What would Jesus do? Lots of folks think they know

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It’s a good season for the Holy Trinity, which is to say God, Jesus and Mel Gibson. All three are on everyone’s mind these days due to the fuss over gay marriages and Gibson’s blockbuster adventure movie “The Passion of the Christ.”

Politically, God is being talked up by the stern and pious messengers of the Christian Right as a firm believer in opposite-sex marriage and an indignant opponent of any other arrangement, which is why he rarely visits San Francisco.

The heavenly father is naturally pleased by his current popularity, even though it will probably last only about as long as Britney Spears’ marriage, which, incidentally, was not gay, in any sense of the word. He figures that at least we’re thinking about him and writing about him and depicting him.


God, to use a show biz expression, has been invited to the party.

He is, of course, always present at sports events on the side of the team that prays hardest and remains out of jail longest, and on the battlefield when the going is roughest and the flag is flying.

In addition to all that, and to being recognized by Hollywood’s Holy Spirit, God is also in the hands of that wily old Texan George W. Bush, who is utilizing God’s drawing power by turning the question of same-sex marriage into a secular election gimmick. God isn’t happy about being a gimmick, but he’s not surprised either.

Bush was probably hoping that the unifying qualities of war would be his primary campaign advantage in the upcoming election, but once the war started going poorly and no weapons of mass destruction turned up, he needed something equally compelling to stir the souls of the American people.

Just about the time he was getting desperate for what Ronald Reagan called the Golden Kazoo, or the magic issue, the mayor of San Francisco answered his prayers by allowing gay marriages. Bush grabbed at the budding moral controversy the way Sharon Stone grabbed for Michael Douglas in “Basic Instinct.”

Even as gays and lesbians were lining up to wed, Bush was announcing his support for a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to a union between persons of opposite genders. It’s OK to sleep together and have babies out of wedlock, but if you’re going to marry in America, by God, you’ve got to be a man and a woman.

His announcement, applying the same twisted wisdom that declared the war in Iraq over, was constituted to convince self-righteous people everywhere that the nation’s moral strength was being subverted by those of the same sex who insisted on loving each other and demanding the right to legalize lifelong relationships.


The Republican party will parade God through town like a circus elephant, shouting loudly that it is for him they are attempting to unite America in a great crusade for family values. Without man-woman marriage, they’ll proclaim, there would never have been a Jesus! Or, for that matter, God’s best friend in Hollywood, Mel Gibson.

I have gay friends who have lived together for years, who are smart, creative, churchgoing people, and whose moral precepts hold more intrinsic value than those of a whole neighborhood of right-wing pedagogues. Morality isn’t a tool of expedience, but rather a way of life that defines a person by his actions. You get to heaven not by demeaning but by inspiring.

Instead of quiet, introspective moments, however, we have the Gospel according to Gibson jumping into our faces and turning an old story into a new profit-making device. I don’t begrudge a guy making money on a popular and timely idea. I don’t even object much to the trinkets that evolve from a blockbuster movie. If you can sell a replica of Nemo, why not a replica of the kind of spike used to crucify Jesus? A little something to dangle from a chain around your neck. Maybe a diamond in the middle. Merchandising, if not godly, is at least eye-catching.

Nothing Hollywood does will ever surprise me, including the injection of excessive violence into everything from animated romance to religious mythology. A movie like “Passion” is essentially an entertainment, not an ethical position. You can either see it or not. I’m not. I read the book.

What does bother me is the cynical effort to play upon the gullible emotions of middle America by using God to sell a bad idea and to begin a potentially dangerous tampering with the U.S. Constitution. The Bill of Rights was created to define liberty, not to limit it.


Al Martinez’s column appears Mondays and Fridays. He’s at