Saturday, May 18, 2013

I do not like it when Christians who oppose LGBT equality are accused of "hating" or being "homophobic." I used to be one of those Christians, so I think I understand how many of them think and feel. They do not hate or fear LGBT people. They fear God. They carry a perception of the wrathful Old Testament God who will destroy cities or nations if "sin" is found in the camp (in the Hebrew scriptures, that "sin" consisted of acts such as idolatry or intermarriage with Gentiles or not thoroughly slaughtering one's enemy). Attempts to reconcile this ancient God of wrath with the God of love and inclusion that Jesus represented tend to create a sort of congitive and spiritual dissonance. And so, most Christians don't hate and fear gays--they really want to love them. What they fear is God's wrath and what they hate is the idea of the destruction God will bring down if LGBT people are accepted--if "sin" is allowed. There is also an earnest desire to be faithful and obedient to what they perceive God's will to be. It is a mindset that is actually very similar to that which was held by the Pharisees in the time of Jesus. The problem is theological and the solution is a better understanding of scripture and a deeper revelation of God's all-encompassing love and mercy and grace and compassion and inclusion. That is what Jesus modeled and what the apostles gave their lives demonstrating.

POSTSCRIPT (6/16/13): Some have responded to this post by saying, essentially, that it doesn't matter why many Christians oppose LGBT equality/inclusion and that my efforts to point out that the struggle is theological and is rooted in a fear-based perception of God is beside the point. The point, these responders would maintain, is that these Christians are hurting LGBT people--regardless of the reasons why--and that makes them bad. The problem with approaching it in this way is that it focuses on the problem but not the solution. Expending our energies on blame-casting (and perhaps name-calling) might make us feel good (and morally superior), but it doesn't offer a way forward. The way we move things forward is through dialogue and education. An inherent part of effective dialogue (and effective education) is understanding the other person's viewpoint and the reasons they hold that viewpoint. This can, in turn, lead us to deeper understanding and creative solutions which can change hearts and minds. But this approach is harder. It demands from us empathy. And it requires that we set aside our indignation. Quakers refer to this process as "laboring together" with those whom we have disagreements with. Nelson Mandela (who knows a thing or two about injustice) once said "If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner." Desmond Tutu echoed this when he said, “If you want to make peace, you don't talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.” Abraham Lincoln said it even more succinctly: "Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?" The question is, what is our motivation? Do we want a peace/shalom where all are included and valued, or do we just want the sense of satisfaction that comes from being right?


Anonymous BabyRaptor said...

If Christians were in the same situation that LGBTs are in now, with groups regularly lying about them, demonizing them, and generally doing everything possible to make sure that they stay second-class citizens, Christians would call that hatred. They would call it persecution.

And they would be right.

So why is it not hatred and persecution when Christians do it to another group? Why do we have to respect it, try to understand it, be nice about it, and try to compromise with them?

Bigotry and hatred are bigotry and hatred, no matter what the cause. Claiming that God says you need to feel X way does not cause how you feel to cease to be bigotry or hatred. Your opinions being "deep personal beliefs" does not automatically make them right, respectable or okay. They're still harmful. The person holding them just has an excuse that some people happen to find palatable.

You can defend how they feel and why they feel that way from here to kingdom come, and more power to you. But don't get pissy when someone calls a spade a spade. It's not doing you, or anyone else, a favour. It just encourages them.

And encouraging them only leads to more harm for the people they're targeting.

9:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah. Word games. Is this really a road you want to go down?

Let me pretend for a second that I agree with your distinction here. Let's say that Christians who attack and belittle LGBT people aren't quite at hate yet. They're close to hate, sure, practically wrapped around it like a lover, but they're not quite there.

How close are those people to love?

What's interesting to me is how very precise you want our criticism to be, how you demand we carefully analyze their thoughts like entomologists studying a rare specimen before we dare to condemn those who spit on us... but if I said "Christianity is about love" right now, you would smile and nod.

You wouldn't demand that I say "Christianity is about love when it's not pushing people away from love", even though you yourself just acknowledged that this is the case. You wouldn't demand to know why I thought Christianity was about love, wouldn't expect me to graph the amount of love I think Christianity can provide, you'd just accept it as simple, unmitigated fact.

Don't mistake me, I'm not saying that love has no place in Christianity. Obviously some Christians use their faith to bolster their love. But if you're going to be so precise and demanding, maybe you should put away your pride and look at how people praise you as much as how people condemn you.

10:57 PM  
Blogger Ernest Miller said...

People need to take responsibility for their god's commands. If their god promotes prejudice against homosexuals then they are just as responsible for accusations of bigotry as their god. I don't really see the difference between fearing a god who is opposed to homosexuality and fearing homosexuality itself. The distinction you posit seems irrelevant.

8:06 AM  
Anonymous Lee said...

It must be nice to be able to sit comfortably at your desk and split hairs about what people do or don't hate. The result is the same in either instance, and the people who are hurt or killed by it don't have that luxury.

Intention is not magic, and a difference which makes no difference IS no difference.

8:27 PM  
Blogger Richard Parent said...

Thank you for this beautiful post. I especially appreciated your collection of quotes. There's much to think about, here.

As an gay man, and as a former Southern Baptist, I find it fascinating that the "high road" approach of "dialogue, not destruction" calls LGBT folks to do what Jesus would do -- "against" the very fearful/hateful/etc. people who claim to be His.

The irony, of course, is palpable. It would be delicious, if it weren't so harmful to LGBT people, and especially LGBT youth. Sigh.

3:12 PM  
Blogger Daniel P. (Danny) Coleman said...

Richard, thank you for sharing that very profound insight! It is indeed ironic.

9:49 PM  
Anonymous Lee said...

You're still missing the point. These people are choosing to do things that they know are wrong, and they're using God as an excuse. At some point you have to stand up and say, "No, I did these things, even knowing that they were wrong things to do, and I am responsible for the harm I have done thereby."

You can't hide behind God's skirts and pretend that there's nothing else you can do when you have the free choice to do the right thing instead. Without the realization that you have done wrong, there can be no repentance and no absolution.

5:20 PM  

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