This November, the people of the State of California will be voting on Proposition 8 which could ban homosexual marriage in that state. On a site that I ran across called "Gather" (which I gather is a gathering site for gay rights people), an author (Troy W) published a short essay entitled Why California’s Proposition 8 Would Make Jesus Weep in which he said:
In the name of “traditional family values” and spearheaded by conservative Christian groups a measure has been put on the California ballot to, for the first time in California history, add discrimination to the state constitution. This measure has no other purpose than to limit the rights of human beings to legally acknowledge their love for one another and make a binding commitment to one another.
Now, I don't particularly want to get into the merits of this proposition. Needless to say, I disagree with the opinion of Troy W. both as to the purpose and effect of the proposition. I will say that it seems apparent to me that the reason for this proposition is that a lot of citizens of California don't share the same ethical worldview as Troy W and felt that the California Supreme Court overstepped its Constitutional boundaries in dictating as a matter of equal protection that gay marriage should be equated with non-gay marriage. Certainly, there are those of us who disagree that the highest and most important ethical obligation is to promote pleasure.
Most of the essay is the usual pablum against Proposition 8 and limits on homosexual marriage, but what caught my eye was Troy W's statements about Jesus. He said:
In the Bible Jesus teaches us to love our enemies and embrace those whom others would cast out. Jesus led by example when he embraced the lepers and brought the pariahs of his time to sit at his side. He embraced those who others disparaged and ridiculed. He never said that homosexuals were evil. In point of fact he never spoke on the subject anywhere in the Bible. He taught love and acceptance of all even those whom have wronged you. He forgave those who crucified him as he died on the cross. He never said he hated anyone. Truth be told you have to go to the Old Testament to find anything about homosexuality and even then you have to look pretty hard, unless of course you are one of those for whom that passage of the Bible is more important than the actual teachings of Christ in which case you can find the dog-eared page most quickly more than likely.
If you accept that the New Testament is the chronicle of the teachings of Christ then as a follower of Christ you should be opposed to any law that would subjugate a segment of the population for who they happen to love. One of the few times Christ was ever cited as showing real anger was when he went into the Temple and saw people perverting the church for their own gain. Now the so-called followers of Jesus are using religion as a club to scare people into making laws that cause God’s children to be excluded and feel emotional pain unnecessarily. “Judge not lest ye be judged.” “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” That is what Jesus taught. Hate and exclusion is the realm of darkness. Do you think telling people their love is illegitimate is what Jesus would do?
This is part of the typical parsing of the Bible that I have seen coming out of the gay rights movement, and it is an example of really poor thinking. Allow me to break it down by pointing out faulty reasoning in the writing. In doing so, I do want to point out that my writing here is based upon my conservative understanding of the Bible. I know that not everyone who I readily acknowledge as a Christian agrees with this understanding, but that is an in-house discussion that will be going on for years (and in which I am confident the conservative reading will ultimately prevail).
(1) Jesus never said that homosexuals were evil. This is a variation of the argument from silence (argumentum ex silentio). Looking at the argument in syllogistic form reveals the missing term and the flaw in the argument:
Premise One: Jesus never said that homosexuals were evil.
Unstated Premise Two: Whatever Jesus didn't discuss is not evil.
Conclusion: Therefore, Jesus didn't find homosexuality evil.
Now, I don't particularly like the use of the word "evil" here because of the connotation that is carried into our present day society. When people think "evil", they think Halloween or Friday the 13th which are extreme examples of evil. I prefer to make the argument using the word "unethical" because the word "ethic" implies an actual objective moral code, and it puts the argument into a more realistic context using today's vernacular. So, substituting "unethical" for "evil" the syllogism reads:
Premise One: Jesus never said that homosexuals were unethical.
Unstated Premise Two: Whatever Jesus didn't discuss is not unethical.
Conclusion: Therefore, Jesus didn't find homosexuality unethical.
Obviously, Premise One is true (as long as one understands that we are dealing with what Jesus directly said), and the conclusion is the conclusion that Troy W wants the reader to reach. However, to get from Premise One to the Conclusion, one must pass through Premise Two (or something similar). Is there any reason to believe that Premise Two is true? Jesus never mentioned rape, does that mean he thought it isn't unethical? Does the fact that Jesus never mentioned torture mean that it isn't unethical? Obviously, It doesn't follow from Jesus' non-mention of something (either approving or disapproving) that He approved of it. It means, rather, that it wasn't something that we can say he addressed in his three year ministry. To assume that Jesus' non-mention of homosexuality is some sort of silent affirmation of homosexuality is to make an unwarranted leap to a not-so-certain conclusion.
In fact, isn't it true that if Jesus' non-mention of homosexuality could be seen as affirmation of the practice then it's equally valid to argue that Jesus' non-mention of homosexuality can be understood as rejection of the practice? After all, Jesus spent a great deal of time pointing out how the Jewish Priests and Pharisees had distorted God's law, which means that Jesus' failure to address this particular "distortion" proof that Jesus approved of the practice? Obviously, if the failure to mention homosexuality can be seen to support Troy W's position, then the failure to mention it can equally support condemnation of the practice.
Now, Troy W's argument may not be fallacious if the argument can be made that Jesus didn't condemn homosexuality when he was confronted with the issue. However, nowhere in any of the four Gospels is there any account that Jesus was confronted with the opportunity to either affirm or condemn homosexuality. It simply isn't there. Thus, the fact that Jesus never addresses homosexuality cannot be seen as some type of silent affirmation of the practice.
2. In point of fact he never spoke on the subject anywhere in the Bible. It is certainly true that Jesus never directly addressed the subject of homosexuality. However, the Bible as a whole is not silent on the subject. It does refer to it as a sin -- in fact, it identifies it as an "abomination" (Leviticus 18:22) and as "shameless lusts" and "indecent acts" (Romans 1:26-27). Jesus Himself said that he had not come to abolish the Law (including Leviticus), but to fulfill the law. (Matthew 5:17). In other words, Jesus did not say that the law does not identify sin anymore, but rather that he had come to free us from the consequences of that sin.
Consequently, the fact that Jesus never spoke about homosexuality does not mean that the Biblical teachings on the subject as a whole are void and without effect. They are still binding, but the punishment has been taken away because of the work of the cross.
3. He taught love and acceptance of all even those whom have wronged you. He did teach love, and He did teach that all people can attain the Kingdom of God. However, Jesus did not teach acceptance of the actions of all people. Yes, He sat down with the sinners, but the limited times that the Bible discusses Jesus' interactions with these sinners they are identified as people most in need of God's forgiveness. Jesus points out that those who are healthy don't need a healer (Matthew 9:10-13). The woman who cleaned Jesus' feet with tears was also identified as a sinner. (Luke 7:36-50). If anything, Jesus teaches that those He went to (and who came to him) were most in need of His mercy and forgiveness -- not that he accepted what they did.
4. Jesus never said he hated anyone. True. However, the Bible says that God hates those who do wrong (Psalm 5:5) while at the same time loving them enough to offer forgiveness if they turn from their evil ways. Moreover, Jesus didn't hesitate to show His contempt for those who distorted God's Word for their own purposes (Matthew 23). Make no mistake -- God is a God of love, but that does not mean that God is equally accepting of all activity as either acceptable or sin-free.
5. You have to go to the Old Testament to find anything about homosexuality. No, despite attempts by some to have the verses in Romans (Romans 1:26-27) apply only to cultic prostitution, these efforts are largely baseless (in the opinion of many). There are also references to homosexuality as a sin in one of the other letters which I can't find that quickly because my edition of the Bible isn't dog-eared to those pages.
6. If you accept that the New Testament is the chronicle of the teachings of Christ then as a follower of Christ you should be opposed to any law that would subjugate a segment of the population for who they happen to love. If I believed that love was the highest and only ethic, I would agree with this statement. However, a solid understanding of the Biblical teaching requires a synthesis of the teachings as a whole. Christians are not free to ignore the remaining teachings of the Bible about sin and leading Godly lives and still be consistent with the teachings of the entire Word of God.
7. One of the few times Christ was ever cited as showing real anger was when he went into the Temple and saw people perverting the church for their own gain. Yes, he saw people perverting something that was holy. Since God has set his imprimatur on marriage between a man and a woman (Genesis 1 and 2) but has never done the same for homosexuality (which a conservative reading would say has clearly identified as sinful and not blessed), it seems to me that it is the people who are trying to claim that Jesus would support homosexual marriage who are "perverting the church for their own gain."
8. “Judge not lest ye be judged.” Christians are not to judge whether a person has sufficient saving faith. Christians are to judge actions and behaviors as either consistent or inconsistent with the teachings of the church (e.g., 1 Corinthians 5). Almost immediately after saying "Judge not lest ye be judged" in Luke 6:37, Jesus states that Christians are to identify good trees and bad trees by its fruit, i.e., they are supposed to judge a person's heart by their actions (Luke 6:43-45). Moreover, God has judged and will judge (Romans 2).
9. “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” This phrase from John 8 is an admonition to be merciful and forgiving in light of our own sin. This verse is usually cited as a club against Christians not to identify sin, but the people who cite this verse always forget the end of the account. There, Jesus tells the woman who was a sinner and about to be stoned, "Go now and leave your life of sin." The account does not say that Jesus wanted her to continue in her sinful ways, and Christians, likewise, warn about sin and oppose its casual acceptance.
10. Do you think telling people their love is illegitimate is what Jesus would do? I think that Jesus would tell the truth. If the overall Biblical teaching on this subject is accurate (and I strongly contend that it is) then Jesus would not lie and say that He approves of homosexual marriage. Rather, he would say, "Go now and leave your life of sin."