I’ve long struggled with the church’s stance on same sex marriage myself, so I was interested to see this article by Jonathan Dudley. While in no way do I agree with everything Mr. Dudley has ever said on the topic (or others)..some of the things here I most definitely DO agree with. One of them being the issue of divorce. The bible very clearly states that divorce is wrong:
Jeremiah 3:1, “If a man divorces his wife and she leaves him and marries another man, should he return to her again? Would not the land be completely defiled? But you have lived as a prostitute with many lovers – would you now return to me?” declares the Lord.
Malachi 2:16, “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the Lord Almighty. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.
Matthew 5:31-32, “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”
Matthew 19:8, Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
Luke 16:18, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”
1 Corinthians 7:10-16, “To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. 11 But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife. To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? “
Mark 10:11-12, He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. 12 And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”
Yet..the divorce rate among Christians is exactly the same as that among non-Christians. Why? I’ve heard differing opinions on the validation of divorce. “It was a culture thing back then..culture has changed”, “that was Old Testament..the New Testament is all about forgiveness and redemption through Jesus..the old laws are not in effect” (guess they are ignoring the New Testament scriptures themselves..and if God is “the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.” how could He change his mind on that? And then there is “Yes you left your husband/wife unscripturally, but there is forgiveness and renewal in the blood of Jesus. Man is not meant to be alone.”
When I remarried, I got attacked by someone in the church (I’ve since parted ties with her) who proclaimed loudly (via Facebook) that it was wrong to do so..how could I pick and choose which scriptures I followed? And..I have to agree with her..the bible is very clear on the issue of divorce and remarriage. Some people share her views at my church but most were very supportive of my remarriage, excited even at what “God had brought together”. What then of homosexuality? Why is divorce/remarriage accepted in the church but not that?
If I am an “adulteress” and “unclean” for remarrying..according to the bible..why is that “sexual sin” any less than the “sexual sin” of homosexuality? If all sins are the same. And if even thinking of sinning is the same as the actual act. Are those with homosexual feelings born that way? Or do they choose their path? That’s a silly question I think. We ALL choose our paths regardless of what goes on in the womb. We all choose to either act or not act on our sexual feelings. Now where those sexual feelings come from or which sex they are projected towards, I believe that is something that you do NOT get to choose. Yes some have the “college experience” where you “dabble” and “experiment” but that isn’t what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the love, the chemistry and desire you have for someone else…is it better to be alone and long for the companionship and family? Or to admit what you were created to be? If God “knew us in our womb, created us perfectly” and “doesn’t make mistakes”…did he create the homosexual person to desire the same sex? Did he create a “weird” personality in me? Did he instill in Einstein his theories long before birth? (though..there are differing opinions on whether Einsten actually accepted this as a gift from God, or pretended to for the sake of one of his wives who was a believer) Did he purposefully create the child with Downs or the conjoined twins that way? The church says the “imperfect” happenings in utero are a product of “living in a broken world, full of sin”. But they also say “He is in control, nothing happens without His hand in it”. Which is it? Did he create me the way I am? Was any of it a mistake? Is it a mistake because someone else claims it to be so but was really His intention all along? Do we really know His plan for us or do we only know someone else’s interpretation of His plan for us?
My dear cousin is getting married tomorrow. Her and her girlfriend have lived together for many years and have to travel outside of their home state to obtain a legal marriage. Would it have been better for them to “live in sin” unmarried? Or to never live together at all? Or to never have dated? I think….no. And I may get bashed for this by my Christian brothers and sisters. But..it is what I believe. She has found companionship and love..acceptance and trust. She just wants to celebrate that. And I fervently pray that their special day is filled with joy. That their life together one of peace, adventure and unconditional love. Unmarred by those with differing opinions. Standing strong in the waves of discontent that are splashed upon them in the name of “God”.
And no..I do not feel convicted or condemned for my divorce and remarriage. I do not choose to follow those verses. Is that wrong? I guess it all depends on who you ask. Whose interpretation of the Bible you believe. Until I learn Hebrew and can decipher the original scripts myself..I’m not going to live my life believing I am “covered in sin”.
Enough about me..let’s read what Mr. Dudley has to say…
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.