The Tulip Driven Life Podcast

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Slate Asks: Was Jesus A Homophobe?




By: Sean Rice

An American publication named Slate recently published an article by Will Oremus called 'Was Jesus a Homophobe?'* Surprisingly, given that it is a pretty left-leaning publication, I actually agree with a lot of what Oremus had to say. He doesn't seem to stretch facts to come to favourable conclusions. He does criticize Paul for wording things a little harshly when it comes to homosexuality (most Christians would criticize Paul's use of language, too - how many of you would stay if your pastor dismissively told the troublemakers in your church to castrate themselves? See Galatians 5.12), though I don't disagree with the strong tone that Paul sometimes takes on issues. Will Oremus writes,
'[Was Jesus a homophobe?] Yes and no. While it's reasonable to assume that Jesus and his fellow Jews in first-century Palestine would have disapproved of gay sex, there is no record of his ever having mentioned homosexuality, let alone expressed particular revulsion about it. In Leviticus, the Old Testament declares it "an abomination" for a man to lie with a man; the punishment was death. It’s possible that attitudes would have been less draconian in Galilee, the region in northern Israel where Jesus spent most of his life, since it did have a reputation for political autonomy. Still, Jews of the time tended to be less sexually permissive than those in Rome or Egypt, so same-sex relationships would have been kept quiet... 
...Even if Jesus viewed homosexuality as a sin, he had a penchant for reaching out to sinners rather than shunning them. Criticized by the Pharisees for dining with tax collectors, he likened sinners to lost sheep; the goal was to bring them back into the fold. Not all of Jesus’ followers took such a tender view, however. In Romans I, Paul denounced gay sex as unnatural—an example of pagan decadence—and said it would bring the wrath of God.'
MY FAVOURITE PART OF SLATE'S ARTICLE
I love that last paragraph. 'Even if Jesus viewed homosexuality as a sin, he had a penchant for reaching out to sinners rather than shunning them. Criticized by the Pharisees for dining with tax collectors, he likened sinners to lost sheep; the goal was to bring them back into the fold.' I volunteer extensively in a small church in Saskatchewan, and while there are some pretty open-minded -yet theologically conservative- people in the Christian community, the desire to be 'reaching out to sinners rather than shunning them' isn't a desire that is shared by everybody. On this, we Christians desperately need to follow Jesus.

ADDING MY TWO CENTS TO THE DISCUSSION
It is worth adding that Jesus more than likely believed that homosexuality was a sin. He taught this. InMark 7.20-21 Jesus explained that 'what comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, comes... sexual immorality'. That Jesus would so casually, and without explanation, mention sexual immorality means that those he taught would likely have had a shared definition of what it was. That shared definition likely came from the list in Leviticus 18.1-30, where homosexuality is listed inLeviticus 18.22. In that small, passing reference at least, Jesus did teach on homosexuality and at least a dozen other sorts of sexual immorality. The fact that it rarely came up in Jesus' teaching suggests it wasn't a common practice in Galilee or Judea during the early 30's when Jesus was fulfilling his ministry.

We can't say that Jesus didn't teach on the subject. What we can do is reach out rather than shun.

That's all for today,
-Sean

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*Oremus, Will, 'Was Jesus a Homophobe?' For the full article, visit here.

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