Christian Billboards Inspire and Outrage with Gay-Friendly Messages

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday September 10, 2009

Several billboards in North Texas bearing Christian messages of love and acceptance for gays have outraged anti-gay people of faith (one minister compared gays to murderers and wife beaters when discussing the billboards), but they have also offered a new sense of affirmation to Christians who disagree with the demonization of gays, or who may be gay themselves.

Dallas/Fort Worth TV news station and CBS affiliate Channel 11/TXA Channel 21 reported in a Sept. 8 article that four billboards located along I-30 offer Christian messages that are somewhat different from the rhetoric that gays hear from many religious individuals and groups.

One billboard informs passersby that, "Jesus affirmed a gay couple," the article reports.

Another reveals, "The early church welcomed a gay man."

Perhaps more typical--or stereotypical--of the expected response to the subject of gays is the comment attributed int he article to Christine Lutz, who said that when she noticed one of the billboards, "I cringed.

"I was disgusted at the same time," Lutz added.

Lutz proceeded to send an email message expressing her outrage.

"I said, how dare you take the scriptures and twist it to fit your needs," the article quoted her as saying.

But accusations of twisting scripture to fit an agenda have come from both sides in the battle over gays and GLBT equality, and for Promise Metropolitan Community Church minister Jon Haack, the Good News is not reserved for the exclusive enjoyment of heterosexuals.

The article quote Rev. Haack, whose church is one of five area churches behind the billboards, as saying, "If we go back to the gospel readings, we don't find anything within those texts that discriminate or exclude against gay and lesbian people.

"Gay and lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgender people are part of God's creation too," Rev. Haack added.

Rev. Haack is with one of five local churches sponsoring the billboards that advocate gay acceptance by all Christians.

After a week of asking motorists to reconsider what they may think they know about the Bible's stance on gays, the billboards have generated controversy--and plenty of feedback via email, the article said.

The news channel quoted Rev. Colleen Darruagh, who noted that, "There are people who have told us to re-read our Bible, which is the very question we're asking others to do."

Added Rev. Darruagh, who is with the Metropolitan Community Church of Greater Dallas, "We've had people say, 'How dare you take the name of God in vain,' and that God hates homosexuals."

According to Baptist minister Sam Dennis, however, there is no Scriptural basis for a Christian acceptance of gays.

Pastor Dennis, who is with Plano's Parkway Hills Baptist Church in Plano, conceded that hatred of gays has no place in Christianity, but added, "I'm hard pressed to find that scripture advocates that it's alright to live in a gay lifestyle.

"Just like I'm hard pressed to find that scripture advocates that's it's alright to live in an adulterous relationship or as a wife abuser or as a murderer," Dennis added, according to the news item.

News channel 11 noted that the churches behind the billboards are all affiliated with Worldwide Metropolitan Community Church.

That denomination, the article said, is mostly made of of gay Christians.

A Web site called Why Would offers clarification of the billboards' messages, directing readers to Matthew 8:5-13 for text regarding Jesus having "affirmed a gay couple," and to Acts 8:26-40 for scripture documenting that "The early church welcomed a gay man."

The site asks, "Would Jesus discriminate?"

Adds the site, "Why would we?"

The New Testament gospels indicate that Jesus' ministry served common people, among them social outcasts.

The site also offers links to essays addressing the supposed scriptural bases for anti-gay attitudes among Christians, including essays that examine supposedly anti-gay passages in the Old Testament books of Genesis and Leviticus, as well as New Testament books, including 1 Timothy, 1 Corinthians, and Romans.

Another Web site, also called "Would Jesus Discriminate?," offers a video along with text reading, "[T]here are ways to read the Bible--spiritually, intellectually sound ways--that are gay-affirming."

Adds the text, "You can hold to an anti-gay interpretation, but that is your choice.

"The Scriptures do not compel it."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.