This could have been overheard on the streets more than 2,000 years ago: “Have you heard the news? Mary is pregnant! And she’s not married.”
But her fiance, being a just man who had never lain with her, and unwilling to make her a public example, kept her out of the public eye.
That very old story reminds me of a practice old as humanity and new as tomorrow: Our popular game of making people miserable. We can be grateful that Saint Joseph shied away from it after the Lord appeared to him in a dream saying the Holy Ghost had fathered Mary’s child (from Matthew, Chapter 1).
One surprising example of clergy making people miserable is Archbishop Joseph Naumann, and his new rule against allowing the child of a same-sex couple to attend a Prairie Village Catholic school.
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That’s because the parents could not “model behaviors and attitudes consistent with the Church’s teachings.” Soon after that, delegates at the United Methodist church national conference in St. Louis national voted 53 to 47 percent to strengthen its ban on gay and lesbian clergy and same-sex marriages.
So the denominations chose to make miserable only those LGBTQ folks, while neglecting many other rich opportunities to lay on the lash.
I grew up in the Southern Baptist church, taught Sunday school, read the Bible and came to love most of it. I learned, as those who follow these denominations know, that it condemns gay people to death.
They do not seem to recognize that the Bible also condemns to death people who divorce and then remarry, plus the spouse of the remarried person. Mark 10:11 states that “whosoever shall put away his wife and marry another committeth adultery against her.”
Lay beside it Leviticus 20: “And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife... the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.” The Pew Research Center reported in 2013 that 42 million Americans were in that year divorced and remarried. Killing the spouse would double the death toll to 84 million.
If you have a daughter with a lusty boyfriend (and they are all lusty), beware of Deuteronomy 22:21, which dictates the fate of the non-virgin bride: “Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die.”
The Bible also condemns to death “he that blasphemeth the name of the Lord” (Leviticus 24: 10-16); “whosoever doeth work” on the Sabbath (Exodus 35: 2); and “every one that curseth his father or his mother” (Leviticus 20:9).
In the New Testament’s Ephesians, Saint Paul advocates being submissive to slave masters. In Romans 1 he condemns homosexuals, “whisperers, backbiters, haters of good, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents … covenant-breakers.” Paul speaks of “the judgment of God that they which commit such things are worthy of death.”
In First Timothy he says he will “suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” That is because, Paul adds: “Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, was in the transgression.”
What a marvelous array of Bible verses from which certain Christians pick and choose victims to make miserable, but don’t actually follow through, unless the verses condemn gay people.
I’m glad Saint Joseph, even in his moment of doubt, had that change of heart. Rather than making Mary miserable, he became the earthly father of Jesus and reared him to become what we often sing at Christmas, “Joy to the World.”
Contact Charles Hammer at firstname.lastname@example.org