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. Rich

    God is a myth, Jesus is a myth, Zeus is a myth; Let people do what they want if it does not hurt you.

    June 22, 2011 at 8:30 am |
    • scott


      June 26, 2011 at 3:31 am |
  2. ipevin

    right turn clyde in doubting any part of the bible you are saying that the most powerful force in the universe does not have the power to have written exactly what he was writting. if you recall jesus looked to heaven and said,"i publicly praise yo father because you have hidden these things from the wise and intelectual ones and revealed them to babes" (luke 9:21) jEHOVAH HAS HIDDEN HIS WORDS TOUCH AN AFFECT THAT ONLY THOSEWHO SINCERLY AND UNHYPOCRITICALY SEARCH FOR THEM CAN FIND THE TRUTH IN THEM. tHIS WRITER of this letter put his philosophical spin on things only to hide what the bible clearly condemns. Think about it.

    June 22, 2011 at 8:29 am |
    • Boodro

      A very power point ipeven. That is what people dont understand. God hides his wisdom from those too prideful to come clean with the issues of their heart. He doesn't stop anyone from reading the Bible, and he purposed that its words can be read, but its wisdom cannot be understood, until the heart has been pierced.

      June 22, 2011 at 8:59 am |
  3. Caleb

    I am a christian and believe the bible is Gods word, and I know it as well as anyone here, including the author (probably better)... And there is no where in the bible where it says gay is a choice. In fact, it says the opposite: "in iniquity I was formed in my
    mothers womb" see? No one chooses to be born in sin, it is just a fact of life after Adam- that's what makes redemption jn Christ so powerful is that none of us can choose to be righteous, we NEED Jesus' sacrifice to redeem us. So yes, people are born gay- everyone is born in sin.

    June 22, 2011 at 8:22 am |
    • richunix

      Gay lifestyle is a choice and it has nothing to do with religion.

      Stephen F Roberts: “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

      June 22, 2011 at 8:42 am |
    • What?

      "... where it says gay is a choice. In fact, it says the opposite: 'in iniquity I was formed in my mothers womb' see?"

      What in your little snippet says anything about being gay being a choice? I have never heard a gay person claim that being gay means babies are not formed in the womb. Talk about a failure to understand and prove your point.

      By the way, you come across as pretty proud about your "superior" knowledge of the bible. That sounds contrary to christian principles.

      June 22, 2011 at 9:57 am |
  4. baronradon

    This guy completely ignores the old testament. (Genesis 19, Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13), as well as 1 Cor. 6:9–10 in the New Testament.

    Further, Christianity's stance on abortion today is supported by modern science – which proves biologically human life begins at conception! Trying to refute that position by quoting a theologian from 1500 years ago who didn't have the benefit of cellular biology is a pretty weak argument.

    June 22, 2011 at 8:20 am |
    • Stevie7

      The guy would have had a field day with Leviticus! He shouldn't need to mention it because anyone who bothers to read just a few chapters can see how crazy that book is. You're basically proving his point. And, how, exactly, does modern day science prove that life begins at conception? I mean, most Christians seem to be concerned with when the soul enters the body, which science certainly couldn't care less about.

      June 22, 2011 at 8:27 am |
    • Rob

      If there was "scientific proof" that human life begins at conception there would be no debate to be had, would there?

      June 22, 2011 at 8:49 am |
    • baronradon

      At conception a human embryo is genetically a human being. I guess you guys skipped biology class that day.

      The real debate is not over whether the embryo is human – the debate is over whether mother's rights trumps the human embryo's right to live.

      June 22, 2011 at 10:46 am |
  5. Caleb

    None of these arguments really touch the issue of whether something is wrong or right according to the bible, it merely mentions a few variations of how people thru history have interpreted or adhered to the bible. That doesn't really shed any light on the thesis and the conclusion is uncogent. Like saying that running a red light is ok if there's no sign saying not to, and someone else rolls thru a stop sign.

    June 22, 2011 at 8:07 am |
    • Stevie7

      I think that the author is trying to say that if you agree that traffic laws are what you're going to abide by, then you should both stop at red lights and stop signs, and not just pick which one is convenient for you to do.

      June 22, 2011 at 8:10 am |
  6. Rainer Braendlein

    God's power and divinity we can realize, when we watch the creation (remember a majestic sunset). Regretably we don't adore God but serve our self-made idols. We hoard riches, we are Workaholics, some of us adore the acient idols like Ahura Mazda, etc.. We don't adore the creator, but our idols that is our basic sin, which seperates us from God and Life.

    June 22, 2011 at 8:06 am |
    • Sybaris

      Some creator. He impregnated another mans wife, could only create one offspring and can't regenerate the limbs of amputees.

      June 22, 2011 at 8:51 am |
  7. Sean

    Stevie, you don't see facts, you see what you want to see. I don't have to present anything, if you want to know something about God, read the Bible, the whole Bible not just pieces like you've done.

    June 22, 2011 at 8:06 am |
    • Stevie7

      How in the world would you know what I've done? The author raised valid points and backed them up with specific references of the bible. You claim that he did not, yet offer no support of this claim. If there's a pathetic one here, it isn't the author.

      June 22, 2011 at 8:08 am |
  8. Jon

    Yale Divinity School actually let you graduate? Interesting.

    June 22, 2011 at 7:56 am |
  9. Sean

    Typical liberal type arguments with no facts. It is truly sad to see people who have never read and studied the Bible try to argue against it. Pathetic actually.

    June 22, 2011 at 7:52 am |
    • Stevie7

      I see plenty of facts in the article. I see none from you. Interesting.

      June 22, 2011 at 8:02 am |
  10. ed

    what bothers me is this writer has been very selective on the people and areas of the bible to correspond to his outlook to say being gay is ok and wasnt God that said no to it.. in fact the old testament has count after count of laws and the annihilation of two cities for their evil ways... to say and justify dogs do this or animals this then we have forgotten we are self-aware, time place, history, future and concepts.... this as a basic form is the reason we are not apes and to this day no connection has been made to caveman ....

    June 22, 2011 at 7:51 am |
  11. Bryan

    "The Christians I have met have actually been friend, caring, open-minded people who don't care what religion you are, they just see a human-being. Yes, I did not mix my words up."

    Really? Ever talked with a gay person about coming out to there parents and how that went?

    "I would like to note that judging someone does not mean you're not loving them. When I identify sin in someone's life I am in fact loving them."

    I call these loving Christian beatings. Tell you what, if you get to chastise gay people all the time, can I follow you around for a day calling you an ignorant dimwit, and an abomination for bringing down the collective IQ of humanity? How about if I did it for a year? How about thirty years, with the same message that basically, you are worthless, and the only way not to be worthless is to behave the way you dictate?

    Yeah, I'm feeling the love.

    June 22, 2011 at 7:42 am |
    • Sean

      You just proved the previous writer's point. You see the Christian wouldn't use any insults, as you have and wouldn't condemn the person, you on the other hand do the condemnation.

      June 22, 2011 at 7:54 am |
    • Bryan


      Try walking a mile in another persons. Ive been called an abomination, freak, vile, disgusting, told me I'm going to hell, told God hates me and everyone else like me, and rejected by my "Christian" parents. When Christians try to "love" me by pointing out I'm all of these things to them, it never felt like they were doing it out of any kind of love I was familiar with.

      When a Christian tries to point out I'm a sinner, but in a slightly nicer way, it's still the social equivalent of me replying that they're ugly, and would they mind wearing a bag over their head so I don't have to look at them. (And no, I have never actually said this, but let's be honest, there really isn't a polite way to call someone a sinner and tell them they're going to hell).

      June 22, 2011 at 8:09 am |
    • Seneca


      Obviously you're angry...don't assume that all "Christians" are gay bashing horrible people. The truth of Christianity is that Christians are called to love God and to love others. Not everyone follows this but don't throw the out the baby with the bathwater. I'm sorry you've been hurt but hope you will forgive those that hurt you.

      June 22, 2011 at 8:23 am |
    • Bible Clown

      "the Christian wouldn't use any insults" What planet are you from? That's hilarious.

      June 22, 2011 at 8:34 am |
  12. Rainer Braendlein


    Hi Reality,

    I have a question: Who actually told you that God made gay human beings? Any proof?

    Answer: No proof, of course.

    It is all your fantasy, what you are telling us.

    June 22, 2011 at 7:19 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      God's power and divinity we can realize, when we watch the creation (remember a majestic sunset). Regretably we don't adore God but serve our self-made idols: We hoard riches, we are Workaholics, some of us adore the acient idols like Ahura Mazda, etc.. We don't adore the creator, but our idols, that is our basic sin, which seperates us from God and Life.

      June 22, 2011 at 8:10 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      In Romans Chapter 1 St. Paul doesn't blame us solely for sins like gayness, but also for a whole range of sins:

      29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,

      30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,

      31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:

      June 22, 2011 at 8:19 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      Everybody, who condemns gay people, should be aware that gayness is just one of a range of sins, which causes God's wrath. Everybody, who condemns gays, should also condemn himself, because we all commit sins.

      June 22, 2011 at 8:29 am |
    • Bible Clown

      "Who actually told you that God made gay human beings?" It was some guy on the internet, and so it has to be true. His comment was so snarky that I changed my entire way of thinking because of it.

      June 22, 2011 at 8:35 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      What we ar ought to do? We are all under God's wrath, not solely the gays. The solution we can find in Romans Chapter 3:
      We can become righteous by faith. We are supposed to believe in Jesus Christ. He has borne our sins on the cross, in order to make possible redemption and forgiveness. Just believe and get baptized and you will have it (infant baptism is valid and is not allowed to be repeated).

      June 22, 2011 at 8:44 am |
    • Sybaris

      Ah yes, cherrypicking, the favorite past-time of the faithful.

      Your god made evil, created Lucifer and people who are attracted to the opposite gender too. It created EVERYTHING. You can't attribute only good things to your "loving" god.

      June 22, 2011 at 9:18 am |
    • dwordisclear

      rainer– In accordance with Scriptures, it is actually possible to be born that way..."The Lord passed in front of Moses, calling out, “Yahweh! The Lord! The God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations. I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin. But I do not excuse the guilty. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children and grandchildren; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations.” Exodus 34: 6-7 That's why we need a redeemer!

      June 22, 2011 at 9:44 am |
  13. Reality

    All "Abrahamics" believe that their god created all of us and of course that includes the g-ay members of the human race. Also, those who have studied ho-mo-se-xuality have determined that there is no choice involved therefore ga-ys are ga-y because god made them that way.

    To wit:

    o The Royal College of Psy-chiatrists stated in 2007:

    “ Despite almost a century of psy-choanalytic and psy-chological speculation, there is no substantive evidence to support the suggestion that the nature of parenting or early childhood experiences play any role in the formation of a person’s fundamental heteros-exual or hom-ose-xual orientation. It would appear that s-exual orientation is biological in nature, determined by a complex interplay of ge-netic factors and the early ut-erine environment. Se-xual orientation is therefore not a choice.[60] "

    "Garcia-Falgueras and Swaab state in the abstract of their 2010 study, "The fe-tal brain develops during the intraut-erine period in the male direction through a direct action of tes-tosterone on the developing nerve cells, or in the female direction through the absence of this hor-mone surge. In this way, our gender identi-ty (the conviction of belonging to the male or female gender) and s-exual orientation are programmed or organized into our brain structures when we are still in the womb. There is no indication that social environment after birth has an effect on gender ident–ity or s-exual orientation."[8

    Of course, those gays who belong to Abrahamic religions abide by the rules of no adu-ltery or for-nication allowed.

    And because of basic biology differences and Abrahamic and other religious traditions said monogamous ventures should always be called same-se-x unions not same-se-x marriages.

    June 22, 2011 at 7:02 am |
  14. Reality

    Beyond the bible and into the bedroom for the specifics as per Biology/Physics 101:

    Hmmm lets see, in gay se-xual activity, who plays the guy and who plays the gal? Who is on top and who is on the bottom? A coin flip? To say the least, an unusual situation.

    Then there are those "made in China" toys/strap-ons. Lets hope the FDA has checked them for lead and other toxic components. And do said "toys" come with sanitizers and/or sterilization instructions.

    Lots and lots of "gays" doing their hot and heavy things on Internet tube sites but nothing about coin flipping, who is on first, and sanitizers sites?? There must be some "Gaying It For Dummies" books out there somewhere. Hmmm, I wonder if said books/sites have to have FDA and CDC approval??

    Is said activity wrong and worthy of a trip to hell? Of course not but to the general heteros-exual population it is yucky, unusual and not normal to them. With that mind set, approval by the majority is not always sanctioned in law.

    The general population to include many of the voters in California, rightly or wrongly, find gay se-xual activities, married or not, to be "yucky" and unusual and typically associate such activity with the spread of AIDS which is of course wrong. Said AIDS epidemic in the gay male community at the start of the AIDS crises will always remain unfortunately a stigma on the gay community.

    " And after all of this rhetoric, gay "marriages" simply simplify and somewhat sanitize what are still "yucky" acts caused by a variant gene(s) and/or hormone imbalance. One wonders if stem cell research will find a cure??

    Impressive list of gay people who did not let their yucky defect get in the way of being a contribution to society. Unfortunately, they were not able to contribute to the evolutionary process of DNA improvement via procreation.
    And one will never know whether they would have achieved even greater achievements without said defect.

    From below, on top, backwards, forwards, from this side of the Moon and from the other side too, gay se-xual activity is still mutual masturbation caused by one or more complex s-exual defects. Some defects are visually obvious in for example the complex maleness of DeGeneres, Billy Jean King and Rosie O'Donnell.

    And yes, heteros-exuals practice many of the same "moves" but there is never a doubt who is the female and who is the male.

    June 22, 2011 at 6:59 am |
  15. TampaMel

    I am not an atheist but religion will ruin the world (it does not matter whose religion). It appears if there is a conflict (whether verbal of physical) anywhere most of it is in the name of religion. Not just Radical Islam but Protestants and Catholics (Northern Ireland), Jew and Arabs (do I have to say where). And here we have 'Christians' discriminating in the name of God. I am not going to debate whether God exists, to me God exists. So, if you believe God made us all then God made ALL mankind, gay, Straight, black, brown and white. Who are these people to condemn anyone, if these 'Christians' really believed in the bible they can also find a passage that states, "do not judge lest ye be judged". I guess these 'Christian' who discriminate didn't get that far in their bible readings.

    June 22, 2011 at 5:36 am |
  16. Marie Kidman


    June 22, 2011 at 5:04 am |
  17. N. M.

    #1 Paul makes reference to natural / nature 13 times not 1 or 2 as Dudley stated. Now given different translations that number can be 9-17 not counting indirect references. #2 In Dudley’s quoted reference in 1Corinthians the long hair of men referred to the male pro sti tutes of Corinth, not some hair style issue as Dudley suggests. The long hair for women referred to what was acceptable for worship since women with short hair in Corinth were pro sti tutes again not a style issue as Dudley suggests. When reading a letter to a group of people( in this case the Corinthians) you must refer to the customs of those readers not todays’ trends. #3 As to abortion God said to David “you knit me together in my mother’s womb” to Jeremiah God said “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you’ and John the Baptist “leaped in joy in the womb” when Mary was pregnant with Jesus. For Dudley imply life in the womb is questionable for Christians makes no sense. To imply abortion is not an issue goes against God where in Exodus the King of Egypt instructed midwives to kill male children during delivery. They did not because “they feared God “more than the King. As to celibacy Dudley implies the hierarchy has changed which it has not. Jesus said it is best to be celibate for the glory of God but few can do this. Paul said it is best that men not marry but due to temptation they should. So the order is clear celibacy best for just a few and marriage next for most people.

    June 22, 2011 at 4:56 am |
    • DaLe

      The passage in 1 Corinthians 11 talks also about head covering. Anyways, what is the meaning of the word "nature" used there? Environment?

      June 22, 2011 at 5:29 am |
    • DaLe

      Eg., young male dogs tend to hump on other dogs and humans (to dominate), so is it 'natural' for male humans to hump on each other unless it is clear who the alpha male is?

      June 22, 2011 at 5:37 am |
    • John Richardson

      More lame rationalization. Even if Paul condemned long hair in men because of some association with male prost-itutes, the fact remains that he condemned long hair in men, period.

      June 22, 2011 at 6:02 am |
    • LOL

      No one cares what your 2000 old book says just shut up already.

      June 22, 2011 at 6:16 am |
    • Buster

      Some guy asked me once if I was a boy or a girl. After kicking him in the junk, I asked him if he wanted to see for himself(he didn't).

      June 22, 2011 at 8:49 am |
  18. kingnpriest

    Another article by a religious person! No wonder none of the disciples, or old testament prophets ever came from a man made school. (as in the school of the prophets in the old testament) This author is missing the entire point of the scripture, and it's not a bunch of rules of can and can't do. It is the very nature of creation....God made them male and female, obviously each designed with certain features that inter-connect! This is how we replenish the earth, as commanded by God. Without that union, there would be no replenishment. Anything other than this is considered out of order. Jesus even said when a man gets married, he leaves his parents and cleaves to his wife. Religious people need to have a true conversion and revelation of the truth! JOHN 14:6 Be Born Again

    June 22, 2011 at 4:42 am |
    • John Richardson

      Once again, there are childless hetero couples and gay male couples who have used surrogate mothers and lesbian couples who have used donor sperm to procreate. You are simply rationalizing your prejudice.

      June 22, 2011 at 6:04 am |
  19. Andi

    The problem is, his perception is incorrect. he misses the whole point about men wearing long hair. it is not a hair style paul was talking about. he mixes the use of catholic and christian and they are not the same. That's like using the book of Mormon and the bible together. He has not been taught by the Holy Spirit, THE AUTHOR of the bible penned through men. Just fine sounding arguements that exalts itself above the knowledge of God I pray if he truly wants truth that He would seek the author and not his own intellect that clearly is tainted.

    June 22, 2011 at 4:27 am |
  20. Retards

    So for all you straight people. If you don't believe gay people are born gay and it's a choice, let me ask you this, "At what point in your life did you make the decision to be straight?"

    June 22, 2011 at 3:38 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      They say that folks were born straight and that a person choose to divert from the natural order.

      The problem is that right now I am going to get up from my keyboard and devour a ton of Blue Bunny Rocky Road Ice cream. I mean total gluttony.

      I wish the same Westburo would picket my local grocery store so I can not make the choice to break my diet tonight. 😀

      June 22, 2011 at 4:03 am |
    • Buster

      Actually I DO think people are born gay or straight, because I can't imagine making a decision to become gay.

      June 22, 2011 at 8:50 am |
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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.