Rather than let a nasty full-page ad in a local paper spark an in-kind retaliation, a group of Memphis LGBT organizations are banding together for a charity food drive.
A spot paid for by a group calling itself the Memphis churches of Christ appeared in Sunday and Tuesday’s edition of The Commercial Appeal. Though made to look like a regular article, it quoted Bible verses and offered readers “a grim reminder of God’s hatred of the sin of homosexuality.”
Reportedly $15,000 was spent on the advertisement. That’s $15,000 that could have gone to housing the homeless, feeding the hungry and helping the sick—you know, things churches are supposed to do.
“It’s hard to watch churches and other religious organizations spending tithes and church offerings on hateful advertising rather than benefit their church members or assist those living in poverty in our city.” said the Tennessee Equality Project‘s Jonathan Cole.
Even local clergy are upset they’ve been swept up in this controversy: “On behalf of Memphis-area Churches of Christ, I’d like to say the following: disregard anyone claiming to speak for Churches of Christ,” said Highland Christian Church minister Chris Altrock. “…We have no formal superstructure, no official bishops, representatives or the like. For one person or group to claim to speak for Churches of Christ is a bit like me claiming to speak for Memphis when I vote next Tuesday.”
Altrock added, “if I were going to take a page out in the Commercial Appeal, I’d probably speak of the transforming love of Jesus for all.”
But rather than waste money on a counter-ad, area advocacy groups decided to start a food drive benefiting the Mid-South Food Bank. “Our organizations have criticized churches who spend money to demean us by suggesting that they focus on caring for the poor and feeding the hungry,” said Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center director Will Batts. “In response to recent attacks on our community, we’re putting our money where our mouths are and the mouths of those who go hungry. We shall meet hatred with love for our friends and neighbors.”
We’re not big on turning the other cheek, but in this instance we have to commend these righteous gays. They’re more “Christian” than those who would seek to dehumanize them.
Despite issuing a statement defending his right to publish the ad, Commerical Appeal editor Chris Peck is reportedly pulling future editions of the spot until those responsible for it clearly identify themselves.
In the meantime, the drive runs through November 9 and items can be dropped off at the Mid-South Food Bank, 239 South Dudley Street in Memphis. If you’re not local, donations can still be made online, even after the current campaign ends.