Was Jesus wrong about homosexuality?

gods_design_for_marriage_umjrThis is written for those who consider themselves to be followers of Jesus Christ.

Gay marriage has dominated the headlines in every major media source these past few days. Equal signs are everywhere in social media. Lawyers debate the “legality” of same-sex marriage. Proponents of gay marriage proclaim this as the new “civil rights movement.”

Often missing in this conversation is what God has to say about it.

That makes sense, I suppose, because the focus has been on the legality and not the spirituality of it. The Supreme Court doesn’t care what the Bible has to say. In a legal system that intentionally separates itself from the Church and Church teachings, how could one argue against it? Arguing against same-sex marriage without the foundation of God’s revelation is an uphill, if not impossible, battle. The lawyers tried to do that before the Supreme Court last week, and in a few months will see how that works out.

I’m not here to talk about the legal issues—I think those have been talked to death enough in the media. As a Christian, I’m happy when the law coincides with my faith, but I don’t necessarily expect it to happen. We who follow Christ are, “in the world but not of the world” (cf. John 15:19.)

What is more troubling to me is the common argument that, were Jesus Christ alive today, he would support same-sex marriage and homosexual activity. Few people are brazen enough to say that statement so boldly, but I find that underlying many arguments.

Take for example Dan Savage’s speech in his anti-bullying talks. He says, “the Bible was wrong about slavery and its wrong about homosexuality.” As if the slavery mentioned in the Bible had any comparison to the horrific kinds of slavery that was legal in the United States or currently goes on in the world (slavery in Scripture was more of an indentured servitude than a lack of freedom and rights. If anything, Scripture made it clear that even if someone is a slave, they are still part of the family of God should be treated as such.)

The heart of his argument is that even the Old Testament is out of date with the New Testament. Laws changed from the Old to the New, so why not homosexuality as well?

He has a point there. The morality expected of followers of Jesus Christ is different than what was expected of the Jews. But it wasn’t “changed.” It was elevated.

For example, the Sixth Commandment stated, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” For the Jews that was a specific action: you cannot sleep with another man’s wife. Jesus, however, elevated and fulfilled that commandment: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28.)

He did the same with marriage. “Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery” (Matthew 19:8.)

The impression that some have that the Old Testament is “really strict” but the New Testament is “really loose” couldn’t be farther from the truth. Jesus not only cared about our outward actions but also our inward ones. That means the morality of Christ is elevated, not weakened. He said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Profits. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17.)

And yet when it comes to homosexuality, many suggest (explicitly or implicitly) that Jesus “abolished” that law. I don’t see that anywhere in the Bible.

Of course, it’s a common argument to suggest that if Jesus were alive today he might say different things, as if he was “held back” by the culture at the time. Such a statement is ridiculous. Jesus hung out with tax collectors and prostitutes, told the Jewish people that the Temple would be destroyed, and knew that He would be killed in the most violent and reprehensible way a person could be killed. So at what point do you think He was scared to tell the truth? At what moment was He worried and thought to Himself, “Wow, I can’t say that! I’ll just have to wait for humanity to mature a bit.”

Jesus said that He was, “the Way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6.) He was either right or He wasn’t.

There are billions of people in this world who think that he was wrong. In fact, many specifically don’t believe in Christ over this very issue (though most other world religious agree.) I respect that. But what concerns me is the growing amount of Christians who are silent, or even becoming supportive of, these cultural issues of homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

Did Jesus ever specifically speak about homosexuality? No, He didn’t use that word. But He did speak about the importance of marriage and what it was really about: “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?’” (Matthew 19:4-5.) In the context of that teaching, His message was clear: marriage is for a man and a woman, and sex is a part of marriage.

Though it sounds culturally harsh to even state this simple truth, people of the same gender can’t have sex with each other. They can simulate it, but that’s all. Their bodies weren’t made for such an interaction. They were not “made for each other.”

Again, saying things like that in today’s culture makes you sound like a bigot. It’s not “right” to suggest that the sexual activity between two men or two women are any different, or better, than a man and a woman. But there is a difference.

The even deeper issue regards our gender. Does being a man mean I just have a penis? If I’m surgically altered can I be a woman? Same-sex marriage argues that gender is irrelevant in marriage. It also argues that gender difference is unnecessary for raising a child. Decades of sociological research that said a child was best served by being raised by a man and a woman, a mother and a father, are being ignored. “That was just in reference to single mothers,” the critics say.

And now we get to the difficult issues. Am I saying that a homosexual couple can’t raise a child with love and support? No. Because a single mother can raise a child with love and support. But it’s not the ideal. There is a reason why God created us as man and as woman, created man and woman for each other, and why their sexual union brings about life. Children should be raised by the mother and father who created them.

But what of all the children given up for adoption? If the mother and father aren’t available to raise those children, then another man or woman becoming their mother and father is the next best thing.

I imagine I’ve upset and even offended some people by writing that last statement. Some writers like to write offensive things to get attention. That’s not what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to highlight the truth of what Christ taught. And God did not give us his revelation to belittle us or enslave us. He came to give us the truth, “and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32.) God’s truth is often in contrast to what the world believes. But He came to tell us what was right, not what we want to believe.

Again, there are many who don’t agree with what the Bible or Jesus taught. And so their support of same-sex marriage makes total sense. If we were not created in the image and likeness of God, if we were just amoebas who crawled out of some primordial soup, if there is no plan and purpose for our lives and our gender is merely a biological accident, then what does it matter?

If you are a follower of Christ, then it does matter. Gender matters. Sex matters. Marriage matters.

I am heartbroken to hear that many psychologists today are not allowed to help people overcome their same-sex attractions. There are many who argue people are “born that way” when it comes to same-sex attractions, but that’s not accurate. (To be clear: the Church teaches that same sex attractions are not sinful.) There are many who manifest same-sex attractions and behaviors because of conditions, and even trauma, in their life. I know a number of them who through counseling have been restored to heterosexuality.

I actually had to think a bit before I got to the word “restored” because I know “cured” or “healed” would be offensive. And that’s why many psychologists aren’t allowed to deal with the issue. If you can be “cured” of same-sex attractions, aren’t you suggesting it’s a disease?

But I wonder what would happen if a heterosexual came in to a counselor’s office and said, “could you help me have same-sex attractions?” If we truly believe in freedom and equality, and we acknowledge the power and benefit of psychological counseling, why can’t somebody use that science to help them be the person they want to be? If someone doesn’t want to have same-sex attractions, why can’t they have a professional help them?

Christians who are silent on these issues often try to have a “live and let live” mentality. But the real issue here is not about accepting diversity—it ends up being about forcing conformity. In Massachusetts, Catholic Charities had to stop providing adoptions because they were being forced to place children with same-sex couples. In England, Christian and Catholic schools are not allowed to teach what the Bible teaches about sexuality because the Bible is “anti-gay.” Already in public schools in the United States children are taught that gender doesn’t matter.

The equality that’s being talked about so much these days ends up being quite “unequal” where Christians are concerned. And here we find the problem with a society that pretends to embrace everybody’s diverse beliefs. When someone believes something is “true,” that implies that there are also things they believe that are “false.” There’s a serious conflict here. And if people of Christian faith aren’t more vocal and respectfully engage in this conversation (which is what I’m trying to encourage with this blog) then being silent means losing our “rights.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, talking about the second coming of Christ, says that, “the persecution that accompanies (the Church’s) pilgrimage on earth will unveil the ‘mystery of inequity’ in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy against the truth” (CCC 675.) The definition of “apostasy” is: “the abandonment or renunciation of a religious or political belief” (The New Oxford American Dictionary.) There are many followers of Christ who are tempted to abandon their religious (and political) belief because it seems the easy solution or because they are deceived into an false image of Christ who taught us to “accept everybody, challenge nobody.” But Jesus was never afraid to challenge his followers, even when it led to persecution.

John Paul II wrote, “Following Christ, the Church seeks the truth, which is not always the same as the majority opinion” (John Paul II, Familaris Consortio, 11.) Though it’s unpopular to say, I believe in the teachings of Jesus Christ. I believe Him when He said that marriage was made for a man and for a woman. I believe God when He spoke that we were made as male and as female, and that man and woman were created to be one flesh.

I also believe it when He said that we were all made in the image and likeness of God. I believe it when Jesus said that we are to, “love one another as I have loved you.” I don’t believe anyone should be denied the respect and dignity that comes with being a child of God because of their beliefs, their sexual attraction, their ethnicity, or any reason. That’s not just my opinion but also the Catholic Church’s: “(People with same sex attractions) must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided” (CCC 2358.)

That’s not a small point. The greatest commandment is love. There are those who believe the source of the bullying, discrimination, and violence against people with same sex attractions is the fault of Christianity and the Bible. I won’t deny there are some who claim to be Christian but act like the devil, especially on this issue. But they’re not the majority, and even if they were, they’re not right. Christianity teaches to love those you disagree with, even those who persecute you. I’ll be the first to admit that followers of Christ (like me) don’t often live up to His teachings. But Christ is the only way we can live with our differences and live in peace. For an example of what happens when you completely remove Christian morality from politics, see at what happened to Germany under Hitler. Jews, Catholics, and homosexuals all perished together in those concentration camps.

We all have the right to be treated with dignity. But Christ tells us that sex and marriage isn’t a “right.” It is a gift, and should be honored and protected as such. I’m sure it is painful for people with same-sex attractions to not have been given that gift. To not be able to have sex with each other. To not become “one flesh” and create life together. But changing the legality of marriage does not change the reality of marriage. And the consequences of doing so are far reaching.

PS. This blog wasn’t intended to give a complete overview of the Catholic Church’s teaching on sex and homosexuality. For a fuller treatment, go here.

(As always, you are welcome to post comments. I’m not sure how many will read this blog, or how many want to comment, but the last time I wrote a controversial blog I spent the whole day monitoring and editing and responding to comments. As a married man with kids and a full-time job, I’m afraid I don’t have time to do that. I said what I wanted to in my blog; you can say what you like in the comments. Unlike previous blogs, I’m allowing all comments to go unfiltered, and I ask that everyone would be respectful in tone towards each other, free from profanity, and not necessarily feel that every statement has to be responded to. I reserve the right to remove anything vulgar, demeaning, or obscene.)

Where’s the Body?

Sempronis and Alexander, the Roman soldiers assigned to guard Jesus’ tomb, have a problem. The body is gone. What do they tell Pilate? This film critiques arguments posed by those who deny the resurrection (Christ’s body was stolen, He didn’t really die, etc.)

The Great Silence

christ-helping-adam-and-eve-from-their-tomb-flanked-by-saint-john-the-baptist-and-abelThis ancient and anonymous Holy Saturday homily is a part of today’s Office of Readings. So many times, Holy Saturday seems as the “in between” day between Good Friday and the Easter vigil. But we as a Church celebrate something special today. Read on and be inspired:

Something strange is happening—there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.

He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”

I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated.

For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.

See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.

I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.

Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.

Marching for Life in the UK

IMG_1948Why are Pro-Life marches always done in the freezing cold?

While studying here in Birmingham (England, not Alabama) I got news of a March for Life occurring on Sunday. My fellow students are I were pretty excited about it, and Maryvale Institute rearranged our sessions so we could all be there. Apparently, it was only the second March for Life in the UK, and the one in Birmingham was for the whole country.

It was a different kind of excitement to march in Birmingham as opposed to Washington, DC. In DC, it was amazing to be a part of such a huge event—over half a million people. But in the UK, I was one of hundreds, not hundreds of thousands. I’m poor with numbers, but I’d say there were seven to eight hundred people there (if you were there, correct me in the comments.)

It also gave me the opportunity to learn more about abortion in the UK. Abortion has been legal in England since 1967. They now have about 200,000 abortions each year, and the amount of abortions since it was legalized is estimated between 7 and 8 million.

Though they have had legalized abortion longer than we have, they haven’t had as many organized pro-life events. 40 Days for Life began in the UK just recently, and the speakers at the March noted how young the Pro-Life movement was, both in age and in participation: like DC, many of the participants were young adults.

We turned many heads as we walked through the busy shopping district of Birmingham. We all held yellow balloons that said LIFE. Though ecumenical, it was clearly driven by the Catholic Church—there were many priests, religious, and seminarians, all praying the rosary and singing songs to our Lady as we walked through the streets. The organizers warned us that their might be some hostility, but the attitude of most of the onlookers was more of curiosity than condemnation. I don’t think they’ve ever seen something like that before.

Being so small, they didn’t shut down roads for us. There were some folks to help us cross streets, but at times the front half had to wait for the second half to get through the crosswalks. That’s actually one of the things I thought was so cool about the event. In DC, you’re surrounded by other Pro-Lifers. Here, you were surrounded by the everyday culture.

And it was cold. SO cold. I’m not sure if it was colder than DC or just felt that way because I wasn’t prepared for it. By the end I was limping because my feet were numb. But I was only wearing flimsy PF Flyers and it was snowing outside. Next year, I’ll bring boots.

For those I got to meet at the march, it was a blessing! Let us all continue to pray for an end to abortion in the US, the UK, and the entire world.

Videos! And an update on Bobby (and me.)

Ouch.

If you’re not into reading X-rays, let me explain it to you: see that big crack in the femur? Yeah, that shouldn’t be there.

Two weeks ago my son Bobby (10 years old) was playing basketball. He fell backwards and everyone heard a loud CRACK! If you think that’s an unusual way to break a femur, it is. The doctors have diagnosed him with “fibrus dysplasia,” a weakening of the bone. That makes his already difficult recovery longer, and perhaps means he will need future surgeries to “augment” the bone.

Needless to say, it’s been a crazy few weeks. I was at the airport about to get on a plane to Michigan when I got the call. I had to cancel the event, but of course I knew the Holy Spirit would take care of it (He did.) To all in Wixon, sorry I missed out and hope to see you next year!

After spending five days at a hospital and two days in my living room (Bobby can’t yet climb stairs) I drove to Syracuse for the “Race to the Cross Rally” and then down to Philadelphia for the “Generation Phaith” conference. I brought my band with me and we had a great time, though my heart was a bit heavy with things going on at home.

And then on Monday, I flew off to England, which is where I’m writing from now.

How could I leave my family in such a state of crisis? I’ve been asking myself that, too 🙂 As we all know, sometimes things just need to get done. A residency requirement is part of keeping me in my doctoral program, but the good folks have shortened my time here so I’m coming home next week (instead of the following.) And thankfully my mom flew in to help around the house while I’m gone.

I’m grateful for all who have been praying for us during this time. Your love and support mean a lot.

And now for something completely different…

Videos! A number of my scripts have come to life over the past few months, and I’ve been delinquent in posting them. So here they are. Hope you are blessed by them and can use them in your ministry.

That One Day

Jesus Christ’s one day on the cross made our eternity in heaven possible. A reflection on “He suffered, died, and was buried. On the third day He rose again.”

My Prayer During Lent

Lord Jesus, I pray that I might have…

 

The righteousness of Noah

The obedience of Abraham

The faith of Moses

The heart of David

The mind of Solomon

The spirit of Elijah

The purity of Joseph

The humility of John the Baptist

The boldness of Peter

The love of John the Apostle

The zeal of Paul

 

In short, Lord Jesus, help me be like you.

Just in Time for Lent

The 40-Day Spiritual Workout! (Wampa not included.)
The 40-Day Spiritual Workout! (Wampa not included.)

Look what arrived in the mail last week! It’s the brand-new, fancy-looking “40-Day Spiritual Workout.” Now on paper!

I’ve got a tell you, I am really impressed with the way Servant Publications put this thing together. The cover looks cool, the layout inside is sharp, and the whole book is square! Not “square” as in “un-cool,” but square from a geometric perspective.

And in this case, it is hip to be square.

You might wonder why you would spend nine dollars to buy a book that you can get in a free iPhone app, or a free daily email through Steubenville.org. That’s what I wondered about when Servant Publications approached me to do this book. I told them a free iPhone app and email was in the works, and I was even working on a podcast. But they still thought there was a market for it.

Now that I am holding the book in my hands, I understand what they’re talking about. There’s a lot of really cool things I like about the book even better than the iPhone app.

The thing I like most about the book is there is more Scripture in it. Due to copyright restrictions, I was limited as to how much Scripture I could put in the iPhone. But in the book it’s all there – everything I intended it to have in the first place.

By “all there” I mean the chapter and verses, but not the text itself. And that’s another thing I really like about this book. It makes you open your Bible and read the text directly instead of reading a snippet of it. That way, if you want, you can read what came before or came after the text. I think it is so important that people get comfortable flipping the pages of their own Bible.

I included the Scriptural text in the iPhone app (as well as the daily emails) because those are designed for people on the go. But someone reading a book is more likely to be sitting down and taking time to read — which is also more conducive to a deeper prayer experience.

Finally, and this point probably only pertains to me and the English nerds out there, I like the book because it is written better. Servant Publications had a great copy editor who went over everything I wrote and helped fix all the grammatical mistakes.

I’m so excited that the 40-Day Spiritual Workout is now available as a book, an iPhone app, and a daily email devotional. Hopefully by this summer I’ll have an audio version of it as well. The app has had over 2500 downloads, and about 1000 other people have signed up for email blasts. People frequently share with me how blessed they were by doing that devotional, and I can’t tell you how happy I am to have helped so many people have a deeper prayer life.

If you haven’t done it yet, give it a try! Just in time for Lent.

To buy the book, go here.

Download the free iPhone app, go here

To sign up for daily emails, go here.

PS. The name of the book is “40-Day Spiritual Workout for Catholics.” The name of the iPhone app is “40 Day Spiritual Workout for Catholic Teens.” But the content is the same—the app isn’t a “teen” version of the book.  The iPhone developers created it as a follow-up resource for teenagers at the Steubenville Summer Youth Conference; the book publisher wanted to brand it for a wider audience. And I guess “40-Day” is more grammatically correct than “40 Day.” Oops.

The Eucharist and You

Jimmy is an all American Kid! He’s got great friends and a loving family and also performs well in school and sports. He also goes to church and receives great strength from a very important source of life.