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30 December 2010, 2:00 pm 2 Comments

Religion: Focus On The Holy Family

Submission by Stewart, TNG contributor

Before Stewart sold his soul to become a lawyer, he studied religion in a graduate program at Duke University.  There he learned a lot about God, or at least a lot about what people have said and thought and prayed about God over the centuries.  He still has many questions.

Some Christians claim that same-sex couples cannot fulfill the procreative purpose of marriage, even when they adopt, because children do best when they are raised by both biological parents.  Does this explain why Jesus, who was born of the Virgin Mary and had no biological father, lived such a troubled life?

We know Jesus was sinless.  That much the Bible makes clear.  But we also know he never married or had a family.  Nor does he seem to have had much of a career.  He worked for a while as a carpenter, but by the time he started his ministry, he had to admit to his followers, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head ” (Matthew 8:20).

Of course, many of us face difficulties with love and money, and our Lord was only 33 years old when he passed away.  It’s possible he would have worked through these issues had he not been crucified first.

Possible, but not likely.  When you read the Gospels, you quickly realize the problems of Jesus ran much deeper than those of the typical thirtysomething.  The scriptures say he spent much of his free time cavorting with tax collectors and whores.  When he wasn’t doing that, you could probably find him out with his disciples eating and drinking, something the Savior apparently liked to do so much his critics could plausibly accuse his of being a glutton and a drunkard (Matthew 11:19).

Even more troubling than how Jesus lived is the casual manner with which he broke the law.  Once, for instance, he unlawfully healed a man of a disease on the holy day of rest, brazenly insisting that the Sabbath was made for human beings and not human beings for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27).  On another occasion, when a crowd had gathered to stone a woman who had been caught committing adultery, he stopped them by saying, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone” (John 8:7).  It’s almost as though the incarnate Word of God momentarily forgot the very words he had spoken to the ancient Israelites when he commanded them to put all adulterers to death (Leviticus 20:10, which, incidentally, is only a few verses away from the law that makes male homosexual behavior a capital offense).

The list of Jesus’ abnormal and antisocial behaviors goes and on.  Whether it was his fetishistic interest in his disciples feet or his unsettling lack of respect for religious and civil authorities, the one who claimed to be “the way, the truth, and the life” clearly suffered from some sort of serious adjustment disorder (John 14:6).  The question good American Christians can’t help but ask during this season is why.

Now, far be it from me to suggest our Father made a mistake when he sent his Son into this world via a virgin birth. But the fact is we know a lot more about the importance of biological fathers than we did 2,000 years ago.  As evangelical theologian Ron Sider recently noted, in explaining why same-sex couples can never truly fulfill the procreative goal of marriage intended by God even when they adopt:

In many situations (including abuse, neglect, and financial deprivation), adoption is much better for a child than remaining with one or both biological parents—but that does not change the fact that, other things being equal, it is better for a child to grow up with both biological parents. Even the best adoptive homes recognize that the absence of biological parents brings painful struggles.

Some may protest that Sider has confused a descriptive observation of how things often work for a moral imperative.  After all, not only was Jesus raised without the benefit of a biological father, but Moses grew up without either a biological mom or dad.  Yet it’s hard to think of anyone who has influenced the spiritual history of mankind more than those two.

When you read the Gospels, however, you quickly realize Jesus did indeed have a troubled childhood.  How else can you explain why, instead of learning to play rough-and-tumble sports with his adoptive dad as normal boys do, he ran away at the age of 12 in order to spend time in the Jerusalem Temple learning about God?  Or why, instead of repenting when his worried parents finally found him, he highlighted his failure to bond with his adoptive father Joseph by insisting he had only been “about my Father’s business” (Luke 2:49)?

Other biblical texts make it clear that Jesus was “naturally attuned to what other people are thinking and feeling,” an ability some have viewed as proof he was the Messiah (see, e.g., John 4:6-29), but which the experts at the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality have discovered is actually a trait associated with gay men.  Most damning of all is the passage in the Gospel of John which cryptically speaks of the “beloved [male] disciple” who enjoyed reclining in the Lord’s “bosom” (v. 13:23).

We cannot know for sure whether things would have turned out differently for Jesus had there been a biological father to lead the Holy Family.  Perhaps, instead of submissively suffering like some sacrificial lamb, he would have fought back against his Roman executors.  Instead, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords let them beat him and mock him, even going so far as to pray, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

We all know how well Jesus’ approach to conflict worked out.  They don’t call him the Crucified One for nothing.  The question good American Christians living in this age of uncertainty should be asking is why on earth we would ever want to follow Him.


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2 Comments »

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