Jesus, Marriage, and Homosexuality | Leroy Huizenga | CWR
The early Christians, following the lead of Jesus, doubled down on traditional Jewish sexual morality.
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decisions striking down the substance of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s Proposition 8, Jesus’ opinion—or lack thereof—on homosexuality has received renewed attention. In a crass fundraising email running the risk of violating the Second Commandment, Mike Huckabee wrote, “My immediate thoughts on the SCOTUS ruling that determined that same sex marriage is okay: ‘Jesus wept,’” while social media ran rampant with memes of Catholic comedian Stephen Colbert’s words from a show in early May 2012: “And I right now would like to read to you what the Jesus said about homosexuality. I’d like to, except he never said anything about it.”
Colbert’s claim is common, and it’s effective because it’s true: Jesus did not directly address the matter. But it does not follow that Jesus’ words and example have no relevance for marriage, sex, and family, nor that modern Christians should approve of gay marriage. A few observations:
First, Jesus was a Jew who inherited Jewish Scripture and tradition. Jesus did not drop out of the sky to bring a brand new set of moral teachings de novo. If he did, perhaps his apparent lack of attention to sex and sexuality would be striking. But the Jesus of the Gospels—especially Matthew, the First Gospel in so many significant ways—is a conservative Jew, as was in all likelihood the so-called historical Jesus behind the Gospels. And whether we're talking about the historical Jesus or the Jesus of the Gospels, Jesus stands well within the breadth of Jewish tradition. Thus, it's not true that things Jesus doesn't spend an inordinate amount of time on or doesn't mention are unimportant. Rather, we should assume that those things in Jewish tradition which Jesus doesn't overturn or reinterpret are assumed. Sure, Jesus doesn't outright forbid homosexual practices in the Gospels. But he doesn't have to, because Jesus' Judaism did.
Assuming that religion is a matter of prohibitions, in debates over sexuality people often assume that Jesus came simply to forbid certain behaviors, and if he didn't forbid something, it's therefore licit. The principle would be "Scripture permits anything not expressly forbidden." But why assume that hermeneutical posture?