I imagine you’ve recently caught the news concerning a lewd joke about Jesus being told on The Project. Gay comedian and cabaret performer Reuben Kaye was a guest on the current affairs program a few days ago and created a storm over a crude reference to Jesus. What’s happened since is a stream of comments, news reports, and blogs expressing outrage, support, and everything in between. So, here’s another one!


Watching the interview, you’ll notice that The Project‘s anchor man, Waleed Aly, was singularly unimpressed with Kaye’s joke. The following day, Aly told The Project‘s audience, “We want to acknowledge the particular offence and hurt that it caused our Muslim and especially our Christian viewers. Obviously, I understand how profound that offence was.” Aly is a devout Muslim. Jesus is greatly revered within Islam and is the most-mentioned person in the Quran.

Another panellist, Sarah Harris, also apologised, “Live TV is unpredictable,” she said. “And when this happened in the last few moments of the show, it took us all by surprise; there wasn’t a lot of time to react in a considered way.” She’s spot on. I interviewed hundreds of people during my radio and television career, and things can be unpredictable, especially when interviewing “live.” We’re all wiser in hindsight. Think about all the times you’d love to go back to THAT conversation (or argument) and say things differently or not at all. That’s what live interviewing is like. You do your best at the time. You apologise when you get it wrong. But, of course, the apology was not enough for some.

The Backstory

Reuben Kaye has spoken about the hate he receives for his sexuality and dressing up in drag, particularly from the Christian community. Pause and think about that. The people who follow Jesus and carry the good news; people who are to treat others in the way they would like to be treated; people who are to love their neighbour as themselves have communicated hatred towards a person, and a community, because they are perceived as more sinful than others. The LGBTQ+ minorities have been singled out by much of the church for special attention and particular condemnation.

And so, should those who frequently receive disdain from Christians not feel justified in firing a few shots back? While I disagree with Reuben Kaye’s joke, I understand why he spoke the way he did. I’d love to hear his story one day if I ever have the chance to chat with him.

Cancel Culture

How has the Christian community reacted to all this? Well, we don’t like it, of course. We’re happy to dish up unkind words to others, but we can’t afford others the right to reply. We cry foul about “Cancel Culture,” then protest against The Project, asking for it to be cancelled. We speak words of judgement and condemnation and act surprised when the recipients of our harshness retaliate.

We argue that our freedom of speech is being threatened, that Christians are under fire, and then whine when someone else expresses their freedom of speech. There’s no hypocrisy to see here; please move on!

But Jesus Got Angry

I can hear the argument already. But Jesus got angry, so we have a right to be angry too. Yes, we do, but let’s reflect on what made Jesus angry. Mark tells the story of Jesus’ anger with the religious leaders who sought to kill him because he was good to people on the Sabbath. Shock horror.

Matthew 23 is an entire chapter that records Jesus’ angry rant towards these same leaders “who shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces,” just like the church has done to the LGBTQ+ community.

And then there’s Jesus’ famous clearing of the temple where he “drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons” – an apparent act of anger. You can’t imagine Jesus doing this with a smile on his face. But why did he do it?

After he cleared the temple court, “the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them.” It’s significant because these people weren’t allowed inside the temple because of their disabilities. The space had been filled with people profiting from religion, and Jesus saw red and made room for those genuinely in need.

I wonder if you can see parallels between this story and those modern religion has kept out of God’s church.


What would Jesus think of Reuben Kaye’s joke? How would Jesus respond? Would he be as offended as some of his people? I think not. Jesus was reviled plenty during his life, and he rarely reacted. Peter wrote, “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.”

The gospels tell us that Jesus remained silent before his accusers. Sometimes being quiet takes more strength than talking. How does this enlighten us as followers of Jesus? What if we instead used our voices to speak out against injustice and exclusion? What if we got offended by the things that outraged Jesus?

Jesus is as angry with hypocrisy today as he’s ever been. Any form of Christianity that blocks people from gathering with other believers to grow in grace is NOT the faith that Jesus pioneered. In the gospels, Jesus mixes comfortably with all kinds of people. His only words of anger and condemnation were reserved for religious hypocrites who built walls to keep certain “undesirables” out. Through his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus tore the walls down and welcomed all people to come to him and find rest for their souls.

The Project

As for The Project, this has been a challenging time. No doubt there have been lots of discussions and introspection behind the scenes. But I can only speak from personal experience. Waleed Aly and the team at The Project were very kind to Christie and me during the years we advocated for Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. They interviewed us and spoke with empathy for the boys. I, for one, would not like to see The Project cancelled. And I hope that we who follow Jesus will speak with kindness and grace and advocate for second (and third) chances for all people, just like we have received ourselves.

In my younger years as a Christian, I thought that it would be sinful to be angry with God. I viewed it as a sign of disrespect, and God would probably be mad with me for being mad at him, which could lead to all sorts of things because he is, well, bigger!

I don’t know where I got this idea. Maybe it was the teaching I received in my Pentecostal formation. Perhaps my own Bible reading and study sometimes focused on the angry God verses. It appeared it was okay for God to be angry but not us.

Fortunately, I have matured in my faith. These days I read more widely and understand the Arc of Scripture, that the Bible develops and grows as well. The ultimate Bible we should read is the life of Jesus because he was the Word made flesh.

Angry Jesus

I’ve come to understand that anger is not bad in and of itself. That it is possible to “Be angry, and sin not.” Jesus expressed anger on a few occasions. One day he was in the synagogue, and some people were looking for a reason to accuse him of breaking the law. They watched him closely to see if he would heal someone on the Sabbath. Mark tells us that Jesus looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts.” He then proceeded to heal a man with a shrivelled hand. The “Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.” And they probably couldn’t spot the hypocrisy in their hearts. No wonder Jesus was angry.

I believe Jesus was angry when he made the whip and drove the salespeople and money changers out of the temple. I can’t imagine Jesus doing this with a smile on his face and asking nicely! He said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn My Father’s house into a marketplace!” He was angry that these people were taking up space in the Temple court, excluding the poor and marginalised that should have been welcomed in God’s house. I believe Jesus is still angry today with churches and ministers who banish certain people.

Southern Baptist Report

Consider the report released yesterday revealing the systemic abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention, America’s largest Protestant denomination. The damning report shows decades of abuse and coverups of child molesters and other abusers who were in the pulpit or employed as church staff. Of senior leaders who refused to act against abusers. Of victims who were disparaged and “turned against.” Of people paid off or bullied to keep silent.

“Page after grim page reveals crushing scandal after crushing scandal.”

All this is from the same denomination that has restricted women in ministry because “the Bible is clear.” It’s the same group that has vilified the LGBTQIA Community. They are pro-life but also pro-gun and pro-death penalty. No hypocrisy to see here. Move on, please!

Sadly, conservative fundamentalists have systematically and deliberately taken over the Southern Baptist Convention. And while they were dictating what women should wear, where they could or could not minister, and who people could marry, they were covering up the worst of abuse. Jesus is angry.

Righteous Anger

I get angry, too, and now I know it’s alright to feel this way. It’s okay to be incensed at injustice and insincerity. It’s acceptable to be angry when people abuse their power to abuse others. Anger is a righteous response, and it’s okay to be angry with God. God has broad shoulders, and my anger does not intimidate him.

My Rabbi friend said this to me recently: “it is important to note that it is not only okay to respond negatively to G-d’s answer to our questions/prayers in the Hebraic tradition. It is indeed encouraged when appropriate. We are taught that we should have a full range of a relationship with G-d, which would include anger and disappointment alongside love and acceptance. All Avraham, Sarah, Moshe have very vocal and public arguments with G-d.” I’d add Job to his list (Job 7:20; 10:1-2).

Author Philip Kosloski put it this way, “So the next time you feel anger towards God because of an unfortunate situation, don’t bottle it up; cry out like Job and question God. Wrestle with God as Jacob did in the desert (see Genesis 32:23-31). After that episode, Jacob was given a new name, Israel, which means, “He who strives with God.” Only after we have wrestled with God can our relationship be repaired and begin the long path of healing.”

Out of Control

Anger is a natural and normal emotion experienced by God and people alike. But like any emotion, it can get out of control. And it is that kind of anger the Bible condemns. In our anger, we must be careful not to sin. Remember, “a hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but someone slow to anger calms strife.” (Proverbs 15:18).

I recently read a comment from a pastor who was angry about the behaviour of a politician. Nothing strange about that you may think, and I agree. What was a little out of the ordinary, though, was that the pastor suggested he’d like to do something painful to the politician and, to justify his viewpoint, he quoted the story of Jesus cleansing the Temple.

“WWJD: he would have made a whip and beat the crap out of him!”

I’ve heard a few people over the years use this story about Jesus and the whip as a license for some act of violence against another person (or people). But is that really what Jesus is doing here, and does this story encourage the use of violence?

Jesus in the Temple

Even though the account of the cleansing of the Temple is found in all four Gospels, it’s only the apostle John who mentions a whip (John 2:15). There is no mention of Jesus using the whip against a person; in fact, John reports that he used the whip to drive both the sheep and the cattle out of the Temple. John doesn’t say Jesus hit the animals either.

Jesus’ Purpose

The most important question here is, why did Jesus act in this way? What did he want to teach his followers? It certainly wasn’t to “beat the crap” out of someone with whom we disagree.

All the way through his ministry years, Jesus faced resistance from the Jewish religious leaders. Jesus came with the revelation that God, the father, was compassionate (Luke 6:36). In contrast, the predominant theme of the first century Judaism was purity, not compassion: “You must be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.” The Gospels record the constant clash of cultures between Jesus’ compassion for people and the purity code of the day. That’s what the cleansing of the Temple was all about.

Old Testament Temple law didn’t restrict the access of women or non-Jews. But over the centuries, purity laws were extended. By the time of Jesus, women and Gentiles were excluded from the Court of Israel on pain of death.

It was Passover, and space that was meant for people in the Court of Gentiles was taken up by merchants, their tables, and their animals. And that’s why Jesus’ anger boiled over. He had come for those on the margins of society, those who were often excluded by the purity laws – the unclean, the poor, sinners, tax collectors, women, lepers, the disabled, and so on. He came to bring IN those who were kept OUT by man-made religion.

Jesus’ Anger at Injustice

As Jesus is clearing the Temple, he quotes from the Scriptures, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers” (Isaiah 56:7; Jeremiah 7:11). Isaiah goes on to speak of the Temple being for the Gentiles as well (a house of prayer for all nations), a fact that many of Matthew’s readers would have been well aware. And so, Jesus’ action here becomes clear. He’s providing room for those who have been left out. Matthew tells us, “and the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them.” Hang on a minute! The blind and the lame weren’t allowed in the Temple. Ah, that’s the point. Jesus consistently brought in those who were left out – and so should his church today!

Grace & Compassion

This story has nothing to do with excusing violence against someone with whom we disagree and everything to do with extending grace and compassion to people in distress. If Jesus were here today, he wouldn’t make a whip and beat the crap out of anyone.

Another occasion makes Jesus’ peaceful intentions clear. He and his disciples had been rejected by a Samaritan town. James and John (the ones most likely to make whips to beat people) suggested they could “call fire down from heaven to destroy them.” Jesus rebuked them because “the Son of man didn’t come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” But Jesus, don’t you want to beat the crap out of them? “No, I’m the Prince of Peace, not a man of violence!”