Sounds of Silence

Today’s subject is memes, or at least one meme in particular. It’s also going to be slightly controversial, because who doesn’t love a little controversy on a Saturday afternoon? After this I’ll tackle something really controversial, like the clown and the crooked liar that are running for President of the United States1, or the fact that Steak ‘n Shake has lousy steaks and mediocre shakes.

For the uninitiated, meme is pronounced meem, not me-me (which is properly spelled Mimi and concerns another subject entirely).

This particular meme looks something like this.

Here’s a complete list of all the times Jesus speaks about sexual orientation in the Bible:

I hope this has been helpful.

No, I didn’t mess up the formatting — there is no list, which apparently was supposed to be the point of the meme author2. In other words, if Jesus didn’t talk about it, then we shouldn’t talk about it, either. Or if Jesus didn’t talk about it, then there must not be anything wrong with it. And so forth.

You might see various other words/phrases in the place of “sexual orientation” — “homosexuality”, or “gender identity”, etc. What you won’t see are other unrelated things that Jesus didn’t talk about. Which, as you might expect if you think about it for more than a tenth of a second (which the meme author/sharers assume you won’t do), is a pretty long list.

For instance, bestiality.3 I’ve never seen one of these memes with “bestiality” in place of the “sexual orientation”, and yet, Jesus never once mentions bestiality. I wonder why that is? (Why the word doesn’t appear in the memes, not why Jesus never mentioned it. We’ll get to that in a minute.)

Or “beating your spouse”. I’ve never seen that one in a meme, either, and yet Jesus doesn’t ever talk about (not) beating your spouse.

Does that mean Jesus thought bestiality and beating your spouse were OK? Does that mean we shouldn’t talk about bestiality or beating your spouse? Does that mean that as followers of Jesus we should just accept bestiality and beating spouses is going to happen and get happy with it?

Right. There are two very large logic flaws in this argument (and make no mistake, meme or not, it’s an argument, in the “an address or composition intended to convince or persuade” sense of the word).

The first flaw, the lesser of the two, is the assumption that because Jesus didn’t speak about something that it wasn’t important to Him. Jesus’ audience were Jews, who were very familiar with God’s law, which clearly spoke about a lot of things. Jesus spoke a lot about that law, but He spoke about it in areas where they had corrupted the law, not (necessarily) in areas where the meaning was clear. The things Jesus didn’t talk about that were already covered in the law He didn’t need to talk about, because His audience already understood what God had to say about them.

The second, much larger, logic flaw is the implication that Jesus' words are more important than the rest of Scripture. Elevating part of Scripture over another part has been argued many times before, and the Church4 has knocked down the argument every time.

Marcion, who lived in the 140’s5, decided that since we had Jesus, then the Hebrew Bible (what Christians know as the Old Testament) was null and void and we should dump the whole thing. He also believed that YHWH, the God of the Hebrew Bible, was separate, distinct from, and inferior to the all-forgiving6 God of the New Testament. The Church soundly rejected his teachings (check your Bible — is the Old Testament there?), not the least of which because they were factually untrue.

The Gnostics taught much the same thing, for different reasons. Their argument didn’t fare any better.

If God had wanted us to have only Jesus' words, then He would have directed the early church fathers to throw away the Hebrew bible. If He had wanted us to have only Paul’s words, He would have made sure none of Jesus' were recorded. If He had wanted us to have only Jefferson’s “bible,” He would have made that happen.

He didn’t. He left us with the record of both the original covenant and the new one. He left us with things that mattered then (“don’t eat lobster, which will make Dave Barry very happy”) and things that matter then and now and for all time. He left us with the “whole counsel of God”7, and we should be as careful with it as Paul was.

As an aside, this same logic flaw, of listening to only part of Scripture, has been made many times before on the other side of the fence, too. As just one example, those who wanted to keep slavery in the US in the 1800’s often defended it by saying, “Hey, the Bible talks about it, it must be OK!” Well, no, it wasn’t OK, and a reading of the whole counsel of God should have made that clear.

(Note that I haven’t covered the actual issue at the center of the meme. I’m not taking issue with the issue in this post, I’m taking issue with the argument. If you want a good, short, compassionate discourse on the issue, see here, starting at 19:07.)

In summary, the sounds of silence make for a great song but a pretty poor argument.

And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon God they’d made
…And whispered in the sounds of silence

Paul Simon

  1. If you claim one of the two major parties, I’ll leave it to you to choose which one is yours and which one is the other’s. If you don’t claim one of the two major parties, or at least their current candidates, we’re starting a support group on Wednesday night’s, I’ll email you the details later. 

  2. I can’t ask them directly since I don’t know the author. As far as I know. 

  3. No, I’m not equating them. The fact someone mentions that a grocery store contains rutabagas and ice cream does not mean that the someone believes that rutabagas and ice cream are the same. Sharpen your logic skills (and have some ice cream). 

  4. I’m capitalizing it to represent the church as the entity made up of all followers of Jesus, not a specific congregation, denomination, etc. 

  5. No, I’m not missing a digit. This was first brought up almost 1900 years ago. Those who ignore history and all that. 

  6. Marcion appears not to have read Revelation. Or Matthew 25. Or … 

  7. Acts 20:27. 

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