“When Judah saw her, he thought her to be an harlot; because she had covered her face. And he turned unto her by the way, and said, Go to, I pray thee, let me come in unto thee.” (Genesis 38:15-16)
When we read Scripture we quickly come to realize that the people used by God were certainly not righteous. “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one.” (Romans 3:10) We see people such as David, the cowardly murderer and adulterer; Rahab, the prostitute that Scripture never mentions of her having repented of her profession; Judah, which the verses of Scripture prefacing this article delineate.
Judah thought that his daughter-in-law was a prostitute and he wanted to have sex with her. She demanded a pledge from him, and he gave her his signet, his bracelets, and his staff. (Genesis 38:17-18) In other words, he wanted her badly! Clearly, what he did was a sin! Yet, out of this sin were born Pharez and Zerah.
It was out of the line of Pharez, through David, that Jesus was born! Our Messiah was born through a line that included sexual relations with a woman disguising herself as a prostitute; that woman was Judah’s daughter-in-law. Events such as this one puts flesh and blood on Paul’s assertion, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) Indeed, God will even use those who don’t love Him for His sovereign purposes!
Judah and Tamar’s sexual relationship was essential for Jesus to be born of Mary. Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus traces Him through Joseph (Mary’s husband), who was a descendant of David. Luke, on the other hand, seems to record the genealogical line of Mary herself, carried back to the time of Adam. As the sole human parent of Jesus, her genealogy is listed, starting with Joseph’s father-in-law, Heli, instead of listing Joseph’s own father, Jacob.
Mary’s line of descent also came through Judah! It’s interesting to note that after a number of “begats” in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus, it ends, “And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.” (Matthew 1:16) Notice, that Matthew doesn’t say that Jesus had any human father.
Jesus as human was the consequence of fornication and whoredom, and He had in His lineage a murderer. The prophet Hosea was told by God to marry a prostitute. (Hosea 1:2) The prophet Isaiah was told by God to walk around naked for three years. (Isaiah 20:3) Can you imagine what the Church world, the Vatican, and we ourselves would make of all these events today? It is important to remember that God’s purposes will be fulfilled despite the judgments of man, our traditions, culture, mind-set, and prejudices.
The Vatican recently decreed that homosexual relations were “intrinsically evil.” Nowhere in Scripture are monogamous homosexual relations condemned. Jesus specifically condemned divorce and remarriage, calling it adultery. (Matthew 5:31-32) Yet, there are wonderful ministries to divorced Catholics in the Church. However, Jesus never spoke about homosexuality; homosexuality isn’t even mentioned in the Ten Commandments, yet the Church has demonized it.
Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people are easy and safe to persecute! What the Catholic Church and much of the church world have done is help further exacerbate a climate of hate throughout the world against these already persecuted minorities. Scripture must always trump “natural law” and tradition if we are to live up to the commandments Jesus taught us: to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves. All people are our neighbors, who must be embraced, not merely tolerated or, worse, demonized.
I am ashamed and angered at what the Vatican has done in this matter, as it seemingly utilized its view of “sin,” born of cultural and personal prejudices to, in effect, tell gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people that they have no place in the Church. The Vatican presumes to judge “sin,” prohibiting the decades old ministries of Father Robert Nugent and Sister Jeannine Gramick to the gay and lesbian communities. Rather than take the lead in living the law of love, it has become culpable in the demonization of these groups of people; it is by no means the only Christian denomination to have done so.
God is greater than the Church! The Church, the called out ones (ecclesia), the ones belonging to the Lord (kuriokon), is merely Christ’s body. We are mere branches who need the Vine from Whom to get wisdom and sustenance. The Catholic Church has a tradition that one’s “informed conscience” supersedes any Church doctrine or pronouncement!
It is high time for all of us, especially those of us who profess to be Christians, to become much better informed about these issues, recognizing that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people are our brothers and sisters who need as much embracing by the Church and society as do we.
Rev. Dr. Jerry S. Maneker, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at California State University, Chico, served as an ordained priest in the Congregational Catholic Church, a division of the Independent Catholic Churches International (ICCI). For many years he published a weekly column in the Sacramento Valley Mirror titled “Christianity and Society,” where he dealt with a variety of social issues from a biblical and sociological perspective. Maneker also published a blog called “A Christian Voice for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Rights” and the website Radical Christianity.