Note: Homosexuality is a very controversial subject in Christianity(and Judaism). This post is not meant to address that particular subject; it is to address homophobia in Evangelism(singled out because it’s with that which I am most familiar). In order to address homophobia this post will be presented from a traditionalist viewpoint.
Last week we experienced the deadliest mass shooting in American history, when a gunman, pledging allegiance to ISIS, killed forty-nine people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. There have been Christian leaders who have used this as an opportunity to attack Islam, claiming that while Muslims want to kill gay people, Christians want to “help” them. Many people in the LGBTQIAP+ community are crying “foul” over this. Since for many LGBT their sexual orientation is considered part of who they are, rhetoric about changing them is taken personally. I have read online about high suicide rates among LGBT youth, especially those from Fundamentalist backgrounds. LGBT also face disproportionately high rates of homelessness. LGBT also feel under attack, due to bullying, actions that are perceived as denying them their rights, people who tell them they’re going to hell — it is all these things that motivate some LGBT to rage against Christianity. Last week on a blog that I regularly comment on, a LGBT commentor railed harshly against Christianity due to some of what I just mentioned. I replied that sometimes we just need a safe space to rage and vent; I told them to preach, and that Christians(particularly Evangelicals and Fundamentalists) need to hear this, for these issues are rarely talked about in Evangelicalism. This is a major motivation for this post — to give voice to the hurting, to provide Christians with a means to hear their stories and explain why we should do so biblically.
This is an appeal for my fellow Christians to reexamine your treatment of LGBT(and whatever religion you practice). I am in a process of reexamination myself. I’m straight, and this doesn’t concern me directly. However there ARE people in this world that this DOES concern directly; thus it NEEDS to be my concern. We are often told “It’s not about you” and Jesus said the second great commandment is “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Lev. 19:18). In 1 John 4:20 it’s written that you can’t love God if you don’t love your brother. Philippians 2:4 urges us to look to the interests of others. In Evangelicalism we have the cliché “Hate the sin, love the sinner.” This originally had the intent of encouraging Christians to not to hate LGBT but to not accept homosexuality. However the intent does not match the results; for the way this has been applied has come off as judgmental and paternalistic.
For conservative Christians the opposition to homosexuality comes from passages commonly called the “clobber” verses, which they interpret, along with Genesis 2, as teaching that sexual relations between people of the same biological sex is forbidden, and that people are to remain whatever their birth sex is. Regardless of how these passages are interpreted, if we apply the teaching of Jesus, “By your fruits ye shall know them” (Mt 7:20), we can see a lot of bad fruit coming out of traditionalist environments. This shows that something is seriously wrong.
This is why a reexamination is needed! What I say is we need to quit treating LGBT as projects, trying to change/convert them. It is our teaching that conversation is a work of God; as St. Paul says, “I planted, Apollos watered, but only God gives the growth.” (1 Cor. 3:6, NRSV). We do this by listening to their stories and making an attempt at understanding where they’re coming from. That’s how God operates. He’s already Omniscient, but He understands where we come from. According to the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation, God, though Omniscient and Omnipotent, put on a human body and lived as a human being in Jesus Christ, as it is written, “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His Glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14, KJV) and “He[Jesus] is the Image of the Invisible God, the firstborn over all creation… For it pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell; and, having made peace through the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself…And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled.” (Col. 1:15, 19-20a, 21), and “For while we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly…But God commendeth His love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:6,8). All these verses teach that God was so committed to us He put on a body and lived as a human being, in the person of Jesus Christ. When He walked the earth, Jesus ate with those denounced as sinners.(In that culture, eating with someone was a sign of acceptance.) Now if God Himself, being Omniscient, can walk a mile in our shoes, we can at least listen to the perspectives of those outside our circle, even if they make us uncomfortable.(Remember, God is able to handle their anger. In fact, in the Psalms and in Job, He encouraged the hurting to vent.)
One more thing: Christian parents, please do not disown your LGBT children. It is written in the book of Job, “A despairing man should have the devotion of his friends, even though he forsakes the fear of the Almighty.” (Job 6:14, NIV). As I mentioned above, Jesus associated with people labeled “sinners” by the establishment, that Jesus was God’s attempt to build bridges, that He died for us while we were sinners, He met us where we were, and sought to build bridges. That’s what He meant when He said He’s the Way, and no one comes to the Father but through Him — He is the Way from God to humanity. Remember, O Christian parents, even if you consider homosexuality a sin, we are ALL sinners(Rom. 3:23, 1John 1:8, 10).
There is a concern among conservative Christians not to condone “The Gay Lifestyle” (TM). Well, there is no such thing! LGBT lives a variety of lifestyles. Besides, do you fret over whether your actions towards straight people is condoning whatever ungodly lifestyle they’re living. After all, everyone is a sinner.
I found a few approaches by Orthodox Jews interesting. For them, only homosexual acts are forbidden; the attractions are not. Since that’s seen as a test and we all have our tests, straight people are asked not to judge LGBT, as there should be no judgment without walking a mile in someone’s shoes. Rabbi Shmuley urges people to work on the other 611 commandments in the Torah. Thus I urge my fellow Christians to take these matters into consideration, and let the Lord give you understanding in all things. (Paul said this in 2 Tim. 2:7, but I must remind you that I am not saying God told me to say this; I am human and fallible, I can get it wrong.)
Now to anyone who is LGBTQIAP+: this is an attempt to encourage empathy among conservative Christians. There is good intent but, as the old saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. C. S. Lewis observes that this is often worse when the intentions are good than when they’re malicious, as the conscience approves of good intentions. Thus, I ask, is this actually helpful. If not, please let me know; and I’ll address your issues in a follow up post.