Don’t Make an ‘Idol’ Out of Jesus, Says Lesbian Methodist Bishop

By John Zmirak Published on September 19, 2017

John Lomperis of the Institute on Religion and Democracy shares this piece of United Methodist news. An open, “partnered” lesbian bishop Karen Oliveto, is speaking out. She’s teaching a bold, new exciting way of looking at Jesus. Remember how old theology books spoke of God “condescending” to join the human condition? Well, Oliveto has figured out how we can return the favor. She’s teaching us how to condescend to Jesus.

Here’s Oliveto’s pastoral message for August 19, which she posted on Facebook. She’s reflecting on the conservation between Jesus and the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15. (Read the whole thing, so you won’t think I’m taking this out of context):

“If Jesus can change, if he can give up his bigotries and prejudices, if he can realize that he had made his life too small, and if, in this realization, he grew closer to others and closer to God, than so can we.”

Too many folks want to box Jesus in, carve him in stone, create an idol out of him. But this story cracks the pedestal we’ve put him on. The wonderful counselor, mighty God, everlasting one, prince of peace, was as human as you and me. Like you and me, he didn’t have his life figured out. He was still growing, maturing, putting the pieces together about who he was and what he was supposed to do. We might think of him as the Rock of Ages, but he was more like a hunk of clay, forming and reforming himself in relation to God.

As one person put it: “Jesus wasn’t a know-it-all, he was also learning God’s will like any human being and finally he changed his mind … if Jesus didn’t have to know it all innately, but rather could grow into new and deeper understanding through an openness to God’s people [even those he formerly discounted], maybe if Jesus could change his mind then maybe so can we!

As he encountered this one who was a stranger, he comes to a fuller sense of the people he is to be in relationship with. He is meant to be a boundary crosser, and in the crossing over, reveals bigotry and oppression for what they are: human constructs that keep all of us from being whole. He learns that no one, no one, including the outsider, the foreigner, the hated, the misunderstood, the feared, no one is outside of the heart of God and the care of God.

In his conversion, by changing his mind and acting outside of tradition, by treating the woman as a person and responding to her needs, Jesus is willing to stand against culture and social norms and risk his status and power. It is this action of giving up that Jesus gains the most: because of his willingness to be in relationship with one so different, Jesus finds greater intimacy with God. The two go hand in hand.

This is the heart of the story. This is what offers us hope. If Jesus can change, if he can give up his bigotries and prejudices, if he can realize that he had made his life too small, and if, in this realization, he grew closer to others and closer to God, than [sic] so can we.

Blessings,

Bishop Karen

Jesus the Recovering Bigot

Lomperis does a yeoman’s job unpacking the obvious heresies here, writing:

Oliveto makes clear that her Jesus is one who was not only deficient in his knowledge of facts, but one who was also morally faulty. Oliveto’s Jesus is NOT a sinless Jesus! Instead, her Jesus was guilty of such sins as “his bigotries and prejudices.”

He also offers some solid exegesis, drawing on the tradition of orthodox Protestant biblical interpretation:

In rushing to make this rather negative judgment of Jesus Christ, Oliveto appears to have been uninterested in how faithful Christian commentary over the years has interpreted this passage in ways that make Jesus come across as less harsh, such as by suggesting that Jesus was using commonly used language of that context in a playfully bantering way, translating the word Jesus uses for “dogs” as referring to household pets rather than the more negative word for strays on the street, or how a careful look at His words shows them at least subtly hinting, “your turn will come.” … [S]he appears to have not bothered consulting John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes Upon the New Testament, part of the UMC’s official Doctrinal Standards. If she had, she may have benefitted from considering Wesley’s remark on Christ’s initial refusal to grant the woman’s request: “He sometimes tries our faith in like manner.”

Lomperis rightly observes: “[T]he all-too-common portrayal of a consistently weak, inoffensive, undemanding ‘gentle Jesus, meek and mild’ bears little relation to the actual Jesus we meet in the four Gospels.”

On Both Sides of the Tiber

Five years ago, this is the kind of story my Catholic friends would have sent around. Maybe with little jabs at Martin Luther or other Reformers. They might add some snark about women’s ordination. “Glad we don’t have to worry about this sort of thing, harrumph harrumph… .”

Christianity now has shock troops on both sides of the Tiber.

Then came Pope Francis, papal adviser James Martin, SJ, and the explosion of doctrinal chaos in very high places. Liberal Christianity now has shock troops on both sides of the Tiber. And so, in a chastened, ecumenical spirit I mutter: Oliveto would fit right in at most Jesuit-run theology departments.
Except for one thing. She’s much more plain-spoken than James Martin. She brazenly draws the obvious conclusions that others bury in euphemisms. Or happy-clappy pastoral talk. Give Oliveto some credit for being more manly, straightforward, and candid than many Catholics.

Why Stop Short at Jesus?

If you’re going to deny the consensus of Jewish and Christian tradition, and the plain words of scripture on crucial moral issues, why stop short at Jesus? Why not make Him a narrow, ethnic bigot? Then you can go on to denounce His Father.

Didn’t he endorse such bigotry for thousands of years in Israel? (That dovetails nicely with oh-so-fashionable “anti-Zionist” activism.) In fact, in another column Lomperis notes that Oliveto does exactly that:

Oliveto directly tackled alleged flaws in Scripture. She repudiated at length what she called the “theology of election and chosenness” that she traced in the Bible from God’s choosing Isaac over Ishmael to the Jews being God’s chosen people and on through the New Testament’s teaching that followers of Jesus Christ have a special relationship with God that non-Christians do not have. She also specifically criticized the language used by Jesus Christ Himself of separating sheep and goats in Matthew 25:31-46.  Oliveto blamed this acknowledged biblical theme for the evils of colonization, slavery, “destruction of native cultures and religions,” women’s subordination, racism, and current oppression of “the gays and lesbians.”

The logic rolls on like a juggernaut down the slippery slope greased by hubris. Soon Oliveto is siding with the demons against St. Paul:

In her sermon during the closing worship, she criticized St. Paul for casting a demon out of the slave girl in Acts 16:16-18…. [Oliveto went on to] defend the demon’s possession of the slave, as this demon helped enrich her owners by giving her fortune-telling abilities. Oliveto declared that by casting the demon out of the girl, Paul did nothing to make the girl’s life better and “probably made it worse” as she was now “damaged goods.” Oliveto was very concerned by “questions about the imposition of religious values, in this case religious values”….

I quipped here last month that embracing the LGBT agenda would lead us eventually to whore after strange gods. (I bruited Thor and Jennifer Connelly as possible post-Christian options.) But the bloom is off the joke.

It’s already happening. We’re snuffling up to those strange gods that enslaved our gentile ancestors. And they have names … like Moloch, Lilith, and Legion.

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  • This is hysterical.

    • Andrew Mason

      I’m not sure hysterical is quite the right word for it. A bishop who sides with demons against God should be an oxymoron.

    • Patmos

      So is that your altruism speaking? No wait, just your insecurities. Give yourself a nice altruistic pat on the back, you feel that you deserve it!

  • Craig Roberts

    If Jesus were around today he would need to learn to check his white privilege. On the bright side, his crucifixion for failing to bow to PC idols would only be metaphorical.

  • Alfy

    So Jesus was just a man , not God ?

    C.S. Lewis
    “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to

  • Tamsin

    Yes: Give Oliveto some credit for being more manly, straightforward, and candid than many Catholics. She is no whited sepulcher. She gives you something to argue with.

    • Alfy

      She gets no credit. There is nothing to argue about. She does not teach the same Gospel handed down to me from the apostles.

    • Judy Jordan

      And she is wrong.

  • Patmos

    This bishop speaks like the true heathen that she is, and it’s funny too because you only have to go to the passage before it in Matthew 15 to see Jesus rebuking exactly what she is doing. Maybe she skipped over that part?

    As for the passage she speaks on, or tried to speak on but failed, what you see is Jesus doing what he always did: Sticking to God’s will without wavering. At first the woman asks him, to which Jesus replied that he was sent to the Jews to be rejected. Then she presses forward even more in faith, and Jesus has to respond to and reward that level of faith, because if he didn’t then that would go against God’s will.

    Not a big surprise that the bishop got it so wrong, as she has not been set free and does not know the truth of salvation. That is abundantly clear.

    • JM

      Do we really expect someone who is openly living in a sinful lifestyle to teach the Bible accurately?

      • azsxdcf1

        Amen!!

  • JM

    homosexuality and transgenderism has gotten into the church because of twisting of scripture. there is no ”the Bible is not clear on homosexuality” (as homosexuals and their allies would have you believe) the Bible is absolutely clear on homosexuality. when debating homosexuals they say ‘the Bible does not condemn loving monogamous consensual same sex relationships’ and that homosexuality is only sinful it if done in idol worship. but both are wrong. find me in the Bible where it says that homosexuality is okay as long as those who are doing it consented to it and love each other? it is nowhere. homosexuality is always condemned in the Bible. it is never allowed under any circumstance. ”churches” who welcome homosexuality do so because they believe that the Bible doesn’t really condemn homosexuality and the lie that homosexuals are born that way (both of which are not true) because from the beginning of the Bible to the end we see that heterosexuality is the model that God wanted for humans (and all humans not just some of us) we always find man and woman in the Bible but we never find woman and woman or man and man and we never find a single homosexual relationship in the Bible. all of the relationships in the Bible are heterosexual and everything else are friendships. David and Jonathan’s relationship was a friendship relationship and so were Ruth and Naomi’s (we even see David referring to Jonathan as his brother (Friend) in 2 Samuel 1:26) if David and Jonathan were homosexual than David would have called Jonathan his lover not his brother. so now we see that this relationship had nothing to do with homosexuality. so to say that God does not condemn homosexuality and that he designed some of us homosexual really has no truth to it. there is really nothing in the Bible that backs the idea of people being born homosexual or even transgender. whenever the Bible speaks on homosexuality it is always said to be a thing of sin, not a thing of genetics. so no church should be believing this lie.

    • Vincent J.

      God gives us all challenges. Some he allows to be born with a predisposition toward alcoholism, some with a tendency toward drug addiction, and some with a desire for homosexual activity. The fact that these desires are or seem to be innate from birth does not make them morally acceptable; given that God condemns these and other sins means they are challenges meant to be overcome.

  • Carter_Burger67

    There’s gonna be a lot of surprised people in hell.

    • Braden_Campbell

      Regrettably so.

  • PalaceGuard

    I do not watch the zombie horror series, “The Walking Dead”. I don’t need to. There are enough walking horrors such as this “bishop” already abroad upon the planet. And they are far from entertaining.

    • Vincent J.

      2 Timothy 4:3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. (NIV)

  • ncsugrant

    As a Christian who attends a Methodist church, I can say this woman is not consistent with the teachings of my church. Corrective action is painfully slow for Methodists, but she will be corrected. The denomination is on the verge of a split over the truth. Some, like this pawn of the fringe left who is called a “bishop”, want to redefine truth as whatever they want it to mean right now. The real agenda is to destroy the church from within.
    Others know that God and His word are the same now as always. The gate is indeed narrow.
    This woman will be corrected and removed from her position, or many(most ?) of the current members of the United Methodist Church will remove ourselves from our position in the pews and attend a church where the bible is revered as the Word of God.

    • Vincent J.

      Unfortunately, those empty seats will likely be filled by those who want to believe her message.

      2 Timothy 4:3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. (NIV)

  • Braden_Campbell

    Jesus didn’t have bigotry and prejudices because he was without sin! And he “had his life figured out”, because several times in the gospels he tells people what he’s here to do and when it will happen!

    This kind of baseless, creative biblical interpretation simply makes my head hurt. All that this lesbian bishop (how is that even a thing?) wants is justification for her ungodly, sinful lifestyle choices.

  • JM

    When we read the Bible we see order. when we look at the LGBT there is no order. people just do whatever regardless of gender. do we ever see that in the Bible? people just doing whatever regardless of gender? do we ever read about a man in the Bible wearing a dress? or women doing something that only men should? no right? in fact doesn’t the Bible speak against that kind of thing? people wearing clothes of the opposite sex? so why would God create people as homosexual and transgender? the Bible shows that God is a God of gender and of order whereas with the LGBT there is no order and gender is non-existent, people can be with whoever they want and do whatever they want regardless of gender, we never see that in the Bible. we see that God wants men to be with women and women to be with men and wants people to do things that are in accordance to their gender. so why would God create people as LGBT when the Bible shows that he cares about gender? answer – he didn’t create people homosexual. born homosexual and born transgender are lies

  • Jl Lin

    Karen, not to seem harsh or judgmental; but I don’t believe you would know Jesus if you fell over Him. Why?

    “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”–2 Philippians 2: 9-10

  • Hmmm…

    When you are God, as Jesus is, an idol is merely a nick knack.
    As for the “sermonizer,” like all lost people, including ourselves B.C., she walks in darkness, tends to the things of the flesh due to a carnal mind, which the scripture says is enmity against God. She just needs the light turned on. How wonderful that this same Jesus loves her, gave his life for her and longs to embrace her.

  • Scott G Slanda

    What a clever little heretic she is! She should be extremely proud.
    In addition to the long list of heresies, I’ll add Pelagianism: “If Jesus can change, if he can give up his bigotries and prejudices, if he can realize that he had made his life too small, and if, in this realization, he grew closer to others and closer to God, than [sic] so can we.”

  • cypress

    This bishop seems to forget or more likely ignore, the fact that the Hebrew writer of Matthew put this down sometime after the fact. Any biases or bigotry evident in this passage probably reflect the writers own world view and desire to spread the message of the gospel of salvation open to all people rather than any specific inclinations of Jesus’ personality. I trust that the Bible is the inspired Word of God but it didn’t just fall out of the sky, it was compiled by committee.

    • “it was compiled by committee”

      Have you ever seen stuff that was written by committees? Or been on a committee that was writing something? It’s very clunky.

      On the other hand, many parts of the Bible are a literary masterpieces (excluding some parts such as the lists in the first chapters of 1 Chronicles). That’s why, despite the prejudices of this age, it shows up in whole or part in lists of the world’s greatest literature. And that’s why classes in the Bible as literature are taught at universities.

      • cypress

        Compiled = produce (something, especially a list, report, or book) by assembling information collected from other sources

        Where did I say it was written by a committee?

  • David F Mayer

    What religion is she a member of? Certainly NOT any branch of Christianity.

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