With the theological sophistication of an 8 year old child who refuses to eat their broccoli, Thabiti Anyabwile of The Gospel Coalition has attempted to single handily eliminate any and all compassion and grace from the church by arguing that Christians need to rediscover their gag reflex when it comes to homosexuality.
According to Mr. Anyabwile, homosexuality is wrong not just because a couple of Bible verses say so, but because it’s yucky and gross.
Since we’re already thinking like children, I thought it would be appropriate to play a game I played as a child, a game I’m sure you played too if you grew up in the church.
I don’t know if it has an official name, so I’m just going to call it “What if Jesus…?”
You remember that game, right?
It’s where you speculate on what Jesus would have done or did do in a given situation that the Bible doesn’t talk about. And since there’s a huge gap between Jesus the kid and Jesus the adult, there’s plenty to speculate on. That’s not to mention all the fun you can have speculating on what Jesus would do in modern situations.
As a young Christian in training I remember wondering things like “What if Jesus had a girlfriend? Did they ever go on a date?” or “What if Jesus was a vegan? Could I still be friends with him?” or super important questions like “What if Jesus played basketball? Would he be better than Michael Jordan?” (Duh, of course, he would. Jesus would be perfect at everything he tried. Geez, everybody knows that.)
Anyway, Mr. Anyabwile’s article got me to thinking and that thinking got me to playing this old game from my childhood and so I wondered “What if Jesus had a gag reflex?”
Now, I know what you’re thinking.
Of course, Jesus had a gag reflex! It’s biological. Everybody’s got one and since Jesus was a human being he had one too.
But I’m not talking about the sort of gag reflex that makes you choke on broccoli, which, of course, everybody should do because broccoli is gross.
I’m talking about the sort of gag reflex Mr. Anyabwile describes, the sort of reflex that makes you gag and turn away from people who do things or are involved in things or are affected by things that you think are gross, particularly if you think those gross things are sinful.
Imagine if Jesus had that sort of gag reflex.
How different would the gospels be?
Pretty different I think, but let’s start at the beginning and take a look just to be sure.
If you recall, Jesus was born in a stable. Unlike the beautiful, clean stables we line with hypoallergenic hay for our Christmas musicals at church, the stable Jesus was born in would have been a shithole.
It would have been filled with old, crusty animal droppings, the smell fused into the stone walls after years of use.
And that manger? Filled with day old slop and plenty of barnyard backwash.
Certainly a place that would make most of us gag.
And yet it was the birthplace of God.
Which was no accident.
You see, unlike every other baby ever born, Jesus, being God, had a say so on when and where he would be born.
He intentionally chose a place that would make the rest of us gag.
When Jesus grew up and started his ministry, he kept hanging around people and places that would make the rest of us gag. In fact, he even touched most of those people.
There was that woman with the bleeding problem, for instance.
Most men I know won’t even walk down the feminine hygiene aisle at the grocery store. And, of course, for the Jews of that day her bleeding made her unclean, that is to say spiritually gross.
So, how did Jesus react to this blood stained women?
He embraced her.
Then there were all those lepers that keep popping up all over the place in the gospels.
If you know anything about leprosy, then you know that when left untreated it’s one gross, gag inducing disease. You get sores, they get infected, infections smell rancid, and if things get really bad skin and body parts start falling off. It’s no surprise then that the Jews of the day also deemed lepers spiritual gross people and kicked them out of their towns and cities so they wouldn’t have to go through their day gagging at the sight of them.
What did Jesus do when he met these outcast, disease-ridden lepers?
He embraced them.
And let’s not forget about Lazarus.
On paper that whole raising the dead thing sounds pretty cool. And I’m sure it was. But have you ever been around death before? I’m not talking about the cleaned up fancy version we’ve all experienced at a funeral home. I’m talking about non-pasteurized, raw death.
It’s putrid and gross. A guaranteed gag inducing experience if there ever was one. That’s why in the movies you see so many characters gag and even puke when they see a dead body. It’s just not a pleasant experience and even with the oils and herbs those ladies had in the gospel to make the body smell better, visiting Lazarus’ tomb was no trip to the funeral home.
It was most definitely a spiritually gross place.
So what did Jesus do when he encountered Lazarus’ putrid rotting corpse?
He embraced him.
Then we come to the end of the gospels.
Ok, not technically the end, I know. I don’t want all you eschatological geeks to freak out on me. How about almost the end? That work?
At almost the end of the gospels we have one of the grossest, most gag inducing stories of all – the crucifixion
How do I know?
Because I saw the movie.
Ok, yes, Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ is probably a fetishist’s ode to violence, but it’s also probably not that far off from reality. And if that’s true, then there’s not much in the gospels that’s more gross or gag inducing than the story of our salvation.
Which is what makes Mr. Anyabwile’s gag reflex theology so problematic (not to mention hideously lacking in grace).
If Jesus took Mr. Anyabwile’s advice and had the sort of gag reflex he recommends, that woman who bled would never have been healed.
Those lepers would have remained outcasts.
Lazarus would never have walked out of his tomb.
And we would not be saved.
You see, Mr. Anyabwile’s rhetoric isn’t just insensitive.
It’s a total annihilation of the gospel.
That’s not to say Mr. Anyabwile or anybody else at The Gospel Coalition can’t hold to their beliefs about homosexuality. They can. But as soon as you start prescribing theology and behavior that is explicitly antithetical to the life and teaching of Jesus, you cease to be a people of the gospel and instead become a coalition of hate.
You can disagree with the beliefs of others and reject the way they live their lives. You can even call them sinners.
But if those “sinners” make you gag and turn away, then you have no claim to the name “Christian.”
Because Jesus didn’t have a gag reflex.
Grace and peace,