A Metropolitan Community Church in Indianapolis, Indiana, this week began a new media campaign aimed at challenging residents of Indiana to re-examine their assumptions about what the Bible says about homosexuality. With messages such as “Ruth loved Naomi as Adam loved Eve”, and “Jesus affirmed a gay couple”, five billboards invite viewers to read the scriptures and visit the web site, www.WouldJesusDiscriminate.com. The billboards are supplemented by yard signs, bumper stickers and T-shirts.
“Jesus affirmed a gay couple” is a reference to the Roman Centurion in Matthew 19:10-12 who asks Jesus to heal his ‘servant’.
The early church’s welcome of a gay man is a reference to Philip’s baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8.
The campaign is being coordinated by Jesus Metropolitan Community Church of Indianapolis, with support from Faith In America and Metropolitan Community Churches worldwide.
Jesus MCC bills itself as “a church that is passionate about Jesus and the Bible, but not afraid of diversity or independent thought.” It is part of a denomination – Metropolitan Community Churches – with a long history of outreach to the gay and transgender community.
Rev. Jeff Miner, Senior Pastor of Jesus MCC, said, “I can already hear tires screeching across Indianapolis as folks see the billboards. Most people have no idea that the Bible contains passages that powerfully affirm gay people.”
The purpose of the Indianapolis Campaign, Pastor Miner says, is to change the whole tenor of the debate over homosexuality. “Right now,” Miner says, “most people think this is a debate between people who love the Bible – conservative Christians – and people who want to throw out the Bible – godless homosexuals. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our Church welcomes hundreds of devout gay Christians who love the Bible deeply. Our goal is to rescue the Bible from misinterpretations driven by cultural prejudice, so its true message of grace, hope, and peace can come through.”
Last summer Jesus MCC, Faith In America, and MCC conducted a pilot project in Indianapolis, using billboards and yard signs to ask a simple question: “Would Jesus Discriminate?”
Organizers say this year’s project will be bigger and bolder, moving beyond a gentle question to propose a bold answer that some may find unsettling.
Faith In America is a national organization devoted to ending the injustice of religion-based bigotry against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.
“In the past, many Christians misused the Bible to support slavery, oppose equal rights for women, and oppose interracial marriage,” says Rev. Jimmy Creech, Executive Director of Faith In America. “They went so far as to accuse people on the other side of being unbiblical. The same thing is happening again with respect to same-gender relationships. It has to stop. Is using religious teachings to deny equal rights to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people any less wrong than using religious teaching to discriminate against people of color, against equality for women or against people of different cultures wanting to marry?
“Ruth loved Naomi as Adam loved Eve.” compares the love between Adam and Eve described in Genesis 2:24 with the love between Ruth and Naomi celebrated in Ruth 1:14.
This billboard refers to Jesus’ description of three kinds of people when it comes to marriage, claiming that “those who have been so from birth” is a reference to sexual orientation.
“We need to have an authentic dialogue about what the Bible says,” Pastor Miner said. “I would be willing to discuss this subject in a public forum with any credible pastor who is willing to have a respectful dialogue. Let’s shine a light on this subject, compare our different points of view, and let thoughtful people make up their own minds.”
Says Creech, “In their hearts, people know that discriminating against gay and transgender people is terribly wrong. We want to encourage people to speak up when religious bullies misuse the Bible to berate gay people. Each of us has a responsibility to end the misuse of religion to justify discrimination.”