Those Who Cast the First Stone

Recently I was reading a news­paper exposé about Phyllis Schlaf­ly’s son, who has been quietly liv­ing a gay life for years. I was thinking back on the GOP conven­tion, when the Republicans show­cased Schlafly as their spokesper­son for their strident and ultra­conservative family values posi­tion.

This was unadulterated hypocri­sy, considering that in the very moment of her eloquent highmind­edness, she was secretly well aware of the deviance from tradi­tional family values that had ev­olved out of her own personal family structure.

While I was reading this expose, I got a call from my daughter at college. She was preparing a speech for her Christian Ethics course, in which she had received a midterm warning. Ironically, her subject was Christianity and homosexuality, and she was at a loss for an approach.

“I guess what I should do is summarize the debate about whether homosexuality is natural or aberrant behavior,” she said, showing off a slightly new lan­guage from her psychology class.

“From a Christian point of view, what does it matter whether it’s natural or aberrant?” I asked.

“What do you mean, Dad?”

“Well, didn’t Christ say, ‘Judge not that ye not be judged’?”

“You’ve got to explain it better to me,” my daughter said.

I realized then a small pang of guilt, for I knew one of the prob­lems my daughter was having with the class was her lack of knowledge of the Bible. I, myself, was soaked in Bible stories as a child. One of my first and clearest memories was Sunday school. There were three of us in the preschoolers class of a country church in Six Lakes, Mich. (The other two were the teacher’s kids.) And every night my mother read to me out of a big picture book, “The Life of Jesus.” These stories were as real to me as breakfast in the morning, as unquestionable as the maple tree out my bedroom window, turning crimson in the fall before it dropped its leaves.

And they were still with me when I left home for college al­though I was already, by age 18, beginning to lose my faith in the Christian churches. By the time my kids came along, I had reject­ed the church aspect of Christiani­ty as too self-satisfied to have much to say about the life and teachings of Jesus anymore. And I never thought to teach my kids the Bible stories myself.

“Look,” I said to my daughter, “I’ll have to give it to you in a nutshell, since we are talking long-distance. Christian ethics has to deal first and foremost with Christ. The theme of Jesus was consistently mercy and forgive­ness, and, perhaps even more sig­nificant, non-judgment, as if to say: Who are we to even think we are in a position to forgive?

“And now, 2,000 years later, modern depth psychology con­firms what Jesus taught: when we judge someone, we are most often only revealing our inner heart, our secret feelings of being some­how wrong within ourselves. Pro­jection it is called.”

“But how can I say this in a speech,” my daughter protested.

“Refer to the story of the Phar­isees ready to stone the adulter­ess,” I recommended.

“How does the story go?”

“Well, in Judaism at that time there was a legal right to stone an adulteress to death. And Jesus happened to be around where one of these stonings was about to take place. He already had a repu­tation as a troublemaker, so, who knows, maybe he was there on purpose.

“Anyway, a Pharisee saw this stoning as an opportunity to trick Jesus into condemning this quite legal and socially and religiously acceptable event, and thus to get Jesus in trouble with the power structure.

“But Jesus was a very smart non-conformist, as non-conform­ists have to be to survive. He knows that if he merely con­demned the stoning, he would be subject to arrest. And he knew that his time had not yet come for that. So what he did was put the burden back on the hypocrite. He said, ‘Ye without sin, cast the first stone.’’”

“And did they stone her?” my daughter asked.

“No. One by one they laid their stones down and walked away.”

“Jesus was a neat guy,” my daughter said. “So I should say the adulteress is really no different from the homosexual, as far as the point of the story goes. And that the ones who judge the homo­sexual are really hiding from their own sins.”

“Yes. Hiding from themselves.”

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