Homosexuality, Morality, and Talladega Nights Theology

As happens virtually every time Nancy (or anyone) strikes back against the relentless and pervasive pop culture celebration of all things gay, the comment board (and Facebook) have exploded with accusations that she’s judgmental, she’s arrogant, and that she’s just downright un-Christian.  Jesus wouldn’t judge homosexual sex, after all.

It’s in these contentious times that I do what culturally-concerned Christians should do — turn to Will Ferrell for insight.  And insight he brings us:

Yes, it’s the legendary “dear Lord Baby Jesus” scene, where Ricky Bobby prays to the Jesus he likes best, which of course triggers an intensely thought-provoking discussion:

Kyle Naughton, Jr: “I like to picture Jesus in a tuxedo t-shirt because it says, like, I wanna be formal, but I’m here to party too. I like to party, so I like my Jesus to party.”

Walker (or is it Texas Ranger?): “I like to picture Jesus as a ninja, fighting off evil samurai.”

The whole scene is basically a three minute summary of much of what passes for contemporary Christian theology. We invent the Jesus we like best, name that version the God we serve (or partner with), and then find the church (or friend group) that aligns with our vision and — voila! — we’ve got our faith. To be clear, our version of Jesus typically corresponds with some of his attributes, but the picture is always so woefully incomplete.

Gay Rights Jesus is about sex, love, acceptance, and — above all — no judgment (except of course, you can judge someone else’s alleged intolerance). Gay Rights Jesus isn’t bound by your antiquated notions of sexual morality anymore than he’s bound by antiquated dietary rules that maybe involve shellfish . . . or something.

Green Jesus loves plants, animals, mountains, and all living things, but he’s not super-fond of people. Sure advanced industrialized societies let people live longer, healthier, more prosperous lives than any time in history, but at what dreadful cost. Won’t someone think of the polar bears?

Friend Jesus is God’s therapist. He’s about comfort, love, and a shoulder to cry on. His Bible, subtitled “seven steps to a healthier, happier you!” is the best self-help book ever written.

Or if you want to go back to my childhood, there was Mad Jesus who dipped souls in and out of hell depending on the profanities that slipped out of their mouths or the guitars they played at their worship service.

I could go on and on and on . . . we worship Republican Jesus, Democrat Jesus, Nationalist Jesus, and even Yoga Jesus. He is whoever we want him to be — so malleable that people who’ve never read the Bible often say — with complete sincerity — that they’d like Christians better “if only they were more like Jesus.”

Talladega Nights theology tempts me every day. In my fallen nature, there are aspects of Jesus far more appealing than others (I tend to prefer Texas Ranger’s ninja version to Kyle Naughton, Jr.’s party animal), and my challenge — our challenge — is to understand Jesus in full and conform our lives to His will and example, regardless of the cost. In our present cultural moment, it seems quite convenient for many to enlist Jesus in the sexual revolution, rationalizing and spiritualizing base personal indulgence and self-fulfillment. Other cultural moments have other challenges, and each of us is a mess of conflicting desires and profoundly limited knowledge and wisdom.

So when we lash out at fellow Christians, let’s ask ourselves: Are we worshipping and serving the Jesus who is, or — like Ricky Bobby — the Jesus we prefer?

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  • Alex C. Barberi

    Amen. Great post.

  • http://jbyas.com J. Byas

    But this begs the question of who gets to decide on the “real” Jesus? Who gets to have the definitive word since we always relate and interpret according to our own cultural preferences? If I just believe in the Jesus I like, I am skewing things. But if I just believe in the Jesus I don’t like, to avoid believing in the Jesus I like, I am skewing things too. But if we say, “believe in the Jesus of the Bible,” we are arguing in a circle since all of these different Jesus’ do have some sort of hook in the Bible.

    This isn’t a critique but an honest question. How do we get the “real” Jesus to stand up? Or can we not?

  • Tim Muldoon

    I hope this doesn’t sound flippant–it’s not meant to–and I hope it doesn’t sound too Catholic, either– but the answer is “the Church.” And by “the Church” I mean the whole of Christianity stretched over history, in its creeds, its exemplars (the saints), its doctrinal development. It means looking critically at how Christianity has professed the gospel and how it has reaped fruit in faith, hope, and love.

    Those who accuse Christians of being conservative tend to misunderstand how we read history as a long series of case studies on how to imitate Christ. It’s much, much harder than (say) trying to read a current law and whether that law is in conformity with the Constitution. But it is absolutely clear to me that reading Christ through a zeitgeist is almost always wrong. That’s why I have profound difficulty thinking that a 50 year-old sexual revolution (heck, go ahead and even tack on the sexual revolution of the 1920′s if you like) constitutes sufficient critique of the history of case studies to repeal our understanding of sexual morality.

  • Wright

    Let’s not forget MMA Fighter Jesus.

  • http://americancreed.wordpress.com/ DogTags

    I made a similar point in my post “Your Own Personal Jesus.”

  • Concerned Citizen

    The real Jesus hates gays, hates abortion and hates taxes. You can tell by reading all his words on those subjects.

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  • JT

    Im assuming that you are implying that Jesus doesnt judge gays to go to hell here but heres the thing though I dont think you would be worshipping the Jesus you believe in….unless you preferred him. You have your belief in Jesus and others have their belief in who Jesus may or may not have been. You dont want gays to have rights to marry because the Jesus you prefer says they cant (despite him NEVER saying anything about it in the Bible). Aside from that though its an absolutely excellent thought provoking article. Seriously. Im not a Christian but I really like the anology! Kept me interested until the end! Its a shame people give more attention to that pointless and stupid Bristol Palin channel eh?

  • Sharon

    “Jesus wouldn’t judge homosexual sex, after all.” Those who claim Jesus didn’t take a stand on homosexual behavior and accuse Christians of being “un-Christian” because they are not following Christ apparently don’t fully understand the scriptures.

    In St. John 1 we read,
    (v1) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. . . (v10) He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. . . (v14) And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” (KJV)

    The previous passage acknowledges Jesus Christ as the God of the Old Testament. He was the same God who gave Moses the following commandments to share with the Israelites in Leviticus 18,

    (v1) And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying. . . (v22-26) Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination. Neither shalt thou lie with any beast to defile thyself therewith: neither shall any woman stand before a beast to lie down thereto: it is confusion. Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you: And the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants. Ye shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations; neither any of your own nation, nor any stranger that sojourneth among you. . .”

    The scriptures are pretty clear about His standing.

  • Sigo

    “The scriptures are pretty clear about His standing” to those who parse scripture as you did without weighing your selected passages against the whole; to those who arrogate unto themselves a comprehension that supersedes both Grace and their actual studies into the culture which framed the context of the references made as well as the use of language; to those who yell out what they think they know as though sheer passion will overcome the actual effort they make in delving into the matter on which they judge others’ souls as though they had the right to met out his Grace.

    What’s clear is that you skim the top of the words hoping for the Spirit to do all the work for you.

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  • Chris

    “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”
    -Galatians 5:14
    Or as it is in the new international version: “For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

    I think this is pretty clear on how He felt. He does not care who you are or what you do, He loves all and says we should love all too. Not only does He tell us to love all, but He says that it is the most important thing to do.

  • Kris Carter

    Nice post Dave. Captures an important temptation for all of us. Of course, one commenter here is correct to point out that this begs the follow-on question of who gets to decide who the “real” Jesus is. If we agree that the bible (or the more Catholic position that the church) should be our guide, there may still be some important differences between how we interpret who Jesus really was/is, and how He expects us to live. Nevertheless, we would all do well to heed your warning here. The trick is to submit ourselves to these external authorities (scripture and church) as much as possible and avoid creating our own personal Jesus out of whole cloth.

  • David French

    “The trick is to submit ourselves to these external authorities (scripture and church) as much as possible and avoid creating our own personal Jesus out of whole cloth.”

    Amen, Kris.

  • http://www.esosweet.blogspot.com Erin

    Thank you for this! I’m a twenty-somthing and find that it gets more and more difficult to wade the waters of cultural influences while staying a Christian. It is especially hard to articulate how I feel, for example:
    I have friends that are homesexual and I find that I still love them the same as I did before they came out. My feelings toward individuals are so different than my feelings toward a cultural wave of influence. I wish that there were more open forums for discussion. If you talk to older representatives of the Christian culture they shut down the conversation and say that homosexuality is wrong (I agree) and we should therefore not allow gay people to be around. I feel like that isn’t the answer. I also don’t feel like the answer is giving gay people the same rights.
    And then I ask myself, “If someone told me that I had to drop my relationship with my husband to be saved, would I?” And it makes me so confused.

    Also, I like that you point out that Jesus would judge the sin (which results in the judgement of the sinner) but he would still love the person.

    Sorry that this rambled. All these thoughts came flooding in and they get all jumbled.

  • pagansister

    Since the Bible was written so many years after Jesus was supposed to have done all those wonderful things he is given credit for (raising folks from the dead, water into wine etc), it is really hard to actually know just what he did—if anything—or what he thought. Those folks who wrote the stories had an agenda, and those that copied the NT over and over again, also had an agenda. Who the real person named Jesus is, IMO, just who whatever a certain person wants him to be.

  • mountainguy

    Last night I responded negatively to one post of yours, but this time I think you make a quite good point. I’d just like to add that the “nice” loving-forgiving Jesus in the end is the hardest of all… at least if one wishes to follow him (as he demands) and not just admire him.

  • http://www.home-is-fun.com Denise from France

    Hate the sin; love the sinner.
    We had a situation with our son: teen hired to be a DJ and got drunk on the job. Getting tipsy (euphemism) at work is wrong and unacceptable and people don’t hesitate to fire for such behavior. (what does Jesus, the living Word say? Work as if you are working for the Lord, make your work a gift to God, work cheerfully….not specifically don’t drink n work). But the best way to discipline my son was not to reject him from the family but to have him confront his behavior, recognize it was wrong, and be alongside him as he attempted to make amends.
    We will all have our reconning time before Jesus. He will not scream or shout at us (potentially like a parent who has lost it) but act decisively and according to his word. Each of us will be accountable…to who Jesus is, and not to our limited understanding of him. Everyone of us (whether we know and follow the Bible or not) will be blown away by who he is. He is God, thus unfathomable. The question is whether we’ll be positively or negatively surprised. And that depends upon how we deal with sin in our life and around us.
    As for me, I’ll go the less risky route and study my Bible and try to understand it in context (and I have increasingly come to realize that “in those days” look amazingly up to date) and allow myself to be confronted with things in me that I like and the Bible repeatedly qualifies as sinful. Then I ask God to help change me: from hanging onto my favorite sins to desiring intimacy with God and thus holiness. And when I relapse, I ask again.

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  • Sagrav

    Umm, Jesus doesn’t really say anything about gay people or abortion. Leviticus and some of Paul’s passages express anti-gay sentiment, but Jesus doesn’t seem to have spent any time discussing homosexuality. On abortion, if you accept David French’s belief that a fertilized embryo or an underdeveloped fetus is essentially the same thing as a fully formed and self aware human being, then abortion is simply forbidden by the commandment “thou shalt not kill”. Otherwise, you’ll have to slap together a pro-life opinion based on a line in Leviticus stating that it is unlawful to cause a woman to miscarry against her will via violence. As for taxes, that whole “give unto Caesar” passage kind of implies that Jesus encourages people to pay their taxes to the governments that created their currency. However, I’m sure that conservative Christians have some interpretation of the passage that allows them to stick to the Republican “low taxes at any cost” viewpoint without feeling any cognitive dissonance.

    As far as Tim’s argument goes about turning to the Church to get the “real” image of Jesus in our heads, I find his argument (and really, all arguments) dubious. The book we know as the New Testament didn’t even exist for a couple hundred years after Jesus and his apostles had all died. It was compiled based on those handful of surviving gospels that the church leadership approved. Imagine trying to get an accurate view of one person’s life from a multi-century long game of telephone. Then imagine that some religious figures took the information from that game of telephone and edited out the parts they either didn’t like or didn’t fit into their personal political goals. Then also imagine trying to create a cohesive worldview that takes those bits of information in a way that makes sense in a civilization existing about two thousand years after everyone in the New Testament story has been reduced to dust. A world in which we’ve learned enough about physical reality to know that the universe wasn’t created in six days around six to ten thousand years ago (http://map.gsfc.nasa.gov/universe/uni_age.html), that animals have never spoken a human language (aside from parrots), that the world wide flood of the Noah’s Ark story could not have possibly occurred the way it was described (here’s a pretty good breakdown of why: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-noahs-ark.html), that mankind would be hopelessly inbred if all of us were descended from two people, and that the Earth’s climate would have been thrown into complete chaos if the Earth’s position relative to the Sun and the Moon were static for an entire day (see Joshua 10:13). Sounds rough, doesn’t it? Welcome to the challenge of the modern fundamentalist.

    I do not envy anyone who feels compelled to live according to the strict dictates of a religious figure that we know so little about. Especially when they fear that failure to live according to these dictates is punished with permanent torture.

  • MumbleMumble

    Why wouldn’t you drop your relationship in order to be saved, if the Church said so?

  • cowalker

    Don’t forget American Jesus, who blesses the U.S.A. the most, and who thinks that freedom is the greatest value of all.

    It’s fascinating that the Catholic bishops re-imagine Jesus as being deeply concerned about laws allowing gay marriage or requiring wealthy religious institutions to provide doctor-recommended health care to employees or providing universal health care to all citizens. It’s mind-boggling that the Fundamentalists picture Jesus as wagging his finger at illegal immigrants and passionately lobbying for keeping the Bush tax cuts. Yes, if Jesus cared about anything it was seeing that rich people weren’t unfairly taxed and protecting national borders.

    Jesus went on and on about the importance of driving out the Romans and founding a nation with laws that enforced his teachings. “The slaves must be freed! Women must be free to have a career!” He preached. “Blessed are the warriors who fight for freedom , and especially for the freedom of the rich to keep most of their profits!” Don’t forget where He pointed out that you can’t fight for freedom without owning weapons. Or at least He must have in the Secret American Bible I have never been able to find.

    In the Bibles I’ve seen, Jesus told his followers to pay taxes that were used in part to finance the occupation and oppression of their own nation–for example to pay soldiers to crucify Jews. He didn’t say to make divorce illegal–He said “Don’t do it.” He didn’t suggest that someday the rich young man’s plight should be alleviated by taxing him to provide for the poor. He didn’t seem to think you needed to be free to practice your religion, because you just did it, and accepted the consequences, ie. crucifixion. You might almost think that He didn’t foresee the development of democratic governments where citizens would have to make moral decisions about the role of government in their lives, because nothing He said helps with these decisions. It’s like He didn’t even care about politics or laws because He thought the world was going to end soon or something.

  • Michael

    Or perhaps there is no Jesus; never was. And perhaps the Bible is simply the tool imagined and created by small-minded individuals to justify their hatred of all things that do not fit their narrative.

  • Victor Edwards

    Yes, it is actually a good question. The answer, of course, is hermeneutics, the science of interpretation. There are discernible rules to this task which must be followed. Just as there is a scientific process and procedure to studying quarks, so there are procedures and processes which govern the interpretation of anything. With the Bible, we must apply the hermeneutic rules derived from Scriptures themselves, then apply them. Unorthodoxy, heterodoxy and heresy are usually easily identifiable when such rigor is applied to the interpretation of Holy Scripture.

    Second, it is ONLY the Holy Scriptures that are the subject of this interpretation. We are not interpreting Shakespear or Camus. The Bible proclaims itself to be the very word of God Himself. So any hermeneutic we apply must begin with the presupposition that God is and the the Holy Scripture is God’s very words, inspired by God Himself.

    Another basic rule to guide us is this: to a text of Scripture there is primarily one interpretation, There may be many applications, but there is one interpretation.

    Excellent question.

  • Victor Edwards

    Leave out the word “Church” and I will agree with you. Leave it in and it is heresy.

  • Victor Edwards

    How do you know that Pharoah existed? Plato? Socrates? Caligula? Shakespear? Martin Luther? The fact is that there are far more extant manuscripts relating to the Bible and its history than all of these names put together. People deny the Scriptures because they hate the God of the Scriptures, who is not like them at all.

  • Victor Edwards

    :-) Sounds like you are a Christian on a journey to heaven. Your testimony is the testimony of nearly every Christian in history. Only Christians concern themselves with keeping God’s standards, even when they fail them. Unbelievers could care less what God says, but you seem to care. As Jesus said, flesh and blood did not reveal that to you; it was the Father in Heaven.

  • Victor Edwards

    If you love someone, you will not indulge their killing themselves and bringing judgment upon themselves. God condemns homosexuality of every stripe, and clearly so. So, what love is this that would indulge a person to continue in immoral, vile, perverse [all biblical words] behavior that brings down the judgment of God on them? If you love them, tell them loudly, “Flee from the wrath to come! Repent from your ungodly behavior and believe the Gospel.”

    That would be true love.

  • Penny

    Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with woman kind; it Is an abomination. That’s homosexuality. Just know HE IS A LOVING JESUS, no matter. He is judgemental, HE is the only true judge of human actions and behavior. Ty :)

  • Lisa Joyce

    I see the point you are making; however, I think you are missing several important facets of this very complex issue.  This is not about making Jesus into the God “we want him to be.” It’s about understanding how He wants US to be.  The very last thing Jesus said to the disciples was, “Go make disciples of all nations.” Above all, Christians should be working to gain more hearts for Jesus.  That is our ultimate calling.   

    Jesus died because we are ALL sinners; and I don’t think it’s an effective use of our time and energy pointing out others’ sins.  There are MANY more scriptures about how we should regard others, than there are about homosexuality.  Would Jesus want us to be influencers, or enforcers?  Which technique would heighten our chances of gaining more hearts for Him?    

    It’s very easy to point fingers at homosexuality because it’s so conspicuous.  (If all heterosexual sins were as evident,  I think we’d all be under the microscope much more!)  

    If I died tomorrow I’m happy to defend my position to my Savior.  I know that my primary concern should be focusing inward.  And when I do focus outward, it should be with the intention of attracting others to Jesus, not berating them into submission.  

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  • http://www.buzzdixon.com buzz

    Well, it’s only fair to ask then if you’re not worshiping the Jesus-who-doesn’t-force-me-to-love-icky-people?

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  • imariot

    So do you mean to say that those small-minded individuals without religion don’t need Jesus or the Bible. They just “justify their hatred of all things that do not fit their narrative” on their own merit alone? I am absolutely sure that you have the answer, for some reason…