From the archives: What Would Jesus Do If Invited to a Gay Wedding?
When I first published this piece, in July of 2008, I did so on Crosswalk.com, the largest/most-read Christian website in the world. (It's owned by the Christian media juggernaut Salem Media Group, which basically owns Christian radio in this country.) I had a regular column on Crosswalk; every week, for five years, I went toe-to-toe as the site's most popular (read: most read) writer with my fellow Crosswalk columnist Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and one of America's most prominent evangelical leaders. So . . . that was fun.
And so weird, because this piece is extremely typical of the stuff that Crosswalk somehow allowed me to continue posting on their site—that they paid me to write, actually. Which was amazing, and something for which I'm still grateful. In 2008 George W. Bush was president, he was meeting once a week with the owner of Salem Media to make sure his messaging was simpatico with the 16.3 million Southern Baptists who constituted what was by far the largest and most culturally dominant Protestant denomination in America—and the idea that a straight Christian with any online readership whatsoever would dare to even hint at the idea that being gay isn't a sin was absolutely unheard of. (And I can definitely vouch for that, because I spent years trying to get any Christian leader—especially any of the leading so-called progressive Christians at the time—to join me in calling for full LGBT equality within Christianity. Not a one of them dared to do it—until, by around 2011-2012, it finally became safe enough for them to do so.)
This piece seems quaint enough now—and you can see how carefully I tread throughout it: as with everything I wrote on Crosswallk, there's nothing in it that even the most stridently right-wing evangelical can actually object to. But at the time this thing went off like a bomb. I can't say that this piece is the opening salvo of the war that ultimately led to the splitting of the American Christian church over the issue of LGBT equality within it. I have heard that's true—but of course I can't be the one to say it. So I won't be.
But here it is:
I’ve recently been invited to a couple of gay weddings. So—what with being Christian and all—I asked myself the famous question, “What would Jesus do?” (Which I don’t too often ask myself, actually, since Jesus could, for instance, raise people from the dead and turn water into wine, whereas I can barely drag myself out of bed in the morning and/or turn water into coffee. Safe to say many of His options are none of mine.)
Wondering what Jesus would do if he were invited to a gay wedding naturally led me to the New Testament. And therein I found these quotes from Jesus himself:
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices — mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law — justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. (Matthew 23:23-24)
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. (Matthew 23:13)
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are. (Matthew 23:15)
Love your neighbor as yourself. (Mark 12:31)
When I next went looking for anywhere in the Bible where Jesus says anything—and I mean anything—about homosexuality, I learned that Jesus spent about as much time talking about gay people as I do talking about the belly-buttons of seahorses.
Of course, it’s entirely possible that Jesus did say many crucially informative things about gay people, but that when he did so no one around him happened to have handy an ostrich feather, sappy stick, or whatever it was they used for pens back then. Which would make sense, actually. If you’ve spent any time at all reading the New Testament, you know that Jesus’ disciples weren’t exactly Johnnies-on-the-spot. They were just normal, everyday guys.
Which I think is kind of the whole point. Jesus sure did love him some everyday people.
Throughout the New Testament, the only kind of people with whom Jesus consistently takes frightful exception are the very “teachers of the law and Pharisees” whom we see him dressing down in the passages above. One thing that often gets lost in our ideas about Jesus is the degree to which he is exactly the wrong person to piss off. And you don’t have to spend a lot of time in the New Testament before you understand that the only kind of people who seem to ever truly anger Jesus are those who put religious dogma above what he most clearly stood for, which was God’s love.
Around Jesus you can whine, lie, shift your loyalties, be late, be greedy, be too ambitious, be stupid, be a coward, be a hypochondriac, constantly complain, fall asleep at every wrong moment—you can do nothing right, and it won’t in the slightest way seem to offend him.
But you put dogma ahead of love? You transmogrify God’s law into a justification for denying God’s love?
Then yikes, man. Then you’ve got yourself a problem no one in this world wants.
I’m not sure how exactly we came to so often consider Jesus the soft and dreamy, namby-pamby type. But it’s hard to believe it came from the accounts of Jesus we have in the Gospels. That’s just not the guy on those pages.
Jesus is scary when he’s riled. And the only people who rile him are those who, in his own name (what with him being God and all), set themselves up as sanctimonious judges of others.
I think I better go to the weddings of my gay friends. I’m scared not to. While it’s certainly true that in many of his parables it’s unclear what exactly Jesus was saying or meant, he didn’t even almost waffle about his “Love your neighbor as yourself.” In conjunction with “Love the Lord your God with [everything you’ve got],” he very explicitly declared that to be the greatest commandment, the one upon which hangs “all the law and the prophets.”
How in the world am I supposed to argue with that? Talk about having God eliminate your options.
So I’ll attend my gay friends’ weddings, in the exact same spirit gay friends of mine once attended my own wedding. And if it happens that in the course of either of my friends’ weddings or receptions I find myself wondering if I’m doing the morally correct thing, I’ll be sure to remember the first miracle of Jesus’ recorded in the Bible. I’ll remember what he did do.
I’ll remember that Jesus turned water into wine.
At a wedding.