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. misanthropicus

    What a piece of garbage – and this clown closes his rant with [...] Opponents of gay marriage aren’t defending the Bible’s values. They’re using the Bible to defend their own. [...]
    Yuk – the correct interpretation of this idiocy is... he's using all these logical contortions in order to ADVANCE his proclivies –
    Oh, and in case you missed "I'm a graduate of the Yale Divinity School –
    My – what a cessopoole –

    June 21, 2011 at 2:38 pm |

      Have you been keeping kosher? If not have fun burning in eternal hellfire, sinner.

      June 21, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • Roman

      Your angry screed just makes his article more credible. Proving him wrong should be done in the following manner; Get the Bible, read it, find verses that disprove his theories and voila! You have disproved him effectively. I know, reading sucks but without evidence your post is just a moronic rant.

      He, on the other hand, read the Bible and it appears that his initial intent was to defend the positions his religion finds important and worth defending. Yale is a fantastic cesspool and I hope that my children go there. Or have you already forgotten that the 41 and 43 graduated from there?

      June 21, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
    • Tim

      This type of language is exactly how "pro-choice" people advance their agenda. When you get down to it, people just don't want to hear what is actually being done to infants in abortions. They are more concerned about the "rights" of the mother. The author's own arguments about abortions are lame, btw. Beating heart, organ formed, living and feeling infants have their skulls punctured and their brains sucked out in an abortion. Let's try that on a proponent of choice and see if they are willing to feel the pain of death. You cannot die if you are not alive, and aborted human beings are alive.

      June 21, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • Brimshack

      Projection much?

      You can't be bothered, that is clear enough, and fair enough. No-one is obligated to think these things through. The decent thing to do then is to leave the issue alone entirely as you clearly have no thoughts on the matter Mis. None whatsoever.

      June 21, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Tim: Yes, I know what occurs during an abortion. I also know, certain criteria for when and whether I choose to have one. I also know you or other strangers shouldn't be part of that decision that should be up to me, my family and my doctor.

      June 21, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
  2. for.savior

    Ofcourse the Bible is not just a book; it is living word of the Lord which can change the lives forever. Can't agree? Try it yourself.

    The Bible says in Psalm 34:8
    Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

    June 21, 2011 at 2:37 pm |

      Hahaha no. Gods are pretty lame.

      June 21, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • Tim

      God is going to get you for that...

      June 21, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • robert

      The Bible is collection of written human works attempting to elicit God's will. It is the work of man, and where man is involved there is fallacy.

      June 21, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Tim: Is God like the boogey man? Or Bloody Mary? What did you feel when you said "God is going to get you for that..."? Sincerely curious.

      June 22, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
  3. God rules :)

    I don't base my opinion on sin on the church I base it on the Bible. So if the opinion on sins change in the church over the years, it doesn't matter. You'd think someone from divinity school would get that, but it is Yale.

    June 21, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • Pete

      Glad to see you completely missed the point on this one. Nice try.

      June 21, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
    • Mike

      Where did the Bible come from? It didn't float down from heaven in completed form. It was compiled by leaders of the Church over several hundred years who were of the OPINION these particular books were divinely inspired while others, like the Book of Thomas, were not.

      What Bible verse told the early Church to compile the New Testament? Which Bible verse told the early Church which books should be included and which should be excluded? These are the fallacies of sola scriptura, but I digress...

      June 21, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • Monty

      Mike you are so silly but CNN will probably block this one as well. However If you have studied the history of the bible, then yes it was canonized by men. As a matter of fact, it was written by men. However when it comes to the bible, either you believe God turned over control of His word to men or God did not turn control of His word over to men. If you read the bible it is clear that God has never given control of His word to men. As a matter of fact if you read the bible, God exercises complete control over man whenever He feels like it. Pilate thought he had control over Jesus in which Jesus responded "You can have no control over me unless it was given to you from above." So the bible makes it clear that no man controls the word of God. Now you and others may have a problem in feeling like a puppet but hey, that's how Pharoah felt when Moses told him that the Lord raised him up for this very purpose to show Himself strong that His name may declared through out all the earth. Peace.

      June 21, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • rachel

      @ Mike, you're right on point. Some people really don't want to face the fact that the bible, like any other book was written my men, several of them who obviously had their own interpretations of what they witnessed or thought they witnessed.

      The bible is a piece of really good literature which requires a whole lot of imagination...

      June 21, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
  4. William Demuth

    Actually, the greatest irony is that if you actually read the Bible, it is quite obvious that Christ was gay.

    June 21, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • XYZ

      He might considering he made the pop wear that gold hat and some really really fancy rope. And only male pope (why ?)

      June 21, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
    • rachel

      Jesus was human after all...he came from a human under-age mother and a human father...get real people, a ghost didn't knock her up!

      June 21, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
  5. Tony Cruz

    Jonathan, you wrote the following when talking about leaders of a movement and their interests: "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."

    Though I think you bring up several points worth considering in your article, in what ways have you found the leaders of any movement you currently are involved in to be different in attempting to define and share their own values?

    Thanks again, Jonathan.

    June 21, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
  6. RS

    The Bible also states that Satan is the ruler of this world ( John 14:30) Not to hard to see that any more.

    June 21, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Avengers #8 clearly says that "HULK WILL SMASH" but I don't base my life on comic books.

      Regretably, Christians do.

      June 21, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
  7. RIck


    June 21, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
  8. beon

    Week? What a "week" use of the word...

    June 21, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
  9. lauren

    This is the stupidest article I have ever read. His reasoning makes no sense either religiously or scientifically.

    June 21, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • SciGuy

      God makes no sense scientifically, so I don't see a problem

      June 21, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • LL

      or you are just too stupid to understand it.

      June 21, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
    • XYZ

      Well I understand Lauren, it's hard to accept the truth sometime. Take your time, you'll see the light one day

      June 21, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
  10. Katie

    "they're using the Bible to defend their own" YES! The Bible has been used to justify many things: slavery, spousal abuse, corporal punishment, and discrimination. It's used by some religions to deny themselves health care.

    The same people that cling to their justifications are the first to condemn other religions who use their beliefs to justify their actions. Hypocrites.

    The Bible can be a lovely tool to point one in the direction of acting for the betterment of one's self, one's family, and one's community. It can't be taken literally because its chapters contain passages that contradict each other. It shouldn't be the means to justify one's personal biases or to impose someone's personal beliefs upon others. I know many Christians whose actions and words are decidedly vindictive and hateful – if that's what they think the Bible asks of them, then being a Christian is definitely not something anyone should aspire to be.

    June 21, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
  11. Carlton

    America is so screwed up because so many believe that our answers must come from Ivy League schools? People who are full of pride and arrogance but without any spiritual revelation from God!!! God's does not need any assistance any person, He only desires all of us to believe, agree, comply, and come into alignment with Him!!! Man of God, not a man of the world!!!

    June 21, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Hey are you the Fresh Princes cousin?

      June 21, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • Feng

      Man wrote the bible, a book. IF it were Lord of Ring, not the bible, would you believe that as well?

      June 21, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Carlton: Why do people object to those who went to ivy league schools? What is this obsession that Americans have with bowing down to ignorance over learning? Is it jealousy? Is it some odd form of sour gr-apes? I think it's fear. The more educated a person is, the more intimidating to those who are uneducated.
      Look I don't mind if you want to disagree or put up some contrasting opinion. But to claim you have greater spirituality from God BECAUSE you didn't have the higher level of education he did, is preposterous. And, in a way, elitist.

      June 21, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
  12. beon


    June 21, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
  13. RIck

    Look at what defined long hair during the time in which Paul was writing. Geez.....What a week arguement.

    June 21, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
  14. Patrick McCrevan

    Point 1. I disagree with this opinion
    Point 2. The Word can be interpreted many ways
    Point 3. Goats/sheep will be separated and you won't know until you meet Him which you are
    Point 4. A"cicl union" is just that, a union. A marrage is something different. You need not bring religion into the definition of these two, period.

    I pray for the souls of tose who do not heed the Word; I love the sinner, yet hate the sin, and acknowledge my pwn imperfections and seek to become perfected only by He who saves.

    June 21, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Leave it to Christians to put goats and marriage in the same post

      June 21, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
  15. Steven

    This message board has deteriorated into knee-jerk positions and trolling. Generally, the message board format is not a great way to discuss sensitive or hot-button topics.

    June 21, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
    • William Demuth

      But it is SUCH a goof freaking out the bible thumpers!

      Besides, you don't actually think world religious peace is going to be found here do you?

      I just want to fan the flames of hatred, so we can speed up the Apocalypse, or at least the time left until five!

      June 21, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  16. Jon

    Well if you choose to take Paul's writings as an opinion of man (like this author) and not the true inspired Word of God, why would it even matter to you what the Bible says. The whole point is that Christians believe the "author" was God. It's also cute to say the "one author" that didn't like it...i like that...let's ignore the vast amount of references throughout the old testament.

    For me (not the bible), if you wanna get married...go ahead, but stop pretending like God likes the idea. Just be honest. I do things all the time that God doesn't like, even though i try not to. If we stop thinking one sin is better or worse than the next we are closer to the heart of salvation. We all have our problems...i just don't pretend to justify them.

    June 21, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • gay = ok

      God made gay people.

      God made straight people.

      God obviously WANTS there to be gay and straight people on Earth.

      gay is no better or worse than straight

      June 21, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • Sue

      Very refreshing comment! At least there is someone out there not full of self-rightous hot air. Great point made- just be honest.

      June 21, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • Free

      "If we stop thinking one sin is better or worse than the next we are closer to the heart of salvation. We all have our problems...i just don't pretend to justify them."

      Then being a se.xually active gay person is no more sinful than regularly enjoying clam chowder, right?

      June 21, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • William Demuth


      They think the devil made you. They also believe your love life damns you to an eternity of flame.

      Plus I think they want you

      June 21, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • Yo!

      God created gays so they are not sinning. Now prosti-tution, pagan worship using s-ex and idolatry is a sin. Get the picture...

      June 21, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
    • No Prophet

      Jon your answer is so bang on. Nuff said.

      June 21, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
    • Duder

      You do know that there are several letters of Saint Paul's in the Bible, don't you?
      Probably not.

      June 21, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
  17. Michael

    "Book of magic tales twisted by hateful a**holes."

    June 21, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • Whatevs

      I'll take a book of magic tales over men wanting to boink each other anyday...

      June 21, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Whatevs: I'd prefer magical books of tales about men trying to bonk each other! It's called yaoi! Mmmm yummy!

      June 21, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
  18. Amanda

    Wonderful article. It is pretty much a fact that religious leaders have for century been using religion as their guiding light to oppress someone else. The fact of the matter is that the Bible was written by humans, so why not take it for what it is? A book. I was raised Catholic and quickly came to realize that religion is just a front for people to try to gain power and sway over others. I am happy to let you believe what you want to believe, but don't try to force it on me or anyone else, and certainly don't try to use it as your tool to skew laws and decisions for your benefit. Religion is like a gun, only dangerous when put in the hands of a human.

    June 21, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • Mary

      Generalizing a whole group of people is also extremely dangerous. Some would call it Bigotry

      June 21, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • Pete H

      The Holy Spirit led men to write the Bible. The Holy Spirit also tells us what is right, regardless of prevailing secular laws. The Bible has indeed been used to oppress over the centuries, but that was and is due to human failings. On the contrary; God's word was given to us to FREE us. Unfortunately, and using your own "gun" analogy, the influence of the Bible is indeed determined by who's holding it.

      To those who want to remove God's influence from law; if God doesn't write the law, who will? What standard will determine right and wrong? Do you really think people won't go to war to determine who's right? Is there ANYTHING in the Ten Commandments that would be contrary to even a completely secular society?

      June 21, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
    • Frogist

      @PeterH: A secular society would not have all those commandments declaring the need to bow down to any gods. We will write the laws, and determine what is right and wrong like we always have. Yes, people will still go to war. The question to ask is why under the influence of the Bible has it not prevented all wars from happening? You admit, it is because of the influence of man. Why then do we not consider that it is probably all the influence of man and not some far off God? If it all comes out equal, what's the use of the book?

      June 21, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
  19. gay = ok

    gay = ok!

    June 21, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • Thinking7

      Not if you believe what the Bible states.

      June 21, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • Ricky Bobby

      And if you were truly thinking, you wouldn't.

      June 21, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
  20. Hmmmmmmm

    It's odd that the author of this article seems to think the books of the Bible are merely the views of the author and not influenced by God. I believe the Bible also says "If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have commited an abomination..... " – Leviticus 20:13 . Amazing that someone who has studied the Bible recognizes it as opinions of the writers and not as a guidance from God. I guess this is this article's writer's way of trying to draw attention to himself. Even if what he writes isn't correct.

    June 21, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • aahawks

      First, you are doing exactly what the article was talking about. You take one verse and forgetting about the rest. Second, Leviticus 20:10 says, "And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death". I don't see you protesting that one. Lastly, you are quoting the Old Testament which is talking about the Jews. I am not Jewish so I could care less about the Old Testament.

      June 21, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • double hmmmm

      Where did you find this copy of the Bible that came directly from God? I'm pretty sure based on my rudimentary understanding of history that the Bible has been copied and re-copied, massaged, and edited thousands of times through the ages by those who claimed to be protecting it. If you believe that say, the catholic church in the 1200's, was above changing the bible to further its own ends just look at how hard they worked to cover up the rampant molestation that went on within their halls. Or ask yourself why the common man was not allowed to read it for centuries. You'll quickly see that the author is right, the Bible is a book written by men/women based loosely on stories that were told by other men/women who claimed they heard them from god.

      June 21, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
    • Katie

      And Leviticus also says you cannot cut the corners of your field or the forelocks of your hair, you can't eat certain foods and you can't wear different kinds of cloths at the same time. Do you also follow those rules? Psalms speaks of certain love between men and Solomon discusses King David's special, and completely open, relationship with another man in terms of acknowledgment, not condemnation. Jesus himself said to love your neighbor as yourself (King James ruled in the 1600s that the royal pronouns "thee" "thy" and "thyself" replace ordinary pronouns, BTW) and Jesus also said "blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." I would absolutely argue that gay people are persecuted for righteousness' sake – when you get to heaven, will you go about quoting Leviticus to correct Jesus and God for admitting the gays to heaven?

      June 21, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
    • Yossarian

      Know what else it says in Leviticus? No round hair cuts, no eating pork or even touching pigskin, no fabric blends, no shellfish. Do you follow those?

      June 21, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
    • Scott

      The bible also says in Leviticus that it is an abomination before God to eat shellfish, and I don't see the Christians picketing the red lobster as unnatural before God. And largely that's because they like their shellfish, see nothing wrong in it, so they discount what the Bible has said based on their own cultural experiences, despite what God has said through the Bible. They decided that ignoring the bible was culturally based and correct.

      The authors point which is well presented, is that people take things out of context in the Bible and twist it to their own devises to present their own points and to prove whatever they want to. They did it with slavery, they did it with mixed race marriage, and now they are doing it with gay marriage. He is factually correct.

      For the religious, who are so close-minded that they can't listen to any other opinion, instead of bashing others with a book, perhaps those doing the bashing would be better served seeking God and asking Him about the subject. If God only talks to you through a book, I feel sorry for you.

      June 21, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • Hmmmmmmm

      It's humerous that so many people try to defend gay.... Try to make others believe it's meant to be.... Thanks for the responses to my message.... They gave me a good laugh 🙂

      June 21, 2011 at 7:42 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79
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.