Lazarus ‘Coming Out’ of the Closet?

News: Commentary
by Fr Paul John Kalchik  •  •  September 23, 2023   

Review of Fr. James Martin's newest book

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Father James Martin, S.J., is up to his old tricks again, leading souls astray in his new book.

The Jesuit's book maligns a Gospel story to promote sodomy

The name of his new missive is Come Forth — The Promise of Jesus's Greatest Miracle. Despite its compelling title, a reference to the story of the raising of Lazarus, and a traditional cover image depicting the Gospel account of the event, the book is just another tome subtly pushing sodomy.

In Building a Bridge, his earlier work, Martin emphasized the importance of society reaching out to welcome homosexuals — as if homosexuals need any incentive or special welcome to justify their sinful behaviors.

In Come Forth, Martin shares the biblical account from John's Gospel in which Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. This miracle is universally understood as Our Lord's greatest miracle — bringing a man back to life after being dead for four days. Martin, in Come Forth, does not contest this at all.

What Martin does instead is play with readers' minds to promote sodomy within a lively discussion about the raising of Lazarus. He does this by inordinately emphasizing the words "come out," which Jesus used in His prayer to God the Father when bringing Lazarus back to life. In the prayer, Jesus was summoning Lazarus from the tomb. He said in a loud voice, "come out," and Lazarus obeyed. Note that no current translations in English for this passage use the phrase "come forth."

What Martin does instead is play with readers' minds to promote sodomy.

The LGBT community celebrates "coming out" in a big way. But there is no similarity between the Gospel account of Lazarus being raised from the dead and the gay rite of passage known as "coming out," or publicly declaring one's sin. Just talking in this vein mocks Our Lord and His Gospel.

The Book

But before getting into how Martin uses this play on words to promote the LGBT thing and cash in, let's discuss how his book is laid out.

Martin writes Come Forth in the first person. He begins chapter 1 by taking readers on a lengthy visit to the Holy Land. He states that he has visited the Holy Land multiple times, and his book is complete with pictures and reminiscences from those visits, all of which add depth and perspective.

Martin also recounts that he has visited the site in Bethany that locals revere as the home of Lazarus and his sisters. The site has an ancient tomb nearby that is said to have been the tomb in which Lazarus was buried. All of this material introduced by Martin is fine.

Tomb of Lazarus?

But, as anyone who has ever visited the Holy Land, like myself, knows, it's best to take with a grain of salt the descriptions provided by Holy Land tour guides. It's especially important not to buy their errant theological ideas, along with the trinkets and keepsakes they are constantly hawking.

I remember vividly, when visiting a site along the Jordan River — said to be the site of Our Lord's baptism — the guide insisting I get baptized. With lots of gesticulating and impassioned pleas, he enjoined me to go barefoot down into the river on a concrete pad and have someone pour the dirty, greenish-brown water of the Jordan over my head. Dressed as I was in my clerics, I politely told the man, "Thanks, but no thanks. I was baptized once; this suffices."

Martin's visit to the alleged tomb of Lazarus and to his home is fun, but our Catholic faith in no way compels us to believe that sites promoted by Israeli tour guides are the actual sites described in Scripture. All we have to believe as Catholics is that Jesus brought Lazarus back to life, as described in St. John's Gospel.

Throughout the book, Martin has loads of pictures of Our Lord and of the saints; sadly, though, almost every one of these modern icons is by a gay artist. Martin definitely, in Come Forth, discriminates against straight Catholic iconographers.

To be fair, most of this lengthy book is just a review of current biblical scholarship, the theological musings of theologians, and Martin's own personal thoughts — none of which are really earth-shattering. But every once in a while, to destabilize conservative Catholics and to sell his books, Martin introduces some canards.

Three Canards

Since "canard," meaning fabrication, is also the French word for "duck," let's look at these foul fowl, starting with the first duck. In chapter 3, "He Whom He Loved," Martin asserts that Lazarus, not St. John, is the "origin" of John's Gospel.

"But Ben Witherington, Mark Stibbe and other scholars have, I believe, made a persuasive case: Lazarus may not have been simply 'he whom you love' but the origin of the Gospel of John, the mysterious Beloved Disciple," Martin wrote.

If you take Martin seriously, which I doubt few will, we should delete St. John's name from the fourth Gospel and put in Lazarus. This canard flies in the face of what all the Church Fathers, saints and Scripture scholars have taught for millennia.

Now let's examine the second duck. In chapter 13, "Take Away the Stone," within a lively discussion about "turning away from the negative," Martin dumps this canard:

In my ministry with LGBTQ people, I sometimes meet people who believe they were created in a faulty way, that there is something deeply wrong with them, that they are "rotten." Sometimes it takes years for them to realize that this part of themselves is healthy, whole and perfectly normal. Often, all it takes is for someone to accept them with love. Love calls them out of the tomb. Knowing that they are loved and lovable enables them to "come out," in common parlance. And they see that they are not rotten at all but beloved children of God and valuable members of the community. 

It boggles my mind how, within a discussion of Jesus bringing Lazarus back to life, anyone can find a justification for sodomy. But somehow Martin makes this great leap. You may have heard about taking a "leap of faith." This is not one of those! This is a leap in lunacy. There is no logic behind what Martin asserts in this paragraph.

'Coming out' means to accept, embrace, and love who you are, especially your sexuality.

But there's yet a third duck. In chapter 15, "Lazarus, Come Out!" — which Martin describes as a chapter about "dying to self and finding new life" — Martin drops this bomb:

As I have already mentioned, a few years ago, my book Building a Bridge, about LGBTQ Catholics, garnered a good deal of controversy, even though it didn't challenge any church teaching. So as much as I treasure the words "Lazarus, come out!" I was worried that the reference to "coming out" would be seen as a veiled comment on that earlier book, thereby serving as an occasion for snarky comments or distracting from this book, which is not focused on LGBTQ people but on everyone. The message, however, is especially important for LGBTQ people. "Coming out" means to accept, embrace, and love who you are, especially your sexuality and the way that God made you, and to reveal or share that part of yourself with others. Coming out is a critical step for LGBTQ people, who are sometimes told, either overtly or covertly, that they should not accept or love themselves. Or that they are a mistake.

Really, Fr. Martin, you feared it "would be seen as a veiled comment." How condescending.

Despite offering not one fact to support what he asserts, Martin makes the miracle of Lazarus being raised from the dead a plug for legitimizing sodomy. What utter rubbish, as well as the trivialization of this great miracle.

Surprise Blessings

I like chapters 8 and 14 of Come Forth.

Chapter 8 is titled "If You Had Been Here." This phrase, from the account of the raising of Lazarus, is Martha's remark to Our Lord upon His arrival at Bethany. Martha's remark suggests that if Jesus had only been present before Lazarus died, her brother Lazarus may not have died. This chapter talks about how all of us as disciples go through trials that rock our faith and give rise to doubts.

Martin, in this chapter, talks about a severe trial he went through. He had to have repeated surgeries over a period of years to fully eradicate a tumor.

Martin shared:

After the initial discovery of that second tumor, I had prayed hard that I wouldn't have to have the same surgery again. My mind flashed back to the difficulty of the first surgery: the long incision that traveled from under my left ear to my Adam's apple, the swelling, the pain, and the weeks of recovery. I wept in front of my spiritual director as I said, "I'm so disappointed."

Then he gives his readers a solid homily on how to deal with disappointment and to persevere in the Faith despite hardship.

Chapter 14 is a lot like chapter 8, only it's about prayer. From the Gospels and from his own experience, Martin talks about this important part of being a Christian. In both chapters 8 and 14, I found nothing problematic.

Come Forth includes many interesting pictures and personal anecdotes. But because of its multiple non sequiturs and promotion of sodomy, I cannot recommend it. The faithful have better things to do with their time.

--- Campaign 31877 ---


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