Mr. Bush: A Public Embarrassment

Column by Bishop John Shelby Spong on 21 June 2006 0 Comments
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Is it possible that Jesus was inferring that some
people were born gay in Matthew 19:12? It reads, "For
there are different reasons why men cannot marry: some
because they are born that way, others, because men
made them that way and others do not marry for the
sake of the Kingdom of Heaven."


It is very difficult for anyone living in 2006 to say
what Jesus meant in the early years of the first
century of this Common Era.

First, to the best of my knowledge, Jesus left no
written records and there were no tape recorders to
record his words for future use. Our best estimates
are that the earthly life of Jesus was lived between 4
B.C.E. and 30 C.E. He spoke Aramaic.

Matthew, who is the only gospel writer to record the
text you cite, wrote between 80 and 90 C.E. or 50 to 60
years after the life of Jesus. He wrote in Greek not
Aramaic. So, if Jesus actually spoke these words that
Matthew attributes to him, someone had to remember
them and pass them on by word of mouth for 50-60
years, translate them from Aramaic into Greek and
finally to the English words that you quote. If that
process can be navigated successfully and literally,
we might begin to answer your question.

The next thing we need to raise is the issue to which
Matthew is speaking when he had Jesus utter these
words. The truth is that some people are born gay and
others are born straight. Some have powerful libidos
and some weak. Some are male and some female. Some
are born with an xxy gene and others with only xx or
xy. Some are castrated by religious zeal. Some are
rendered impotent by sickness and others by surgery.

I find those who think that a particular text in the
Bible addresses a specific issue today are operating
out of a very superstitious view of the Bible. It is
only when the weight of the Bible is employed in a
particular human arena that I think it can be
legitimately used. By this shall people know that you
are my disciples, that you love one another. If you
say that you love God and hate your neighbor, you are
a liar. Love your neighbor as yourself. Welcome the
stranger, care for the weak, embrace the outcast.
Jesus is even made to state his purpose in the Fourth
Gospel as "I have come that they might have life and
have it more abundantly." These are some of the
biblical texts that have cumulative power, that build
a consensus and that counter the limited,
mean-spirited prejudices that we human beings have
used so often in the name of religion to violate the
humanity of another child of God.

I know you probably wanted a yes or no answer.
Unfortunately, the Bible does not lend itself to that
kind of response.

John Shelby Spong




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