Julie Rodgers, Tyler Huckabee and Their Mistake about Jesus
In the last couple of weeks, Tyler Huckabee, a former editor of Relevant magazine, and Julie Rodgers, until very recently a counselor at the Wheaton College chaplain’s office, both publicly endorsed same-sex relationships. Both Huckabee and Rodgers are witty, winsome and resolute. They are also mistaken.
Huckabee shrugged his shoulders at the whole thing. “I’m not trying to be liberal here. I’m not trying to be cool, or falling in with faddish theology.” Points for millennial self-awareness. So too for the slacker leadership style: “I am simply thinking of the LGBTQ men and women of the world and trying to find a good reason for God to condemn them to a life without love. I am hard pressed to find them.”
A 30-year-old graduate of Moody Bible Institute, Huckabee chided the apostle Paul for his low view of sex: “This is a rather dim view of sex, which isn’t all that surprising, considering Paul. He seemed hugely unbothered by anything that wasn’t strictly spiritual.” Perhaps this is my overweening traditionalism speaking, but my ears always perk when I see a millennial who writes about Marvel comics publicly tweak an apostle whose ministry for Christ led to his beheading.
Rodgers described her newfound views as part of an evolving narrative: “Though I’ve been slow to admit it to myself, I’ve quietly supported same-sex relationships for a while now. When friends have chosen to lay their lives down for their partners, I’ve celebrated their commitment to one another and supported them as they’ve lost so many Christian friends they loved.”
She noted that most of her peers didn’t despise her, but were simply misled: “I don’t think this happens because anyone hates gay people. Most of the Christians I know love gay people.”
Later, her tone shifted: “The fire I’ve come under (publicly and privately) as I’ve sought to live into the traditional ethic causes me to question whether this is about genuinely held beliefs or straight up homophobia. I say this with nothing but sadness: the kind of discrimination my friends and I have experienced as celibate gays makes me lean toward the latter.” In Rodgers’s view, homophobia, not genuinely held beliefs, has caused discrimination. It is hatred of gay people that drives them into the shadows.
Jesus the Example
Huckabee and Rodgers make the same argument: it is unloving to require people who experience same-sex attraction (SSA) to remain celibate. (They don’t take as a practical option marrying someone of the opposite sex.) To do that is to consign them to life without joy, without companionship, without happiness. In opposing their wish to enter a same-sex relationship per the clear witness of texts like Romans 1:26-27, we drive them into despair and the arms of the LGBT community.
It is surely true that celibacy is a difficult road. We should empathize with all who yearn for union but cannot find it. If we hear the testimony of individuals who experience only same-sex attraction and just correct their views, we disobey Christ’s call to weep with those who weep (Rom. 12:15). The ground for compassion is the incarnate Christ, who entered into our sorrows and wept at a fallen world (John 11:35).
But Christ does not only minister to us poor sinners. He sets an example for us. The argument that biblically faithful Christians deny people with SSA the opportunity to be loved neglects much, including Christ’s own model. Jesus did not marry. Jesus did not father children. Jesus lay by himself at night, with no one to warm him. In terms of a spouse, he had no inside jokes to share, no walks to take, no hand to hold, no anniversary to remember. If ever a single person feels strange for being unmarried, they may know that Jesus lived that same life.
The life of Christ was not easy, but he was the happiest man who ever lived. He drew disciples to himself. He poured out his life for the needy and desperate. He had close friends. By his blood, he created a family, a church, ensuring that all who came to him for salvation would never walk alone, but enter into a community that stretches over every boundary of the earth. The tired, the rejected, the prodigal, the baby choking on its blood in the wilderness — all these have a home, a name, and a future in Christ (Ezek. 16).
This is the truth: a single man crucified for loving sinners has not only welcomed them as friends, but has joined them in marital covenant (Eph. 5:22-33). He is the head, the husband, and we follow him, the bride. All believers who are unmarried in this life will not remain so. Every day their feet hit the floor, they are one step closer to eternity, to full union with their Savior, to the furious unleashing of love that cannot be stopped and will never end. If Jesus, the son of God, could live all his days as a single person, we know that such a life must indeed be enchanted.
The Counterfeit Version and the Real Christ
Among the numerous points made by Huckabee and Rodgers that are worth engaging, their theology of love gets my attention. Love is not complete, it seems, unless one is married or in a relationship. While I empathize with this struggle, I fear that these writers — and the many folks who are liking their posts — have lost sight of Christ, both his earthly example and his heavenly union.
The culture tells those pulled toward homosexuality that it has great things to offer them: affirmation and friendship and a community. Traditional Christianity, it says, offers them only judgment and loneliness. This can seem persuasive, but it’s a counterfeit version of human flourishing. See what the Church, the true community, holds before us all: Jesus Christ, the light of the world. Christ, who bore our sins on the tree. Christ, a single man who never tousled his child’s hair, who shared no marital intimacy, who knew none of the joys and struggles of earthly marriage.
Christ, who tasted the greatest love there is, the love of the Father, and who offers that same love to orphans, and widows, and people just like you and me, sinners all.