Editors' note: John Shore is the author of "Penguins, Pain and the Whole Shebang: Why I Do The Things I Do (by God, as told to John Shore)" and "I'm OK-You're Not: The Message We're Sending Nonbelievers, and Why We Should Stop." He lives with his wife in San Diego and blogs at JohnShore.com.
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 lots of His options are none of mine.)
Wondering what Jesus would do naturally enough led me to the New Testament. And therein I found these quotes:
"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);
and, last but hardly least:
"Love your neighbor as yourself," [said Jesus]. "There is no commandment greater than these." (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 gays and/or lesbians as I spend talking about button collecting and/or sea horses: none. Of course, it's entirely possible that Jesus did say crucial things about homosexuality, but that when he did (curse the luck!) no one around him just then 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.
Kind of the whole point! Jesus most surely did love him some everyday people.
Throughout the New Testament, the only kind of people with whom Jesus consistently took frightful exception were the very "teachers of the law and Pharisees" we see him dressing down in the passages above. One thing that often gets lost in our considerations of 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 him are those who put religious dogma above what he most stood for, which was God's compassionate will.
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 empathy? You transmogrify God's law into a justification for denying God's grace?
Then... yikes, man. Then you've got yourself a problem no one wants.
I'm not exactly sure how we came to so often consider Jesus-formerly-known-as-The-Carpenter as a kind of a soft, dreamy, namby-pamby sort. (Not that there's anything wrong with that!) But it's hard to believe it was 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 name, set themselves up as sanctimonious judgers of others.
I think I better go to the weddings of my gay friends. I'm almost scared not to. In some of his parables Jesus wasn't exactly fortune-cookie clear, but he didn't even almost waffle about his "Love your neighbor as yourself." He very explicitly declared that the "first and greatest commandment."
If there's any wiggle room there, I just don't see it.
So I'll attend my gay friends' weddings, and I'll do so in the exact same spirit I'd expect them to attend a similar function of mine. And if it happens that in the course of either of their weddings or receptions I find myself wondering if I'm doing the right thing, I'll be sure to remember the first miracle of Jesus' recorded in the Bible. It's when he turned water into wine. At a wedding.