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.