Saturday, April 04, 2015

EZ Jesus

I've lost three entire days to the Twitterstorm in the wake of the Indiana RFRA signing and the subsequent Internet wilding of Memories Pizza.

One of the more vexing retorts from the SJWs (social justice warriors) has been "Would Jesus cater a gay wedding?" Given that Jesus never directly addressed the issue of homosexuality, that leaves a considerable lacuna for all and sundry to fill as they see fit.

Rather than take random stabs at the answer, why not look at what he did condemn and see if that reveals something about what he might have said or done. Here's one bit of insight (emphasis mine):

[I]t is a characteristic of our age that if people want any gods at all, they want them to be gods who do not demand much, comfortable gods, smooth gods who not only don’t rock the boat but don’t even row it, gods who pat us on the head, make us giggle, then tell us to run along and pick marigolds.

Talk about man creating God in his own image! Sometimes—and this seems the greatest irony of all—these folks invoke the name of Jesus as one who was this kind of “comfortable” God. Really? He who said not only should we not break commandments, but we should not even think about breaking them. And if we do think about breaking them, we have already broken them in our heart. Does that sound like “comfortable” doctrine, easy on the ear and popular down at the village love-in?

And what of those who just want to look at sin or touch it from a distance? Jesus said with a flash, if your eye offends you, pluck it out. If your hand offends you, cut it off. “I came not to [bring] peace, but a sword,” He warned those who thought He spoke only soothing platitudes. No wonder that, sermon after sermon, the local communities “pray[ed] him to depart out of their coasts.” No wonder, miracle after miracle, His power was attributed not to God but to the devil. It is obvious that the bumper sticker question “What would Jesus do?” will not always bring a popular response.

At the zenith of His mortal ministry, Jesus said, “Love one another, as I have loved you.” To make certain they understood exactly what kind of love that was, He said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” and “whosoever … shall break one of [the] least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be … the least in the kingdom of heaven.” Christlike love is the greatest need we have on this planet in part because righteousness was always supposed to accompany it. So if love is to be our watchword, as it must be, then by the word of Him who is love personified, we must forsake transgression and any hint of advocacy for it in others. Jesus clearly understood what many in our modern culture seem to forget: that there is a crucial difference between the commandment to forgive sin (which He had an infinite capacity to do) and the warning against condoning it (which He never ever did even once). — Jeffery R. Holland, Apostle, April 2014
Regarding marriage in general, Jesus' doctrine was harsher and more restrictive than anyone was willing to bear, including the Hebrews themselves! From Matthew 19:

3 The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?

4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,

5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?

6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

7 They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?

8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.

9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.
(Wow. Not even my church prohibits that the divorced remarry. Some Christian denominations preach that the divorced cannot remarry as long as the ex is still alive; others, that divorce should not be countenanced at all.)

Does it sound like Jesus upholds a loose, socially negotiable definition of marriage? Does he not specify that male and female, joined in marriage, constitute a whole person? Does it sound like he's open to marriage being redefined in the name of Civil Rights?

I'm going to go with no, no he wouldn't. There is no indication of a soft, comfortable god on this issue. In Matthew 15:19 he states that "Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies."

So he wasn't much on board with fornication, either (sex between unmarried persons). Given that  the sexual revolution declared that "if it feels good, do it," and from thence our current aversion to condemning nearly any sexual act (incest and pedophilia are mercifully still out of bounds), it sounds like Jesus' teachings originate from assumptions that are 180° opposite our current assumptions.

So would Jesus have catered a gay wedding? After all, he did consort with publicans and sinners — prostitutes, no doubt male as well as female. Let's look at that incident in Matthew 9:
10 ¶And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples.

11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?

12 But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.

13 But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

He was teaching the sinners and calling them to repentance, not saying "check it out, ye marginalized: carry on! Defy the Man in all his hypocrisy. Be ye edgy and transgressive!"

I imagine that he treated them with all the gentleness of a father who, picking his child up from the mud puddle he fell into, says, "Come on, let's get you cleaned up." No punishments or harshness, to be sure, but he would never have encouraged them to continue sinning, because he would have perceived that sin is to the soul as cancer is to the body: a slow destroyer, not defiance of an arbitrary rule or a fun thing that the squares disapprove of.

I imagine that had he been asked to bake the gay wedding cake, he'd be more likely to take the couple aside and provide loving counsel about the relevant principle (not that anyone today could do that), and the couple would leave feeling loved and valued but without the cake.

If you want a wrathful Jesus, he did consistently unleash his wrath on a particular class of people, and it wasn't on the lost souls living in the streets or Ibrahim Q. Slacker who was behind on his tithes.

It was the educated class of the day, the intelligentsia, the ruling class that earned his wrath. The Scribes were the scriptural scholars, the professors and experts, and the Pharisees were the priests who had been charged with seeing to the spiritual well-being of the populace.

These people, hearing that Jesus was performing miracles such as healing the blind, immediately looked for a way to shut him down because there would be no other religious authority but theirs. So they found a pretext to condemn him: he was healing on the Sabbath.

The nerve. Mark 3:
1 And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand.

 2 And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him.

 3 And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth.

 4 And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace.

 5 And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other.

 6 And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him.
There's the tell. This is how we know that the Pharisees and Scribes were not merely misguided or blind but given over fully to evil and corruption: Had they been misguided they would have been, at a minimum, astounded by a miracle performed right before their eyes. Or if not astounded then skeptical, declaring it a trick of some kind.

But no: upon witnessing an actual miracle, they immediately decided to destroy him. It's what you might call the Serpico Syndrome, wherein one NYPD cop declines to accept the shakedown money, and the rest cannot abide One Honest Man in their midst, so they must—compulsively must—destroy him.

Hence Jesus' many condemnations of those sociopathic, self-righteous, hypocritical little $!@*#s. Matthew 21:
28 ¶But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard.

 29 He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went.

 30 And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not.

 31 Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.

 32 For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him.

That's one of the milder condemnations. You can find many more under "generation of vipers" and "whited sepulchers."

Among their many sins? Coming down like a ton of bricks on people for small infractions while ignoring far greater injustices. Moral posturing to hide their malevolent characters. Matthew 23:

23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

 24 Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.

 25 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.

 26 Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.

 27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.

 28 Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. ...

 33 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?
They sought out any stray word whereby Jesus might be condemned. "And they send unto him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch him in his words" (Mark 12: 13). They posed trick questions, hoping they could use an answer to condemn him either as speaking against Mosaic law or against Rome (paying tribute to Caesar, woman caught in adultery).

Eventually, they managed to whip up a hysterical mob and got the permission of the legal system to execute him.

But hey. That was 2000 years ago. Surely, surely, surely we have progressed beyond all that.


Danger said...

Nice summation.

People that know him generally don't mischaracterize him.

Christ didn't come to give us freedom TO sin. He came to free us FROM sin.

Accommodating gay people's demands to alter marriage won't result in them leading more content and purposeful lives and it won't make us bigger/better people.

Drumwaster said...

People always forget that when they ask "What Would Jesus Do?", that turning over tables and chasing people around with a whip are among the options.

Cee said...

Seconding Drumwaster's comment!

Thank you very much for this; it's been a hard day (spiritually) for me and this is an excellent post.

Roy Jacobsen said...

Nicely put.