Was Jesus Obsessed With Sex Rather Than Injustice?
Jesus threw the bankers out of the Temple. Why does the Catholic Church in Minnesota think he cared more about gay marriage?
John C. Nienstedt, Catholic Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis
A few weeks ago John C. Nienstedt, Catholic Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis wrote a widely publicized letter to a priest threatening to strip him of his “ministerial assignments” if he spoke out against a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
In addition to banning dissent the Archbishop directed parishes to form committees to work for passage of the amendment and for clergy to recite a special “marriage prayer” during mass that endorses marriage between a man and woman. He created teams consisting of a priest and a married couple who will educate high school students about the hellish implications of gay marriage.
I use the word hellish advisedly. Indeed, in a letter to the clergy Nienstedt declares, “we are faced with one of the greatest challenges of our times…The stakes could not be higher.”
The stakes could not be higher? Where does this frenzied opposition come from? Nienstedt argues that he is simply following God’s instructions, found “in the first chapter of Genesis” and in “the 19th chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel”.
Let’s call these Exhibits A and B for the prosecution.
Exhibit A from Genesis.
Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone. …So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken.” Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed. (Genesis 2:18, 21-25).
To review. Adam was lonely so God made Eve. Then the only two people on the planet had sex, which apparently automatically made them man and wife. And that’s why the Church opposes gay marriage.
I think Nienstedt’s case might actually have been stronger if he had referred to another part of Genesis in which God tells Eve that because she ate the apple her husband “shall rule over you.”(3:16) Clearly if two women or two men were to marry it would be very difficult to decide who would rule over whom?
Exhibit B from Matthew.
Some Pharisees came to him, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery. (Matthew 19:3-6,9)
Any reader would quickly realize this passage is about heterosexual divorce not homosexual marriage. Indeed, the passage is often cited to justify the Catholic Church’s refusal to allow divorced Catholics to have a Church wedding. Unless they gain a Declaration of Invalidity. (Don’t ask.)
When it comes to God’s position on gay marriage the evidence verges on the nonexistent. But when it comes to God’s position on injustice the evidence is both abundant and clear. Again and again and again Jesus rails against selfishness and greed and intolerance.
Matthew relates a story that makes Jesus’ judgment on those who would hoard wealth while others go hungry abundantly clear.
Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’
Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’
Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’
Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25: 34-46)
Only a few paragraphs after the ones the Archbishop directs us to that he asserts condemn gay marriage, Matthew writes about how Jesus viewed the 1%.
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”(Matthew 19:21-24)
I think I can safely say that Jesus was the first to Occupy Wall Street when he expelled the moneychangers from the Temple with a whip, accusing them of being robbers and thieves and victimizing the poor. Indeed, Jesus was so enraged at the perfidy of these bankers that he used violence, the only account in the Gospels of his doing so. (John 2:13-16)
The Church does speak occasionally on issues Jesus most cared about—-the plight of the poor and the needy and the weak and the immigrant. Last year during the budget dispute Archbishop Nienstedt wrote to Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton asking him to “not rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to those living in poverty.” But he did not initiate committees to influence policies. He did not ask for prayers at mass, nor classes on inequality. He did not send teams into high schools to educate students about the dangers of inequality and the growing needs of the poor.
In the past two years, the Catholic Church has spent considerable resources opposing contraception and gay marriage but has expended little to extend unemployment insurance or raise the minimum wage or stop foreclosures or raise the income tax on the wealthy or curb the excesses of Wall Street.
At a time when the richest 400 American families have more wealth than 120 million Americans combined, when the average salary of a CEO of the nation’s largest companies is 343 times greater than that of the average worker in that corporation, when millions of Americans are losing their homes because of often fraudulent foreclosures, when domestic violence is soaring, does the Catholic Church really think Jesus would be spending his time trying to stop two people from making a life long commitment to one another?