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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. EqualityForALL

    Congrats on "seeing the light" Jonathan.....the level of hypocrisy, intolerance, bigotry & hate among religious people, especiatly evangelicals, is astounding. They think that they have the only "correct" or true religion, and everyone else is going to hell if they dont believe the same. Arrogance and close-mindedness. Good to see a young person opening their eyes to reality. Gay people only want the same civil rights that others enjoy. The USA is so far behind in equality compared to other countries.

    August 14, 2011 at 7:38 am |
    • D

      You mean compared to 3 or 4 of the MOST liberal (European) countries in the world. Equality is rich in the US...it just depends on what kind you're talking about. Welfare, secondary education, women's rights. Gay rights is one of the very few things that is slacking. Lucky for us we're spoiled compared to the 200+ other countries.

      August 14, 2011 at 11:53 pm |
    • Omar

      Which is why we continue to be blessed by God. If a tree doesn't produce fruit you cut it down. It's a give and take kind of world. Gays have nothing to give. When a male dog humps the other instinct kicks in and you immediately separate the two, or laugh becauise it's weird. That's how straights feel about gays. We're just trying to fix whats wrong.

      August 15, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • Observer

      Omar,

      So do you believe that infertile couples and elderly women should not be allowed to marry? Or is this just hypocrisy like the author said?

      August 15, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • LOL

      "We're just trying to fix whats wrong."

      The experts in the field of science and psychology have proven you wrong which is why the laws have changed in this country. Stop being so lazy and do your homework.

      August 15, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
  2. Sittingonthefence

    Marriage is a contract which I can see a gay or lesbian couple desire to have their partner hold up their end of the bargain but you can do this at the Justice of the Peace. Why would you want to say your voes in a house that does not belive in your ways? The Bible has so many flaws and contradictions no wonder so many people don't believe in it or use it to make their way of life okay. Maybe in the future cloning and maybe combining peoples DNA artifically will be the answer to lesbian couples wanting children for gay men maybe Arnold's movie"Junior" would be the answer...have a god night

    August 13, 2011 at 10:04 pm |
    • Observer

      The gay marriage issue is not an attempt to force churches to perform marriages, but just to establish legal equality. Marriage is a legal process with optional religious involvement.

      August 13, 2011 at 10:08 pm |
    • Omar

      Unnatural answers for unnatural relationships. Two negatives equals a positive, right?

      August 15, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
    • Observer

      Omar,

      The computer you are using is unnatural. The Internet is unnatural. The clothes you are wearing are unnatural. It's likely that the food you eat is unnatural. Unfortunately, ignorance is often natural.

      August 15, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
    • Omar

      I strongly disagree. My computer, the internet it uses and my clothes are all natural. it would be unnatural for my computer to think it should of been manufactured as a radio instead of a computer. My computer can "feel that way", but it's just a computer and will always be one. You can chop off a bull's balls, but you can't call it a cow.

      August 15, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
    • Observer

      Omar,

      "My computer, the internet it uses and my clothes are all natural"

      Did your computer come from a computer tree? Did it grow in the ground? Where in nature is it naturally found?

      LOL. How ridiculous can you get?

      August 15, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  3. Sittingonthefence

    It is really hard what to believe in today's morally corrupt world. What you do behind closed doors is your business but keep your filthy lifestyle away from innocent children. There is nothing wrong with a man respectfully loving another like a son loving his father or grandfather but you don't have to seal the deal with a penis in his colon. Same goes for the female species what do you think you are hermaphrodites. Having a baby via sperm donor is digusting as well sort of defeats the purpose of being a lesbian and that baby was not conceived in love just a selfish act. If there is a God he has your number written down and will deal with you later if not hope you don't get some bad disease.....

    August 13, 2011 at 9:07 pm |
    • Observer

      Sittingonthefence,

      Heteros have babies by artificial insemination and possibly a majority of heteros engage in sodomy. You need to do more reading.

      August 13, 2011 at 9:15 pm |
  4. Tarantula

    Gays repent!

    August 12, 2011 at 10:05 pm |
    • Observer

      Christian h-mophobes admit your hypocrisy!

      August 12, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
  5. Tarantula

    Gays and lesbians, repent and seek forgiveness from Jesus for your wicked ways!

    August 12, 2011 at 10:04 pm |
    • TOTom

      You and others who share your hypocritical viewpoint, can say nothing to address the well expressed arguments of the author, other than by saying "it is clear in the Bible". What is clear? You cannot refute his simple point: you pick and choose what you wish to stress from the bible, and what you would alternatively interpret. This is simply intellectually weak and ignorant.

      If you want to convince others of your "truth", try to address the arguments (such as what he outlined about interpretation on abortion, divorce), not just attack the conclusion and say that the rest of us are going to Hell.

      All that said, I'm sure I've just wasted my time asking you for an educated and intelligent response, as it is apparent that you lack those skills.

      August 13, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
  6. Tarantula

    Those who want to believe that abortion is okay and Adam and Steve being the same as Adam and Eve will do anything and everything to twist God's word. Unfortunately, they'll find out too late that they're an abomination – at Hell's gate.

    August 12, 2011 at 10:01 pm |
    • LinCA

      If the monster that you call your god is in charge, I will end up in hell no matter what I do. So, instead of being a despicable bigot like you, I choose to be decent and let other people live as they please.

      August 12, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
    • Observer

      The Bible does more to support abortion, than oppose it. Read about all the (pregnant) women that God killed.

      August 12, 2011 at 10:57 pm |
  7. Angela

    I can see how some people don't agree with gay marriage, however, I don't see how they can scorn gay people for it. If they were so christian like they would figure out that judging someone for their "shortcomings" is not acceptable in the christian religion that they claim to believe in. They should accept gay people as they are and love them just like anyone else.

    I love gay people! I am not gay, but gay marriage does not bother me. They are not forcing me to marry a woman, so why should I care if two other women want to marry? I say let them be miserable like the rest of us!

    August 12, 2011 at 9:49 pm |
    • kenyakay

      Well said! It's only right that we should all be equally miserable.

      August 13, 2011 at 7:58 pm |
  8. thebigdomboski

    It's sad that Yale Divinity School casused you to lose your Christian faith.

    August 12, 2011 at 9:38 pm |
    • DS

      Thebigdomboski didn't read this article at all. I'm assuming he/she has never read the Bible either. The trouble with the majority of Christians is that they are too ignorant and lazy about their beliefs to actually know what or why they believe what they do.

      August 13, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
  9. thebigdomboski

    Wow! Looks like Yale Divinity School was a big waste of money. They are obviously not teaching from the Bible. That's sad.

    August 12, 2011 at 9:34 pm |
  10. mdmooser

    WHAT! the Bible condemns it? My position is different however the Bible says love your fellow man, get it?

    August 12, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
    • Tarantula

      You're another one who would conveniently make your own "truth" from God's plain words. You'll find out in the end what a mistake that was – in Hell.

      August 12, 2011 at 10:03 pm |
  11. Jake

    This is the most ill-informing article I have ever read. Shame on you for manipulating and justifying such an immoral practice. Those who want to be gay can be gay but please stop trying to convince religions they are wrong. We believe what we feel just as you do. Get on with life and start thinking what you can do to improve our economy/job creation.

    August 12, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
    • nothem

      I don't think we read the same article. I don't think he was justifying anything just pointing out that politicians twist the bible to fit there agenda. Some day in the not so distant future we'll all get to know exactly what God thinks. Until then, the bible is a great collection of stories. Stories written by men, men who used there recollection of stories told orally for centuries. I don't doubt there are a few kernels of truth in the stories but the reinterpretation over the years had lost the true story itself.

      August 12, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
    • GodPot

      Could be said in reply to civil rights:

      This is the most ill-informing article I have ever read. Shame on you for manipulating and justifying such a practice. Those who want to let blacks into their businesses and churches can but please stop trying to convince religions they are wrong. We believe what we feel just as you do. Get on with life and start thinking what you can do to improve our economy/job creation.

      To interracial marriage:

      This is the most ill-informing article I have ever read. Shame on you for manipulating and justifying such an immoral practice of letting blacks and whites marry. Those who want to be with "a black" can but please stop trying to convince religions they are wrong. We believe what we feel just as you do. Get on with life and start thinking what you can do to improve our economy/job creation.

      To slavery:

      This is the most ill-informing article I have ever read. Shame on you for manipulating and justifying such a hardship. Those who want to give up their slaves can but please stop trying to convince religions they are wrong. We believe what we feel just as you do. Get on with life and start thinking what you can do to improve our economy/job creation.

      Why can Christians not see how their continued attack on gay rights is the very definition of bigotry.

      Bigot – "a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices, especially one exhibiting intolerance, and animosity toward those of differing beliefs." – Wiki

      Intolerant – " 1: unable or unwilling to endure 2a : unwilling to grant equal freedom of expression especially in religious matters" – Merriam-Webster

      August 12, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
  12. jeff

    Sad to see how many people believe that gay behavior is okay with God. It's not...the Bible is clear.

    August 12, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
    • mdmooser

      Uhh, ever heard of love your fellow man. I am straight but it is what it says, so....................

      August 12, 2011 at 7:10 pm |
    • fred

      So, exactly what did Jesus have to say about ho mo $exuality: ? To gay bashing Christians he wrote in the sand a personal comment for each of the gay bashers revealing the sin in their heart as reflected in their actions past and present. To the ho mo $exual Jesus said nothing specific and never addressed that particular physical act. God is not going to get into the stealing vs. adultery debate and the like. That is a side trip and a deception which detracts from the main issue which is your relationship with God. If you cannot get that foundation straight there is no sense debating. You wish to argue calculus but have not taken algebra 101. By the same token sin is an act against God and if you do not understand / know God it becomes meaningless. In that case (i.e. don't know God) Jesus says follow the law of your society.

      August 12, 2011 at 7:14 pm |
    • Angela

      Judging others is not okay either. So, stop it.

      August 12, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
    • LinCA

      @jeff

      You said "Sad to see how many people believe that gay behavior is okay with God. It's not...the Bible is clear."

      Who gives a fuck what you think your imaginary friend thinks is okay, or not? Your delusions are irrelevant in the real world.

      If you want to live your live according to the rag you call your bible, go right ahead. But you better keep that nonsense out of the lives of everyone else.

      August 12, 2011 at 11:03 pm |
  13. John G

    The Bible clearly prohibits two men from being intimate, let alone getting married. The Bible is the word of God. I do not know why there is so much confusion in our country about whether or not we should accept gays...clearly we should NOT. Anything else is ignorant bigotry.

    August 12, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      The bible is a piece of bad fiction written by man with no authority other than what it claims for itself. There is nothing in the bible that couldn't be learned elsewhere, and lots of pure bullshit (such as that which leads to the ignorant statement above) that should be ignored.

      August 12, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
    • jeff

      Well HOTAIRACE, you're banking your eternity on a flawed argument. Better pack your asbestos underwear.

      August 12, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Where's the flaw? You've got nothing but what your piece of crap tribal mythology says to back up your claims. I'm not risking eternal life because I don't believe there is any such thing. I stopped believing in fairy tales shortly after learning Santa Claus was not real – it's time for bible thumpers to grow up.

      August 12, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Clearly John G doesn't know the meaning of bigotry. He has a pretty solid grip on ignorance, though.

      August 12, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
    • fred

      Hotairice
      There is much to be learned from the Bible. Read Mathew and let me what think about the words of Jesus

      August 12, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
    • Angela

      So, you're saying we shouldn't accept anyone who sins? Got it. I won't accept anyone.

      August 12, 2011 at 9:53 pm |
  14. ramox etoch

    Since CNN won't print my original response, I had to post it here. http://ramoxetoch.livejournal.com/4330.html feel free to comment.

    August 12, 2011 at 5:48 am |
    • Can you say

      Hypocirite – "by the way, you GROSSLY took it out of context"

      Which is exactly what you did. Duh! You proved this guy right.

      August 12, 2011 at 8:32 am |
    • Sophia

      Ramox, the world is your mirror . the good you find in others, is in you too. The faults you find in others, are your faults as well.

      August 12, 2011 at 8:34 am |
  15. Frank

    If I posted my post twice, I apologize.

    Thanks!

    August 12, 2011 at 12:05 am |
  16. deputydawg

    All these arguements though earnest are foolishness. What right does anyone one have in anothers private acts. What is lost in all of this is polygamy was customary for heads of family(tribes) or for royalty, it was still in violation of Mosaic Law it was not condoned but as we do today in our sin accepted. Leviticus does specify man should not lay with another man as with a woman, the same taboo was against beastiality also. Bottom line we will all know the truth in the end I hope you are sure you are right you will be the one to answer for it and you alone.

    August 11, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
    • LOL

      If you believe it's between them and their god, it's their own private acts the bottom line is gays still deserve the same civil rights as straights.

      August 11, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
    • myweightinwords

      Where in Mosaic law does it prohibit polygamy?

      And, aside from that, our country does not follow Mosaic law. Therefore it should not matter what the bible or Torah says.

      August 12, 2011 at 10:52 am |
  17. Euphony

    I wrote a short response to Rick. It didn't show up.
    I wrote a very long, well proof read item as Post a Comment. It could have been sent anywhere and accepted, but I do not yet see it under Comments/. I wonder if it will show up, or if there is a word in it that cannot be allowed. I think I used only words that were used in other Posts. Oh Well, what are a couple of hours in one's email life!

    August 11, 2011 at 2:08 am |
    • myweightinwords

      Sometimes the forbidden word is hidden within another word, such as the word const-i-tuition.

      August 11, 2011 at 10:29 am |
  18. George King

    Oops no spell check...

    August 9, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
  19. George King

    This argument falls under the "are u still beating your wife" it is equally convienint in it's use of scripture as those those it critizes ... The Bible is clear about what it says...we may choose to put it in our own culturalised context but the facts of what the intent of Gods creation is clear ...Adam was alone Gos did not give him another Adam....
    There are actions of the will and the heart God calls s sin , and I know that is an unpopular word, but has been the common vernacular for rebellion against God's will up until the American Church has tried to take tell people that God is ok as long as we are ok...
    What a crock....God is never Ok with our rebellion and that is why Jesus should up taking on himself our sin that will never be ok no matter how we spin it.
    In plain English the anus is not designed for intercourse. Even in how we are made God shows to even the unbeliever what is the Devine plan.
    I could take a moment and cross scriptual swords with my Harvard friend but it is a pointless.. I know that unless God himself turns the light of eternal truth on so that sinful man stops the self serving rationalizations that we all do trying to justify
    Our rebellion. It makes us feel better to
    Say that truth is relative and God is a bully who doesn't want any of us to be really happy. The truth is
    none of us have a chance unless we run up the white
    flag and say "God you are right" and your word is ultImate truth no matter how that kicks against the current wave Of man created cultural norms.

    August 9, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
    • LOL

      “In plain English the anus is not designed for intercourse”
      That’s why husbands do it to their wives all the time and gay men have been doing it for before the bible was written. What is so funny Joe is you are consumed with the sex part of this conversation, there is more to a relationship than just sex. The experts in science and psychology have shown that people are born gay and they deserve the same civil rights as straight people. Now, stop focusing and fantasying about the sex part and look at the real facts on this subject.

      August 9, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • joshua

      @LOL
      People aren't born gay that is "man's" way to have an excuse. God doesn't permit gay so he wouldn't create gays. Gay is a type of sin, sin came from the fall of man.

      August 10, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
    • Euphony

      Thanks, George King! You kept it simple, but said the truth.

      August 11, 2011 at 12:48 am |
    • LOL

      "People aren't born gay that is "man's" way to have an excuse"

      LOL That just shows you are using your prejudice as an excuse for not looking at the truth that has been shown through science. A person doesn't have a choice in what happens to their genetics, their brains and the hormone levels in the womb. That is why there are Christians, clergy and churches have gone on record that being gay is not a sin as we know and understand it today.. The reason it's not a sin is because scientists today agree that sexual orientation is most likely the result of a complex interaction of environmental, cognitive and biological factors. In most people, sexual 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 sexuality..

      August 11, 2011 at 8:42 am |
    • jeff

      Bingo George King! Right on the money. Pity so many will learn the hard way as they spend an eternity away from God in hell.

      August 12, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • tallulah13

      This is not a christian nation, nor is the law decided by your personal opinion. Therefore, denying the rights of consenting adults who are our fellow citizens should not be acceptable. If you find any type of s-ex to be unpleasant, feel free to refrain.

      August 12, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
    • *frank*

      If it's not unpleasant, you're doing it wrong. lol.

      August 12, 2011 at 7:32 pm |
  20. Wisdomforlife

    The notion that Christians are obsessed with gay marriage is wrong. See: http://thinkpoint.wordpress.com/2011/03/15/are-christians-obsessed-with-gays-and-abortion/

    August 9, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • Duh

      The one part that is completely left out of that article is how much money is spent on Christians lobbyist and campaigns to put people in office that supports their agendas. None of that is included in the numbers. What is even more humorous is how this person is twisting the facts to justify their point of view. Just what this author is trying to say.

      In case you're wondering a lobbyist can make between $5,000/month to $25,000/month if they're good. You do the math, then factor in what religious organizations contribute to their favorite candidates...

      August 9, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
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About this blog

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.