Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Jesus, Sex Scandals and Evangelism

I was vaguely aware of the sex scandal that came up with Anthony Weiner, mostly because I kept chuckling at his surname, but I’m clearly still immature at heart. I didn’t think much of it, relegating it to political lewdness that would be forgotten the moment some other more important story came up. But now Albert Mohler, occasionally referenced by me for claiming that yoga is evil or responding to the celebrations of Osama bin Laden’s death, has now thrown his hand into this issue by claiming that what Weiner needs to get over his problem is Jesus. In his own words, he says therapy is missing the point of our need to be reconciled to God through his Son. I hate to say this to a guy I somewhat respect on general positions, but he’s really missing the point of this issue when he goes into this uber-evangelism spiel. No one’s saying he doesn’t have the right to do it, but it’s focusing on the proverbial speck in someone else’s eye without seeing the plank in your own, to use Jesus’ expression.

What Weiner does need is therapy, first and foremost. I highly doubt he even cares about Mohler’s tweet about him needing Jesus to heal himself of this “sexual sin” (I guess?). And any person, Christian or otherwise, doesn’t need to pray to Jesus to help them with their sexual problems first and foremost, but should seek counseling, which Weiner is doing. At least he’s Jewish, so there might be more hope than Newt Gingrich’s last two escapades, though adultery is a bit stronger a claim for Gingrich than Weiner’s posting of a nude photo through his cellphone. It’s still bad, don’t get me wrong, it’s just a bit less serious than the whole cheating on your last two wives and marrying the women you cheated on them with that Newt did.

There isn’t a problem with a person believing in Jesus and Christian theology, soteriology, etc, but there is a problem with using scandals as opportunities to emphasize what is not really at issue. When you continually bring up issues of sin and redemption in contexts where they are only relevant to people fixated on it, you seem out of touch with part of Jesus’ message to simply engage with these people. When you talk as if you’re holier than everyone else just because you happen to be in a relationship with Jesus, you just isolate people that you could be friends with even if you disagree. Seeking treatment for sexual addiction problems does not mean one rejects a need for redemption, forgiveness and radical change in one’s life. Weiner happens to be Jewish, but it wouldn’t even be proper to bring up this “Jesus is the only way to salvation” thing even if Weiner was Christian. It just harps on his seeking treatment as if it’s a bad thing to seek psychological counseling. Praying and accepting Jesus as your personal savior does not automatically make you not addicted to sending lewd photos of yourself to women through a iPhone. I don’t think anyone’s saying that it’s a good thing that Weiner betrayed his wife, but the main problem is seeking help for his psychological and sexual problems he seems to have. Jesus and religion can come at a later date.

Mohler has a right to be focused on evangelism and preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, but he seems to be overstepping his bounds ever so slightly in this situation. He could speak a bit more generally, saying something like “Jesus loves you through all this, but you just have to accept him,” The problem with virtually any formulation of preaching Jesus’ love is, as Mohler indicates on his own blog, is that there’s an offense involved. You’re basically telling someone that they’re not good enough and that they have to do something that you’ve done to get up to your standards, however imperfect and sinful you would claim you are. The fact that Weiner is Jewish makes this especially awkward, but I’m reminded of when Tiger Woods had his sex scandal a few years ago and Brit Hume, a Christian, said that he thought Tiger needed Jesus in order to truly get forgiveness for his adultery. Buddhists responded by saying that forgiveness is just as much a part of Buddhism as it is in Christianity, there’s simply not the need for the divine medium. Similarly with Weiner’s sex scandal, it’s kind of insensitive and myopic to focus purely on trying to save a person’s soul from damnation instead of comforting them and offering you support as a person. Mohler’s apparent inability to separate himself from his religiosity is what’s causing this problem. My parents wouldn’t be trying to convert a friend of the family when their parent dies if they happen to be Jewish or Muslim. They would offer their condolences at the visitation and/or funeral and go about their private religious lives without the need to keep saying to every non Christian/false Christian, “You need to accept Jesus Christ into your life,” I’m sure they still believe it and they have that right.

I don’t have a problem with Mohler teaching Christianity as a minister, but I have a problem with him trying to preach to everyone and using this political scandal as an attempt to inject his moralizing tendency into what should be a secular consideration at best. If Weiner wants to consider forgiveness and advice about it from rabbi, then he can do it privately as he has no doubt done. Mohler’s given himself a somewhat bad reputation overall since he’s called yoga a cult and accused Christians of being heretical and blasphemous by even practicing it. This is just another check on the bad list, which he admittedly is about 2 for 1 on the other hand of good things he’s done, such as commentary on the Osama bin Laden death celebrations and the justice of it. So until next time, Namaste and aloha. And Shalom and Amen to you too, Weiner and Mohler.

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