it means is that I am forgiven...I am forgiven because I believe with all my heart that Christ paid the ultimate price for my sins (as well as yours). That was his purpose and he fulfilled the mission God set before him. You have been given the choice (free will) to accept or deny. I am truly amazed how many people there are who call themselves rational, thinking people who deny Christ. He is my provider, my savior, my hope and I will always trust him. "No man come to the Father but by me" Jesus Christ

      July 31, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
  17. Zoe

    I wholeheartedly agree with this article; but I have one gripe.

    Why are people using the Bible to combat legislation in the first place? What happened to "separation of Church and State"? Many people who originally came to the colonies were religious minorities and feared persecution. Whole colonies were founded by people exiled from the other colonies (hello Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island, to name a few). The Bible has no place in political debates because that's what our country was founded on. If the Bible never mentioned ho*mos*exuality, would people have a problem with passing legislation to legalize gay marriage? No, because the blinders would be off and finally people would see that it is an act of segregation (which goes against all of the US's fundamental beliefs) to deny any group the same civil rights as the rest.

    If you believe that gay marriage is a sin, don't get one. But you shouldn't stick your head into other people's lives especially when they don't even hold the same beliefs as you.

    July 31, 2011 at 11:47 am |
    • Sin D Fetish

      Well said. I still can't understand why SO MANY others do not get this.

      July 31, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
  18. Jim

    Correction "is" wasting their time.

    July 31, 2011 at 10:58 am |
  19. Jim

    Any Christian who argues here are wasting their time. God says not to waste your breath arguing with these type of people. They can do what they want and live the way they want. It is their right. When it comes time we will all answer for our lives, and all the logical reasoning won't matter. Think about what is at stake.

    July 31, 2011 at 10:53 am |
    • bean33

      I agree, except he is not using logic. His arguement is flawed. I though he was going to come up with more biblical evidence, but his references are used poorly and his arugement is a fallacy.

      July 31, 2011 at 11:15 am |
    • yeah

      "all the logical reasoning won't matter. "

      Yeah all the prejudice and hatred the Christians community has spread into this world is huge and what a debt they are going to have to pay when they get to the other side.

      July 31, 2011 at 11:36 am |
    • kd1971

      very well said jim. i wonder ehy i sometimes waste time and stress out about these issues. the bible is the word ofGod and thats it. repent and believe.

      July 31, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
    • Observer

      Jim,

      So are you saying that the Bible and logical reasoning are mutually exclusive? You might get support from both sides on that.

      July 31, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
  20. Jim

    You can think and live the way you want. When it comes time God will let you know if you were right or wrong.

    July 31, 2011 at 10:50 am |
    • LinCA

      @Jim

      You said "You can think and live the way you want."

      Ooh, can we? Pretty please?

      Judging by a lot of comments made by believers on this board, that sentiment appears to be in the minority. There aren't very many that support the "Live and let live" philosophy.

      You said "When it comes time God will let you know if you were right or wrong."

      Whoopsee.

      You couldn't help yourself, could you? Lemme guess, you know you're right and everyone that doesn't believe in your particular version of nonsense will spend an eternity in hell?

      I have some news for you. Man has invented thousands of gods that don't look kindly upon non-believers in them. I'm pretty sure that both you and me fit that non-believer category. All these gods have equal evidence supporting their existence. What makes you think you picked the right one? Your odds aren't very good.

      Chances are that you and me both will share the same fate in the hereafter. One big difference being that I won't have wasted my Sundays.

      July 31, 2011 at 3:53 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.