Answering the Rebuttals to “10 Things I Wish the Church Knew About Homosexuality”
When my recent article on homosexuality went viral I was buried in responses. Many conservatives sent rebuttals for what they considered to be errors in my thought. Some were respectful, others not so much so, but I want to honor the time all of them took to respond by giving my answers to those rebuttals.
.1. If Jesus did not mention a subject, it cannot be essential to his teachings.
Predictably, many respondents had a problem with this first point. “After all,” some said, “Jesus didn’t mention rape or child abuse. Does that mean he didn’t care about those things?”
I wish the church did care more about rape and child abuse. It is ironic, when so much of the church covers up child abusing priests, or tells sexually abused wives to go back to their husbands, that anyone would use this argument, but yes, it is technically correct to say Jesus didn’t mention those words. But his teachings would clearly preclude any such abuse because he did address the misuse of power. The essence of rape is not sexual. Rape is essentially abuse of power expressed sexually. It is easy to infer a condemnation of any form of sexual abuse in the words of Jesus. But where is that same condemnation for loving same sex relationships implied in the actual words of Jesus?
Further, that whole argument is distorting what I actually said. I didn’t say that just because Jesus didn’t mention something, that we can assume he wouldn’t care about it. I said that it is dishonest to pretend that a topic is essential to Christianity when Jesus didn’t even mention it.
When conservatives pretend that abortion or homosexuality are central issues for Christianity, it is fair to ask them “whose Christianity?” I realize those meager references to homosexuality in the Bible jump out for some people, but why should others have to suffer because you are reading scripture through a lens of sexual obsession? Who gave you permission to put words in Jesus’ mouth?
I felt the respondents made a stronger argument when they said that because the whole Bible is inspired by God, the whole text can be said to be the words of Jesus. I say it is a stronger argument, not because I agree, but I think it is consistent within their assumptions that the bible was dictated word for word. I understand from that perspective that someone would say, “You can’t just pick and choose what you like from the text. Every word in scripture carries the same weight.”
Here’s is the problem with that argument. Jesus himself emphasized some things and deemphasized others, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” (Matt. 23:23)
Jesus is both saying that the whole Bible matters, but he is also saying we should not give all scripture the same weight, which is why we no longer stone disobedient children. In fact, Jesus modeled disobeying the literal meaning of scripture when such obedience would be unloving. The reason people got mad at Jesus for healing on the Sabbath was that to do so broke the literal meaning of scripture. When he touched unclean people he was violating the very laws that fundamentalists now use to condemn homosexuals.
I had a biblical professor in Seminary who often said, “Don’t major in minors.” He was saying to focus on the great themes of scripture not the isolated verses. Literalism feels more religious, but it requires us to ignore the great themes of the text. The the original Bible wasn’t numbered, so it didn’t even have the verses we argue over today. When we pick verses out of context they become like “legos” we can use to construct a theology Jesus never intended.
Jesus said the whole law is summarized by two commands, “Love God” and “Love your neighbor.” If you say you are a follower of Jesus, he should have some say in what it is you are calling his religion. So, my fundamentalist friend, what I am asking you to do is lay down your Calvin or other fundamentalist commentaries, and get thee back to the Sermon on the Mount.