“You know what Jesus said about gay marriage? NOTHING.”
I’ve read/heard this argument quite a lot recently. It makes a certain level of sense, too. Christians are generally the ones who oppose the recent legal decisions to allow for marriage between same-sex couples. Christians care about what Jesus says. Jesus never directly said anything about whether or not gay people should or should not be married in anyway. He never says anything about gay people, if you mean that he never references their sexuality. That’s true.
Of course, arguments from silence are generally pretty weak. And considering Jesus does mention things about being a pretty big fan of the Old Testament Law (“I did not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it… not even the smallest stroke of the pen will pass away from it until its fulfilled”) and he seems to reaffirm the mixed gender nature of marriage (Matthew 19:4-5), the argument from silence seems even weaker. I think it’s a fun, easy thing to throw (or spit angrily) in someone’s face, but it doesn’t mean a whole lot. There’s lots of things that Jesus doesn’t talk about.
Man-made climate change? Jesus never said anything about that. (And don’t you even start with me on that one, super conservative reader out there.)
Internet pornography? Nothing.
Child labor? Zero.
Women’s voting rights? Not a peep.
Sustainable development? Not even close to being there.
The reality that autumn is the best season but you don’t have to throw pumpkins in every edible/potable thing on earth? Not a word. (But you all know it’s true.)
I could go on and on. I think things Jesus says have connections to all of those things (ok maybe not the pumpkin thing), but he doesn’t directly address any of those. And just because he’s silent does not mean he’s a) actually silent on the issue or b) on your side on the issue. That’s just you drawing a stick figure of a man and filling in whatever details you like on particular issues.
Jesus tends to get drawn into everyone’s team in defense of their morally superior cause, but many people want Campaign Jesus and don’t seem to care about Actual Jesus. The best source of Jesus information is, of course, the Bible. So if you want Jesus on your side, you better be willing to do Bible work. If you don’t want anything to do with the Bible, then just leave Jesus out of this.
I don’t say this to chastise liberals on gay marriage. I say this to conservatives, too. Just the other week I was reading some comments from Jeb Bush about the Pope. I didn’t know Bush is Catholic (because I don’t care… because I don’t follow presidential elections before there’s even candidates). But I was shocked to hear him say, basically, “The Pope is my Pope, but he should probably stay out of the realms of science and economics.” Well, for one, I’m not sure Bush’s bishop would approve of that kind of stance towards the Pope. And two, I don’t think Jesus works that way either. “Here Jesus. You can talk to me about x, y, and z. But I’ll figure out a, b, and c without the help of the Church.”
Look, Jesus doesn’t fit into political boxes very nicely. He tends to wreck boxes. I have a feeling that Jesus would say enough things to politicians that would make everyone convinced that he was both for and against them. And they’d probably be right! If you think Jesus would agree with everything you believe and do, you’re not thinking about what Jesus is like. You’re thinking about what you’re like and you’re calling that God.
Jesus was assassinated. Jesus was hated and killed by powers both religious and political. If the Jesus whose silence you quote won’t mess with you enough to make you want to kill him every once in a while, you likely don’t care about the real Jesus at all. You just want a line or an idea to comfort you at night. Jesus doesn’t need to be footnoted in your discourse. You need to get on board with Jesus’ discourse.
The great challenge with Jesus these days is to not hold our hands up to our ears when he starts to say things we don’t like. And it’s to not stuff our words in his mouth when he isn’t saying exactly what we’d like. The challenge with Jesus is to treat him like an actual person who has actual things to say and may step on your toes and mine when he says them. Your “Jesus never said” argument is not impressive. And your “Jesus can’t disagree with me on this” nonsense is infuriating.
Jesus was not claiming to be your personal argument monkey. He’s not your spiritual PlayDoh to form into whatever you like. Jesus was calling himself Lord and Master. I don’t want a Jesus who looks just like me. I’m adept at making everything worse. I don’t trust my own judgment on very much of anything. The world doesn’t need more of my influence. The world needs someone else’s influence. I don’t need a God who looks just like me.
I need a God who looks like Jesus.