In the preceding post, I surveyed the positive evidence showing the Christian religion is not homophobic and that its core teachings contradict homophobic ideas and tendencies.
We defined homophobia as fear, hatred, aversion, or violence directed against a person because they identify as LGBT.
In this post, I am playing defense, answering some common objections I've encountered against the idea Christianity is not homophobic.
This was not an easy post to write, as I am keenly aware many will not find these answers satisfying.
However, I hope the reader will render judgment with an open mind and heart, focusing on the logic and coherency on the statements made, and not personal feelings or political leanings.
Here are the four objections:
In Leviticus 20:13, does not the Bible say homosexuals should be put to death, and is that not a clear example of homophobia?
Firstly, even if this passage could be understood as homophobic, the Levitical laws were never intended wholesale for all times and all people (e.g., 4:2-3, 7:28-29, 12:1-3, etc.) and have no intrinsic application to Christians today. For this reason alone, this passage is irrelevant until proven otherwise.
Secondly, the text attacks a behavior, not a class of people, condemning same-sex sexual relations, not those with same-sex attraction. So it is not "being gay" that merits death, but contravening God's laws.
Thirdly, pursuing or actuating capital punishment is not a Christian practice. As one Christian brother has noted...
Paul says:—"If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink; for, in so doing, thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil; but overcome evil with good." [Romans 12:20-21]
Would it not sound strangely, for the Apostle to say, in the next words:—"You christians, hang all murderers! for you are God's ministers waiting continually upon this very thing." Such is the position of the abettors of capital punishment amongst christians. (Tolbert Fanning, "Capital Punishment No.2.")
Leviticus 20:13 is not an easy verse to wrangle with, but when taken at face value, it does not promotes homophobia (i.e., negative feelings or actions toward people because of their same-sex attraction).
You say Christianity refutes homophobia by teaching love, respect, and peace for all people, but the Bible in Romans 1:27 and 1 Corinthians 6:9 condemn homosexuality explicitly. Is this not homophobia?
The passages in the New Testament about homosexuality are not homophobic because (1.) they do not promote fear, hatred, aversion, or violence toward LGBT individuals (2.) affirm the basic humanity of all people (3.) and are given with a view towards reconciling all people, gay straight, etc., to God through Christ Jesus.
For example, following Romans 1, chapter 3 says, "There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." (23-24) (Emphasis mine)
Furthermore, while 1 Corinthians 1:9 prohibits homosexual behavior, verse 10 says, "And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." (Emphasis mine)
Therefore, we see the Bible does not condemn for the sake of condemning, and that all people are equal of sin before God.
God's judgments are based on truth for the sake of revealing to man his sinful condition, that he might understand his need for his Creator and come to know Him.
That is love, not homophobia.
The next objection goes as follows: "The hard reality that...all Christians need to face up to is that the Catholic Church along with every other church whether Orthodox, Protestant or Catholic has been horrifically, persistently and vehemently anti-gay for almost all of its history." (No Cardinal Dolan, the Catholic Church Wasn't 'Outmarketed' on Gay Marriage, Huffington Post)
It is true that throughout Christian history, homosexuals have not always been treated by the Church as Christ would have us treat our neighbors.
This is to our deep shame.
However, to whatever extent this is true, it represents a deep incongruity, not congruity with the teachings of Christ (for the reasons given in the other post).
When any Christian fails to show love, respect, and peace towards all men, they fail to represent Christ.
The final objection is as follows: "Those who oppose gay marriage drive the laws that inflict this daily humiliation unto gay couples and their children. That, put simply, is homophobia." (Yes, Opposing Gay Marriage Makes You a Homophobe, Slate)
The general objection here is that opposing gay rights legislation, which many Christians do, means one is homophobic.
This may be true, but the Bible itself never calls Christians to enact or repeal any laws, lobby government, or try to make the State "Christian".
As such, if a given position toward a law is deemed homophobic, it is or is not so entirely independent of the Christian faith.
I am not arguing here the Bible condemns Christians being in government (even thought that is my personal view), but if a Christian wants to enact or repeal any law, they cannot use the Bible as their support, as it does not advocate for such activity.
There are undoubtedly many more objections that could be raised, but I believe when we look at the positive evidence and negative defenses, it becomes clear Jesus Christ calls his disciples to be ministers of peace, love, justice, and reconciliation in the world, not homophobes.
Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Thursday, March 26, 2015
Is the Christian faith homophobic?
To answer this question, we have to define homophobia, which is no easy task given there is no "official" definition.
"aversion to gay or homosexual people or their lifestyle or culture" (American Heritage Dictionary, 1992 ed.)
"the fear and hatred of homosexuals...sometimes leading to acts of violence and expressions of hostility." (Anti-Defamation League)
"a fear of homosexuality...come to be used for the entire spectrum of anti-gay attitudes and beliefs." (Levay, Simone and Valente, Sharon, Human Sexuality, 2nd Ed. )
As we can see, any answer to this question must take into account the fluid meaning of the term homophobic.
Obviously, if one has already defined homophobia in such a way to include the belief that gay sex is sinful, this particular debate is over and Christianity is homophobic.
However, if we are willing to accept the more modest and straightforward definitions, like the ones above, I believe we can be confident that Christianity is not homophobic.
We may base this assessment on the teachings of the Christian Scriptures, the plumb-line for Christian faith and practice. This is not to say all Christians obey the Bible (God knows that's a lie!), but that to whatever extent any individual or groups of Christians deviate from the Bible, they are acting out of line with Christian practice.
That being said, here are 3 reasons why Christianity is not homophobic:
1. The Christian faith is predicated on Love:
Hate and irrational fear, integral to any understanding of homophobia, cannot exist alongside love. That would be like me loving spiders!
This is important because the Bible tells us that second to loving God, Christians should love those around us, just as much as we love ourselves (Lev. 19:18; Matt. 22:39). In fact, the Bible admonishes disciples of Christ to love even their enemies (Matt. 5:44-45). In addition, Jesus gives it to us straight: if you don't love, you don't know God (John 4:7-8).
Hate and worldly fear (of any kind) are not a part of the Christian worldview. As the Scripture says:
For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. - 2 Timothy 1:7
Those who choose to act in an unloving way toward their LGBT neighbors are contradicting their faith. In this way, homophobia is not compatible with Christianity.
2. The Christian faith is predicated on Respect:
The Scriptures tell believers to show respect or honor to "all people" (1 Pet. 2:17) and to answer questions or objections to our faith in a respectful manner (1 Peter 3:15).
Furthermore, Jesus in Luke 6:31 says frankly, "Treat others the same way you want them to treat you."
Those who choose to act disrespectful toward their LGBT neighbors are contradicting their faith.
Again, we see for this reason homophobia, which disrespects those toward whom it is directed, is not compatible with Christianity.
3. The Christian faith is predicated on Peace:
Violence, agitation, and bullying are out of the question in the eyes of New Testament writers who favor instead "shalom" or peace.
For example, we are told in Romans 12:18, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." And in Hebrews 12:14, "Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord." Lastly, Peter (one of Jesus's disciples), quoting the Old Testament says the following:
"Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it."(Psalm 34:12-14; 1 Peter 3:10-11)
Those who choose to act in a way not peaceful toward their LGBT neighbors are contradicting their faith. In this final example, we see that violence, bullying or agitation based on homophobia (or at all) is incompatible with Christianity.
Homophobia, whether it takes the form of fear, hatred, aversion, or violence cannot exist where love, respect, and peace reign supreme. This means homophobia has no place in Christianity and that Christianity is not homophobic.
In part two, we will look at some possible objections to this thesis.