Last Thursday I was in my water aerobics class. There is a lady there who I regularly talk with. She is an evangelical Christian and is a minister in her church. I’ve had better talks about God in that pool than I ever have in church.
Today was different. She came up to me and asked me if I’d heard about the whole Duck Dynasty thing. Of course I have. Who hasn’t, by now? I don’t even watch TV and I know about it. The patriarch of this group of rednecks says some pretty harsh things about gay people and the network his show is on fires him.
She starts talking to me about this as if she assumes I’m going to agree with her. I’m reminded of the times when people start to tell me a racist joke, thinking I’m on their side. She smiles really big and says “But we know who is going to win in the end, right?” She means Jesus. She means to say that she thinks this intolerant, judging, backwater man is right, and that she thinks I agree with him.
I took a breath in. I smiled. I’m learning this is a good tactic to disarm people. Because this is disarming. I’m trying to remove a dangerous weapon from her. I’m trying to remove the most dangerous weapon there is – using Jesus as a weapon.
I can’t stand it when people use Jesus as an excuse to hate other people. Of course, they don’t think they are being hateful. They think they are being obedient. They think they are following the Word.
So, I decided to test this minister. She’s studied the Bible longer than I have, and been examined by her church. She is a lay minister, sure, but she had to be certified and tested by them to say she is a minister. So she should be able to answer a simple question.
She didn’t see this coming.
I asked her – “What did Jesus say about homosexuality?”
Full stop. She looked to the side, in deep thought. She was scanning her memory banks. They came up blank, because Jesus didn’t say anything about homosexuality. He talked a lot about love. Part of love is not judging other people. He talked a lot about not judging. It isn’t Christ-like to tell other people what they are doing is wrong.
She fumbled. She had to be right. She said “But Scriptures say that…” and I interrupted. “Not Scriptures. What did JESUS say?”
And then she realized that her whole plan was going wrong. She thought she had an ally. I’ve never challenged her on her homophobia before. I’ve let her talk it out. But I certainly haven’t agreed. I’ve hoped that she would come to the same conclusion that I have – that the only sin is to be hateful and judgmental and to not show love.
As Christians, we follow the commands of Jesus. His commands supersede the rules of the Old Testament. Take whatever rule there is in the Old Testament and measure it up against Jesus’ rules – Does it show love to God? Does it show love to our neighbor (i.e. everybody)? Then do it. If it doesn’t fulfill those parameters, it is optional. This is why Christians can eat bacon cheeseburgers, and don’t have to cover their heads, and don’t have to worry about wearing fabric that is woven from two different materials. These rules don’t push us further in love.
The same thing applies to the words of Paul in the New Testament. If his words measure up against Jesus’ commands to show love, then do them. Otherwise, skip them. Remember, Paul is the same person who said that women shouldn’t speak in church. If they have any questions in church they should be silent, and ask their husbands at home later. (1 Corinthians 14:34-35) If she is going to use Paul’s words against homosexuals, she needs to remember that Paul was totally against women ministers, of which she is one.
Now, she has to prove she’s right, so she goes into Scriptures, even though that isn’t what I asked. She tells about the men in Sodom and Gomorrah who wanted to sodomize the angels. (Genesis 19:4-5)
Fine. I’ve read Scriptures too. I may not be a certified minister, but I know this.
I countered with the fact that Lot volunteered to send out his two virgin daughters instead, to be raped by the crowd of men. (Genesis 19:6-8)
Then I added the fact that after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot’s daughters were convinced that they were the only people left on Earth and that they were responsible for continuing their father’s line. They got their father drunk and had sex with him, and got pregnant. (Genesis 19:30-38)
I pointed out that you can’t talk about homosexuality being wrong in Scriptures without noting that raping virgins and incest is perfectly fine.
This stumped her.
She countered with “Jesus says love the sinner, hate the sin”.
I didn’t have the heart to tell her that Jesus said nothing of the sort. Try to find the verse for that. Try to find anything like that in the Gospels. It just isn’t there. It isn’t there because it isn’t loving.
Jesus didn’t define people as sinners.
Jesus died for everybody’s sins. Jesus died to let us all know that we are free of that debt. Jesus died so that we could live.
Plenty of Christians say that they aren’t judging gay people. They say this in the same way that racists say they aren’t racist. They judge them when they say that being gay is a sin. They judge them when they say they aren’t entitled to the same legal rights that every other adult citizen has. They judge them when they exclude them or limit them, or deride them.
When Christians judge gay people, they aren’t being Christ-like. They just aren’t. The bad part is that they are giving a bad name to Christians. Because they are so vocal in their judgment, they give the impression to non-Christians that being hateful is a hallmark of being Christian. It isn’t.
Love is the answer, always.