Elton John is facing a backlash from conservative Christian groups after stating in an interview that Jesus was a gay man.
The 62-year-old music legend also opened up to US magazine Parade about the “life-threatening downside” of fame and his relationship with partner David Furnish.
But it’s the Rocket Man’s views on Jesus’s sexuality which have sparked headlines across the world.
In the interview, to be published in America tomorrow, Elton said: “I think Jesus was a compassionate, super-intelligent gay man who understood human problems.
“On the cross, he forgave the people who crucified him. Jesus wanted us to be loving and forgiving. I don’t know what makes people so cruel. Try being a gay woman in the Middle East – you’re as good as dead.”
Stephen Green, director of Christian Voice, described the gay claim as “rubbish”.
He said: “The Bible says Jesus was without sin and that rules out homosexuality.
“This is a desperate cry for attention.”
Mike Judge, of the Christian Institute, dismissed the star’s views, saying: “Had a senior political figure made these comments, I would have had an opinion.
“But this is Elton John and I don’t think anybody takes him seriously.”
Gay Christian groups acknowledged Elton, who is often pictured wearing a crucifix, had reopened debate on homosexuality and the church.
Jeremy Marks, founder and director of Courage, a Christian organisation for Gays and Lesbians, said: “None of us know and will never know what Jesus’s sexuality was.
“Certainly people’s perceptions of relationships between men, and men and women, were different then and would be unrecognisable today.
“I think he is explaining how he sees Jesus in his life and wants to encourage other people to see that too.”
John Blowers, co-convener of the Evangelical Fellowship for Lesbian and Gay Christians, said: “What tends to happen on each occasion this debate is reopened is that the debate becomes more polarised.
“The simple fact is that we are all God’s children.”
Elton’s comments were made in a wide ranging interview headlined, “There’s A Lot Of Hate In The World”.
He told the magazine that, for him, fame had lost its appeal.
“Princess Diana, Gianni Versace, John Lennon, Michael Jackson, all dead,” he said.
“Two of them shot outside their houses. None of this would have happened if they hadn’t been famous.
“Fame attracts lunatics. I never had a bodyguard, ever, until Gianni died. I don’t like celebrity anymore.”
The musician also revealed how he and civil partner Mr Furnish keep their love strong.
He said: “Every Saturday for 16 years, we’ve sent each other a card, no matter where we are in the world, to say how much we love each other.
“We’ve never been jealous. We talk about the sexual side of things, things that normally would have frightened me before.”
Elton also spoke about his relationship with drugs, saying: “For some people a gram of cocaine can last a month. Not me. I have to do the lot, and then I want more.
“At the end of the day, all it led to was heartache.”