“He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” (Please pardon the sexist translation, but the King James is in the public domain.) That verse, and many others, have been going through my head since my former United Methodist Church decided to close its doors to those who are different. The reason this verse sticks out is pretty obvious—according to the Good Book we’re all sinners. The “Christianity” that the UMC has embraced is that of Paul, not that of Jesus. In fact, Jesus seems to have exited, stage left. You see, only with a great deal of casuistry of exegetical caliber can anyone claim that Jesus (aka God) said anything about homosexuality. Not a single word. His response in the famous story of an adulteress (what of the adulterer who partnered in her crime?) caught in flagrante delicto, he gave our opening quote.
At one point Peter, exasperated with his master’s kindness, sputtered how many times did he have to forgive—seven times? More like seven times seventy. The one without sin has itchy fingers where stones are abundant. Once at Nashotah House we had a student from Kenya. He was already a priest, and he had a family back home. At one point I asked him about his wife. He informed me that his brother now had her as wife while he was gone. It was the way of their culture. This same student—for we are all students all the time—had harsh words for American sexual practices. He later tried to find a way to stay in the United States, leaving family behind. The Bible may turn a blind eye to polygamy, but polyandry is definitely stone-worthy. Who is without sin?
Ironically the UMC has lined up against the Gospels. Christianity’s sexual hangups began with the apostle from Tarsus, not the carpenter from Nazareth. We have been forced to see, time and again, what comes of making priests remain celibate. It’s against nature, and none of us has a free hand to grope for a stone. Instead, we queue up ready to judge. Love, the church says, is wrong. God, says the Gospel, is love. There’s a mansion with many rooms above our heads. We’re not told if the doors come with locks or not. Unless this seem unnaturally profane, anyone who has truly loved another knows it is more than just a physical act. Such spiritual intimacy is difficult to spread too thinly without cheapening it to the point of a tawdry sit-com. Even then, however, we shouldn’t judge. There aren’t stones enough in the world for that.