Kudos to the five local Metropolitan Community Churches who’ve started the eye-catching “Would Jesus Discriminate?” highway campaign, with at least two billboards on I-30 in Fort Worth declaring things like “Jesus Affirmed a Gay Couple” and “The Early Church Welcomed a Gay Man” with chapter and verse quoted to support the claims.

Much as I admire and agree with the message, I think cherry-picking quotes from the New Testament for a public debate is self-defeating. Exegesis is a delicate business that yields frequently silly results, and some right-wing pastor or priest is just going to come along and say, “No, those quotes didn’t say that, they said this,” and offer up an obscurantist, angels-dancing-on-the-head-of-a-pin interpretation to support official church bigotry. Neither side can win at this dubious game.

Personally, I think Jesus was a big-picture guy. He left wonky scriptural showmanship to the people who prayed ostentatiously from streetcorners to let everyone else know how holy they were. He also tended to hang out with the oppressed and rejected, which begs the question: Was Jesus gay? Bill Maher doesn’t think the idea is so far-fetched. After all, Christ preferred the company of other men, he was unmarried, and he ended every prayer with an enthusiastic, “Ahhh, men.”

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Maher was being cheeky, of course, as I am by quoting him. I don’t think Jesus was gay. Then again, I don’t think he was straight, either. If you subscribe to the foundational Christian teaching that he was both fully God and fully human, then you’d have to concede he had awareness – albeit probably chaste – of all forms of love. (To him, it was all one love with a capital “L”). And if you don’t subscribe to Christianity, well, you’ve still got one helluva Jewish teacher.