Thoughts on the Jesus MCC Bilboard Campaign

Awhile back, I wrote about the second part of Jesus MCC’s anti-discrimination campaign here in Indianapolis, involving six provocative billboards. At the time, I said “I like it!” without putting a whole lot of thought into the matter.

Soon after that, I caught sight of one of the billboards, at 38th and College. I have to admit, it’s pretty impressive live.

billboard at 38th and college

Then Scott posted a more thoughtful response on his blog (in part):

However, the Bible IS open to interpretation, so I guess if the straight fundies are going to use it to diminish the gays, then the gay fundies have every right to use the same tool. And on the heels of solid activism that led to the stalling of SJR-7, our state’s anti-gay marriage amendment, I’m glad to see that this gay community is finally waking up and getting a little bit loud, even if some of it is being done through a church. At least there’s movement here.

Still, I can’t imagine that there’s going to be a winner in this argument, MCC isn’t going to change the minds of the likes of Miller, Bosma, Hershman, [insert name of favorite republican fundie here]. Instead, they’re either going to be even more pissed off at us or just dismiss it right from the start. And that makes me ask: What’s the point?

And after considering his thoughts, I commented there with this:

You gave this much more thought than I did – I saw the billboards and thought “Ha! That’s such a strange interpretation. That’ll piss off the fundies!”

I think there’s some value in it because it re-frames some of the debate in radically different ways, and puts the Miller crowd in the position of defending their interpretation of the bible rather than constantly using it as a weapon.

For people who think the bible is set in stone and their interpretation is the only one that exists, the idea that someone can read something different in the bible is a big problem. It’s easy for them to bash atheists – we’re just sinners. But forcing examination of scripture is something else.

Similar to what happened with SJR-7 – we were able to shift the debate about the amendment from “gays are immoral” to “that second paragraph is deeply flawed” and the fundies suddenly had to play defense – something they clearly aren’t used to and don’t know how to do.

Then for those of us who are non-believers in Christianity, we have a role to play also – in pointing out that we don’t believe in their imaginary bearded friend in the sky, and no one can make us.

Not long after that, the two of the six billboards around town were vandalized – as Bilerico and numerous sites have reported.

Defaced Jesus MCC Billboard

Indyness recently posted her thoughts on the Jesus MCC billboards – she’s very critical of the project, and it made me consider the whole matter more closely, which I’m very grateful for.

First, this campaign goes way beyond sparking debate. The minister has written a book on this subject and clearly has an agenda to push and a book to sell. He’s using the church as his platform. I hope the church signed up for this. I bet his publisher is ecstatic.

Second, there are many people in this church who are desperately seeking approval. For them, that’s what this campaign is about. Not debate. It’s about “Please, please, please accept me”. I think that the church and the community needs to address this psychological state that some members of the community find themselves in. Personally, I’m not begging for acceptance from anyone. I’m a productive member of society. That should be enough.

Third, I’m concerned about the safety of the members of this church. This church has made itself a target by doing this campaign. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t take risks. I just hope that everybody realizes what they signed up for…

Indyness’ point about the minister writing a book is a new to me, and something I didn’t realize, although I don’t know that it would especially bother me – the potential market for his book is pretty limited, frankly. I’m not going to run out and get a copy because of this campaign, and I doubt Eric Miller will, either. Even if the whole campaign is just a cynical ploy to sell books, it advances my agenda, so I can’t complain.

I’m not interested in getting anyone’s acceptance. My concern is this house. Despite our careful financial and legal arrangements, if something happened to me, Stephanie would be forced to sell this house to pay off the taxes on my estate, and she would lose much of my assets that are left to her, and possibly part of her own – all because we aren’t able to get legally married. That PISSES ME OFF. It’s just not fair. My hard work should count as much as any heterosexual person’s – I worked to get this money, and my wife should be able to keep it, the same as any heterosexual person.

(Even when I explain this to my understanding, pro-gay heterosexual friends, they don’t understand it. I have to go over it again and again – when the light bulb finally goes on and they understand, the realization is amazing to them. I’m astonished that even the most liberal, pro-gay people don’t really get this point. They think the whole gay marriage drive is just about doing the right thing – they really have no idea there are tangible benefits to getting married that they enjoy and we don’t.)

The reason all of this could occur is because some asshats with their arbitrary religious rules have control of the statehouse, and they’re able to use their Bible as a weapon. I’m interested in taking that weapon away from them. Anything that challenges the lock that religion has on our legal system in this state is okay by me, even if it’s coming from the direction of challenging their belief system itself.

I know that just being a productive member of society should be enough, but if logic came into it, homophobia and religious nutiness would have disappeared long ago.

I know a few Jesus MCC members, but not as close friends, so I can’t say what their motivations are; I don’t know if they’re desperately seeking acceptance or not. I also can’t say whether they know what they’re in for with this campaign. The two members I know best are Zach and Chris – and Zach was an IYG member many years ago when I was a volunteer for that organization. From some general statements Zach has made, I have a good idea that he’s seen his fair share of homophobia, and isn’t exactly a babe in the woods.

I’m very glad that Scott and Indyness thought about this more carefully and thoroughly than I did, even though I might disagree with them on some points. I glossed over the whole thing in a pretty flip way, which was pretty cavalier of me.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Bil Browning

    Just for the record, I’m not a JMCC member.
    I’m pretty sure though that Pastor Jeff’s book is self-published. And while the book is for sale on the site, I know they’d just give you a copy if you ask politely. (They gave me one!) I’ve used it with several religious friends – just given it to them to read and ponder.
    And it makes an impact. It’s a very well-written and researched tome that really makes you think about what you’ve been taught via religion. Will it convince every anti-gay Christian that they’re wrong? Heck, no. But it does make you think. And that’s what most of those fundies need to do – think for themselves instead of letting their church do it for them. 🙂
    As far as just doing it to be accepted, that’s a disgusting and demeaning argument. We all do things every day to be accepted – whether that’s replying back to a friendly greeting when we don’t feel like being friendly or using table manners while out to eat. That doesn’t mean that we should stop doing those things. While gays and lesbians have been excluded traditionally from many things – religion being one of them – when LGBT go to church the reason isn’t to gain acceptance from fundamentalists. It’s to be accepted by the God of their choosing. And who is Indyness to judge that? That’s similar to saying LGBT people fought off SJR-7 just to gain acceptance for their relationships, so it means nothing. Or LGBT people are fighting for ENDA so they’ll be accepted at work so we shouldn’t do that either. It’s a silly argument.

  2. Vanessa

    It’s interesting, Steph, that you brought up IYG in this post. While I admit that I don’t know Jeff Miner, his followers’ devotion reminds me very much of Chris Gonzales and IYG. Like Jeff, Chris was passionate and charismatic. I observed many times where Chris used his position to get IYG members to support various causes without questioning what they were supporting. My experience with Chris and IYG certainly colors my view on Mr. Miner and Jesus MCC. I hope that people have been thoughtful about their devotion to Mr. Miner, Jesus MCC, and this campaign.

  3. Melody

    It’s not an argument (ridiculous or no) for or against the campaign. It is dissent, and it should be OK within the gay and lesbian community. Unfortunately, it’s too often found unacceptable to disagree. Vanessa and I have observed that attendees we know are searching ardently for acceptance from the larger community of Christians, often to their detriment b/c it seems to leave them no energy for accepting themselves just as they are. It’s like– unless God says it’s OK, it’s a no-go. I can’t be who I am.
    Jesus MCC doesn’t speak for us as lesbians. In fact, we, as lesbians, have nothing to say on the subject of whether or not the Bible permits homosexuality. Being human is enough to justify our existence and rights.

  4. CandyShopGirl

    What do you think about love? >:)

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