5 area churches work together to put up billboards declaring Christ’s love extends to gays, lesbians
What would Jesus do?
For some people, that’s just a slogan on a jelly bracelet. But for a coalition of five LGBT churches in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, it is the basis for what they hope will be productive dialogue with those on the conservative side of Christianity about the relationship between homosexuality and the church.
As part of an international campaign to promote such dialogue, the five local churches have banded together to pay for four billboards for the month of September. The billboards are placed strategically along Interstate 30, between Dallas and Fort Worth — two on the eastbound side, and two on the westbound side.
Two of the four have black backgrounds on which is written, in large pink letters, "Would Jesus Discriminate?" At the bottom is the Web site for the campaign, WhyWouldWe.org.
The other two carry much more "provocative" messages, according to the Rev. Colleen Darraugh, senior pastor of MCC of Greater Dallas. Darraugh’s church joined with Promise MCC in Oak Cliff, Trinity MCC in Arlington, Harvest MCC in Denton and Agape MCC in Fort Worth for the campaign.
"One of them says ‘Jesus affirmed a gay couple," and the other says, ‘The early church welcomed a gay man,’" Darraugh said.
Those are the billboards, she added, that are getting the biggest response.
The Rev. Jon Haack, senior pastor at Promise MCC, agreed, but said the response "has been largely positive."
"We’ve gotten responses from people saying, ‘Thank you so much,’ and a few have written us to say this has given them hope for Christians and hope for themselves for the first time," Haack said.
Even the messages in opposition have been, in general, "respectful," he said.
But not all of them.
"We’ve gotten responses from people saying that God does discriminate, that homosexuality is a sin. One e-mail had the subject line, ‘How dare you’ and then it went on, ‘pervert the word of God. This will not be tolerated by God.’
"Some of them are even sarcastic, like the one that said something like ‘I’m so glad men can sleep with men and women can sleep with women, even though I, God, destroyed cities because of that kind of thing.’"
Some, Darraugh continued, suggest that "we read our Bibles again, and that we be faithful to Scripture. The thing is, that is exactly what we believe we are doing.
"I can’t see a single example in the Bible of Jesus discriminating against anyone," she said. "One of the biggest difficulties is that people quote the Bible without looking at the translations from the original. In the original Greek, ‘homosexual’ or ‘homosexuality’ doesn’t appear. But new translations use those words. That is culture imposing itself on Scripture."
Many LGBT people have turned their back on religion because of the history of churches rejecting and condemning them. And many would question the need to even try to have dialogue with people who use their religious beliefs to persecute and discriminate against LGBT people.
But both Darraugh and Haack said that history is precisely the reason why such dialogue is needed.
"There are many people in the LGBT community for whom this dialogue is very important, because so much damage has been done through the years in the name of Jesus," Darraugh said. "We are trying to get people to see that, and to see that Jesus had a message of love.
"There is a difference between church tradition and Scripture, and those are the barricades we are trying to take down."
Even though the billboards have prompted some outrage from more conservative factions — one woman told CBS Channel 11 News she "cringed" when she saw the billboards, and that she was "disgusted at the same time" — Haack said he believes that the billboards’ message will reach a larger, more moderate segment of Christians who are willing to discuss the issue.
"It is my hope that more and more people will begin to engage in productive dialogue on how inclusive God’s love really is, and that more and more people will explore for themselves what the Bible really says, instead of just accepting what they have been told all these years."
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 11, 2009.