Is The Church Really Homophobic?

As my two readers can tell you, I did not grow up in the Church. There is a lot that I have come to understand about the Church, and a lot that I still don’t get.But I did grow up a child of the 80s – which was arguably one of the most homophobic generations in recent history. We were the first generation to be able to openly talk about homosexuality – as long as we were making fun of it. Eddie Murphy was making his constant “homo” jokes. Judas Priest fired their lead singer for coming out of the closet. And those were some of the nicer things that were said and done to gays at the time. Bullying and mocking of anyone that even slightly deviated from gender appearance norms was brutal and extensive. And if it came out that you really were gay? So, yes, I do know homophobia when I see it.

I freely admit that I said and did many things that were blatantly homophobic (and sexist and racist, too). My parents taught me better than that, but I tried a bit too hard to fit in at times. Luckily, going to college brought about a spiritual transformation that led me to change my whole outlook as well as attitude towards others. I realized that I could live out the goals that I believed in, that I was raised to believe in, even if those around me didn’t. My new goal was to love everyone unconditionally, even if I disagreed with them.

Besides, this is what the Church taught. But what church members did was a whole other story.

With the debate raging over gay marriage, bullying of gays, and many other areas where someone is treated as less than everyone else because of their sexuality, lines are becoming blurred. We all agree that the “Westboro Baptist” types are full of hate and blatantly homophobic. But often the accusations spill over the blurry line between heretics like Westboro Baptist and others – and we find all churches labeled as “homophobic.”

But is that really fair to characterize churches as homophobic just because they believe that homosexuality is a sin? Isn’t it a bit extreme to make that jump? Does it make it hateful because you are standing against the redefinition of marriage? Isn’t it just free speech to speak out about religious beliefs?

As someone who has faced his own homophobia, let me make the blurry line a little more blurry. Yes, the Church for the most part appears homophobic… because it does the same things that a homophobic group would do. To an outsider looking in, that difference might not matter. We need to understand that. For the most part, I don’t think this phobia comes from hatred, but from ignorance of both scriptural complexities and from how Christians are supposed to apply their beliefs to political situations.

But phobia is phobia no matter the source and we need to own up to it.

First of all, let me point out that people that usually object the most to being called homophobic are the ones that are the most guilty of it… behind closed doors. There is a reason they protest so loudly – and it is called “getting busted.” I can’t count the number of times I have seen someone with my own eyes get extremely emotional about how they “love the sin but hate the sinner” and then go off about “those silly gays” when everyone else is gone. Then there is usually some rant about the gay agenda trying to destroy America.

Right there – that is it. If you think gays are trying to destroy America, you are buying into a lie and spreading homophobic rhetoric  Would you give someone a pass on racism if they believed that all blacks are out to turn America into a Black Muslim nation? What if they just don’t know enough black people and are just believing some weird belief that some crazy Uncle of theirs floated at Thanksgiving? No? Then why are you believing some crazy anti-gay idea some weirdos came up with in the 80s about a “gay agenda”?

Look – without going into details – I remember when the “gay agenda” idea gained a foothold in the church. There was a radical gay group that posted fliers on church doors and spread some propaganda about “stamping out heterosexuality” and “turning the world gay.” It turned out to be a handful of weird gay atheists that most of the gay community had never heard of. But still to this day you hear their weird ideas being passed around as “proof of a gay agenda” against the Church.

We all remember the recent Chick-fil-a controversy. Everyone and their dog knew that CFA was against gay marriage. So why do you think that gay rights activist were up in arms suddenly? Was it really because they were trying – all of a sudden – to squash CFA’s right to free speech? Why didn’t they try that years earlier? The truth was that it had nothing to do with free speech – the President of CFA said that gay rights supporters were out to destroy America by “bringing judgement” on our nation. But then political tools like Mike Hukabee saw an opportunity and trudged out the old, tired “gay agenda” of squashing the free speech of churches and turned it into a media firestorm.

So how would you feel if your beliefs were COMPLETELY misrepresented by politicians and thousands of people flocked to support a cause that was a sham in the first place (because there was no attack on free speech)?

Oh wait, that is right – most Christian groups have had that happen to them and have raised a stink about it many times.

But the comment that came out the most during the whole CFA controversy was “I’m not homophobic just because I stand for a Biblical definition of marriage.” Of course, many people pointed out how misguided the idea of “Biblical marriage” is (do you mean conquering your wife in war? people marrying their deceased brother’s wife? what about marrying slaves? polygamy? All allowed in the Bible).

But let us unpack this a bit. The Biblical definition of homosexuality is vague, at best. Almost all mentions of it in the Bible are in reference to sexual slaves for religious rituals (if you look in the original languages). Even the New Testament references. We make it out to be so clear when it really isn’t. This isn’t meant to be an argument to change minds on homosexuality being sin or not – I just want us to be honest about what really is in the Bible. Would you feel very loved by a group of people that were smoothing over scriptural difficulties just to make their pre-determined view seem “right”? That seems homophobic to me. It was racist when we as the Church did that with scriptures and slavery.

Another angle to consider: how do you think it looks to gays if you fight to make gay marriage illegal, but don’t fight for laws that make divorcing for any reason other than adultery illegal? Why are you not fighting to make premarital sex illegal? Why are you not fighting to make it illegal for someone to remarry after a second divorce? All of these are spelled out as sin in the Bible – with nothing unclear about it. Why are fighting for one sin to be illegal, but not others? Can’t you see how that comes across as homophobic? Because it is.

Then you want to say that gay marriage will destroy marriages or society. Look, if marriage has survived so many “sins” against it (like divorce, adultery, per-marital sex, etc) – do you really think this one will be the straw to break the camels back? If your marriage is going to fall apart because gays can marry, then you need to see a counselor NOW – It just isn’t that strong. Sorry to be blunt. And for goodness sake, don’t move to a Middle Eastern country where polygamy is every where.  Christianity would obviously never survive there. Oh, wait… it is and then some.

And what about how we apply our beliefs to state and national laws? Whether you like it or not, the current scientific belief is that homosexuality is not a choice and that gays can not change. Get mad at me all you want for saying that, but it just is what it is. I’m not offering my opinion here. Our country is moving to a place that feels that homosexuality is to be accepted as normal.

But even more than that we live in a country that believes that no religious group should impose its beliefs on others. We don’t make murder illegal because it is a sin – we make it illegal because as a nation we agreed that it is to be illegal. Our laws might have started off with a basis in scripture, but over time they have been refined to match a socially constructed agreement of respecting individual rights and freedoms. That means some religious groups see their beliefs become law when they match up with the norm, and others don’t. Muslims that believe in polygamy are an obvious example. To those kinds of Muslims, having multiple wives is not immoral at all. But when living in America they submit to the mutually agreed upon laws of the land that marriage should be limited to two people.

See – we redefine traditional marriage all the time in America – it just depends on who’s traditions you are talking about.

When your religious beliefs fall outside of the cultural norms, you gotta deal with it. You get the freedom to believe what you want and practice what you like (within the bounds of socially-agreed upon morals). But to tell someone else that they can’t enjoy the freedoms you enjoy just because they don’t follow your exact religious convictions? That is pretty phobic.

The other issue here is legislating morality. The reason you don’t see Christians jumping up and down to make fornication illegal is that we all know it is impossible to legislate morality. You can catch a killer and hand out punishment because they stomped on the rights of others by taking a life. Same for stealing, lying, you name it: the laws are made to protect people. But in cases where both parties are in agreement? You can’t make much of a case there. Once again, society no longer sees gays in a committed relationship as dangerous or subversive. You can be mad at that all you want, but if you are going to stand by and let others “live in sin”… you will just seem mean and phobic to “pick and choose” which sins you let slide and which ones you stand up and picket against.

So in other words – if you are not homophobic, stop acting like those who are.

None of this is meant to be a case for or against homosexuality being a sin. It is common sense to be applied no matter what your view on the sinfulness of homosexuality is.

And for once and for all, can we stop it with the silly protests against the anti-gay bullying days and events? Those are also completely based on that crazy “gay agenda” thing. Too many Christians are sitting in silence while non-heterosexual children and teens are treated like trash, just because we are afraid of being seen as some how supporting a fictitious “gay agenda.” Reacting in fear? Believing in falsehoods? Caring so much about what our friends think about us that we will not take a stand with those who are rejected and scorned by society? Sounds more like the work of the devil than the move of the Spirit.

I will end with a parable I shared in another post:

metamodern-faith-avatarA gay man was walking from his house to the neighborhood grocery store, when he was attacked by a group of thugs. They took his clothes and possessions, beat him and went away… leaving him half dead. A preacher happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw that the man was gay, passed by on the other side. A good Christian Mom saw him also and decided to create a movement to boycott the street that let a gay man walk down it. But a homeless man came to where the man was and felt sorry for him. He bandaged his wounds, even putting on some rubbing alcohol he had been saving. Then he put the gay man in his own shopping cart and rolled him to a hotel and took care of him. The next day he took out all the money he had and gave it to the hotel owner. “Look after him,” he said, “and when I return from begging for more money, I will reimburse you for any extra you may have to spend.”

Which of these three do you think was a good Christian to the gay man who fell into the hands of thugs?

[this blog post is my submission for the Synchroblog for Sanity as a heterosexual conservative Christian that feels we need a more honest, open discussion about this issue]

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2 thoughts on “Is The Church Really Homophobic?

  1. A lot of really good points here. “Yes, the Church for the most part appears homophobic… because it does the same things that a homophobic group would do.” And how singling out gay marriage and making laws against it while not making laws against divorce, premarital sex, etc- if that’s not “homophobic”, then what is?

    I was especially struck by your “parable” at the end. I’ve often been afraid to speak out against bullying and other things like that, which are OBVIOUSLY WRONG but I don’t want someone to misunderstand and accuse me of “supporting the gay lifestyle.” But I’ve recently decided to be an ally instead. 🙂

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