Jesus reserved his fiercest rage for the proud religious and his most generous (and scandalous) compassion for those they considered socially unacceptable. It makes me ache with frustration and despair when that same Jesus is used today as a figurehead for prejudice.
I say 'that same Jesus'. In reality, of course, it's not the same Jesus at all. It's just the same five letters, J, E, S, U, and another S, used to rubber stamp fear and loathing.
The shortest verse in the Bible is 'Jesus wept'. I think he still does.
Of all prejudices, homophobia particularly gets my goat, perhaps because it is still viewed as somehow acceptable in some religious circles. People who would throw up their hands in horror at racism, for instance, find it acceptable to talk ignorant rubbish about gay people - and feel a warm glow of orthodox righteousness as they do so.
"Woe to you! Hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in."(That was Jesus, by the way, with his goat got.)
Let's explore this. Faithfulness, tenderness, loyalty, self-giving - these are good things. They are Jesus-like qualities. Agreed? Yet some religious people would consign the faithfulness, tenderness, loyalty, sacrifice shown by a gay person to another to a bin labelled 'SIN'.
Because it happens to be Adam and Steve we're talking about, rather than Adam and Eve, their faithfulness, tenderness, loyalty and self-giving is rendered null and void. Worse, these virtues are given names like 'sodomy' and 'sin'.
I've even heard some religious people express the execrable view that heterosexual sex that is promiscuous or even exploitative is better than homosexual sex that is faithful, tender, loyal and self-giving - simply because the gender of the participants is the same.
This seems to me to be self-evidently ridiculous (and unutterable tragic). But it is held as orthodoxy in some quarters.
Let me be quite clear. I'm not advocating sexual moral chaos. This isn't about 'free love' (which in fact, comes with a very big 'buy now, pay later' label hidden in the packaging and is in any case nothing to do with love). Sexual morality matters. And faithfulness, tenderness, loyalty and self-giving matter. Promiscuous, exploitative, or even just plain selfish sex is a twisting of God's design. It is, in fact, sin - and brings all the pain, fragmentation and separation that sin always brings.
Human sexuality is too complex to be reduced to soundbites or formulae. But of this we can be sure: it is better saturated with the qualities of God's own nature - of love, in fact - than it is without them. Much, much better. So much better as to be a different thing altogether.
So I felt I had to sign a petition the other day to oppose the horrific anti-gay bill proposed in Uganda (see avaaz.org).
Human sexuality may be complex. Questions surrounding human sexuality may be difficult. But when we're faced with such flagrant abuse of humanity as is represented by such a bill, when the screeching calls for morality become this immoral, when hatred threatens to be enshrined in law - I for one have to speak out. I have to say no.
In the name of Jesus - no.