One of the most astute--and funniest--observers of the contemporary political scene is Molly Ivins, who can skewer pretension and pinpoint idiocy with remarkable accuracy. In a recent column, she noted the various uses and misuses of public piety:
"A Houston jury convicted both Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling, despite the fact that Kenny Boy packed his Bible to the courtroom every day.
Since it is a long and noble Texas tradition for the accused to fight all allegations by finding Jesus, this indicates a major degree of guilt. (While on trial for murder, T. Cullen Davis, the Fort Worth millionaire, not only found Jesus but also threw a big party to celebrate at the mansion, with piles of shrimp and BBQ and a soundtrack that announced over and over throughout the grounds that night, "The son of Stinky Davis has found the son of God.")"
Perhaps the most unattractive feature of current public life is this use of religion as a political or public relations tool, rather than as a guide to living a good and moral life. And it is precisely this misuse of belief that Jesus MCC Church has targeted with its campaign to paper the Indianapolis area with signs asking simply "Would Jesus discriminate?" That simple question is intended to remind self-professed "Christians" that the Savior they purport to venerate had something to say about the proper way to treat others, and that those teachings did not include the use of religion as a weapon against those who are different.
When I was growing up in Anderson, Indiana, there were thirty Jewish families in the whole town. I remember a classmate in the third grade calling me a "dirty Jew," and a Junior High School acquaintance asking me if Jews had tails. My mother's counsel at these times is equally applicable today: "A good Christian," she said "Is a Jew's best friend." Those who actually live by that faith would not discriminate or belittle others.
The most important allies the gay community can enlist in the fight against homophobia are the churches. Not just Jesus MCC, which is identified as gay, but Methodists, Episcopalians, moderate Evangelical congregations and the like. And that is beginning to happen. Moderate religious voices are beginning to speak out, to protest the hijacking of the language--but certainly not the spirit!--of their faith in the service of fear, hatred and division.
Let's hope that the Jesus MCC campaign will spark a larger church-based movement to reclaim Christianity from those who distort and dishonor it. Until that happens, mothers of gay children should remind them that "A real Christian is a gay's best friend. It's just too bad there aren't more real Christians speaking out."