Saw this on Twitter and had to write about it! Thanks to @QueerJohnPA and @lgbtlife for posting.
Please read the article linked, I’m not going to show any quotes from it, but it is a good read. I’m more interested to share my own reactions to these billboards.
First, I’d like to say that they are really gutzy, and I really give them credit for putting themselves out there like that. The message- that Jesus and the Bible is more welcoming and inclusive than some think it is- is a valuable message to share. But if their goal is to get people, especially Christian believers to rethink their negative judgements of gays and lesbians, I’m not sure how successful this is going to be.
If I have any real beef about the project, is the way it uses scripture. Consider Matthew 19: 10-12, (displayed here from the NIV)
10The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”
11Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given.
12For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage[a]because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”
Now, this is a very interesting passage, especially following the earlier passages of Matthew 19, but how can anyone interpret it to say that “Jesus said some are born Gay.” Jesus didn’t say that unless the Greek for Eunuch(????????)Â is exactly the same as Greek for Gay (????????????), which it isn’t. And frankly as a gay man, I’m not sure how I feel about being called a Eunuch.
Genesis 2:24 and Ruth 1:14 (NIV)
24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.
14 At this they wept again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-by, but Ruth clung to her.
There is a wonderfully beautiful story to be told about the love between these two women, although I’m hard pressed to say that they became one flesh. Here’s the same problem as the Matthew example. By trying to distill it down to a few passages, and then claim this is what it means, can’t possible provide any real teaching. It can only set the stage for a dispute about does it mean this or not. The tactic of pulling individual verses and claiming to know exactly what it means, that is the problem, not the solution to the problem.
The last billboard is probably the saddest example, for this is truly a rich and meaningful story.
Matthew 8:5-13 (NIV)
5When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 6″Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering.”
7Jesus said to him, “I will go and heal him.”
8The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
10When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
13Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! It will be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that very hour.
How they get from “a centurion and a servant” to “a gay couple” is truly remarkable, if not deplorable. If you go to the web site there is a full explanation of each passage.
The reality is that there may have been men who loved men and women who loved women in that time and place, but our contemporary understanding of Gay simply does not apply. There were no gay couples, where a couple is understood as an equal partnering of 2 men or two women.
Faith and tradition are things that many will defend and protect even beyond reason. To mess around with someone’s understanding, especially when they feel pretty sure they know what it means, is to invite a defensiveness and promote an unwillingness to be open to other interpretations. To place contemporary constructs (ex: born gay, gay couple) into a biblical era is just as bad as those who go the other way.