In my previous post, I presented a discussion I had with a stranger on Facebook about Christian’s supposed prejudice and bigotry toward homosexuals. I want to write a little more concerning my reactions of the conversation and also talk about actual Christian attitudes towards same-sex attraction.
First I want to say a few things about how the conversation went as a whole. When I made my initial comment I had little hope of having a calm and level-headed discussion. Perhaps for that reason alone I should have refrained from jumping into this talk but there is always that small shred of hope which pushes me to engage people on these topics. Not surprisingly, the first response to my comment was kind of snide and sarcastic. I am completely used to this tactic as it is often a method to perhaps shame me away from pressing further, but since I am used to it I continued.
What I was aiming for in this discussion was simply to illustrate how many conservative Christians approach the topic of same-sex attraction and marriage. I was not saying all Christians approach it this particular way, I was not saying I approach it this way, and I was not even saying all Christians should approach it this way; whatever way this is. It was my desire to show that often times Christians do not develop their attitudes towards the topic of homosexuality because of some inherent prejudice toward gay people. I fully understand this is not always the case. When you see or hear about a Christian response to homosexuality in popular culture it usually is presented in one of two ways. Either the Christian is completely homophobic and is unable to accept the homosexual individual in any manner besides their “abominable” sexual orientation, or the Christian is entirely complicit of the homosexual orientation and breaks from the traditional teaching of the Church or just simply ignores that part of Christian teaching. In both cases, it is the homosexuality which defines the individual and therefore it must be rejected or accepted with no other options. I believe this is the wrong approach, but more on that later.
Based on the response I received to my plea for dialogue I was optimistic about the outcome, or at least the trajectory of the discussion. It was met with a polite and intelligent response even though it was still argumentative in nature. But as you can see the conversation quickly deteriorated. I believe this is because I was unwilling to argue about why I thought same-sex marriage was wrong and only wanted an acknowledgement of the fact that some people do not agree with this and that there may be more than bigotry involved with their “underlying motivations”. I’m sure my antagonist believed the conversation came to end due to my complete ignorance and inability to move away from the nonsense ideas that fuel my bigotry toward homosexuals and I can completely understand this. First of all, I’m fairly certain this person was not a Christian so to him, its teachings are at best old fashioned and at worst they are bigoted nonsense; I think he was leaning toward the latter. When someone sees Christian teachings in this light there is no real possible way for them to see how a “negative” attitude toward a completely harmless segment of the population can in any way be warranted. The only possible reason can be a Stone-Age, patriarchal phobia that has often times gone as far as violent persecution and is now manifesting itself in the form of discriminatory laws. In light of this thinking, any acknowledgement on his part of the slightest legitimacy of Christian attitudes towards homosexuals would amount, for him, to being complicit in a bigoted ideology.
So what is the answer?
I stated in the discussion that Christians will have this opinion about homosexuality forever so we must find a way to coexist. The teaching that homosexuality is out of tune with the Divine Plan for the human race is not a new idea in Judeo/Christian principles—actually it has always been there. Two thousand years before Christ walked the Earth it was taught in the Jewish law and after Christ left it was reiterated in the New Testament, despite what some may have us think. The idea has been taught throughout the history of the Church and is only now, at the end of the twentieth and beginning of the twenty-first century, become a source of confusion for some. Despite the current confusion, there will continue to be a majority of Christians who hold on to the teachings that have been handed down to them for several millennia.
I will say it is good this issue is being talked about precisely because of all the hateful attitudes towards the LGBT community which needed to be addressed; we needed to have this discussion much like we needed the discussion on civil rights in the sixties, but this topic is not comparable to American racism. Racist attitudes were never truly justified scripturally by racists who happened to be Christian; yes, slavery was accounted for in the Bible, but this was a concession for a practice that had little resemblance to the racist and hereditary slavery we saw in America. This debate is not going to just go away like the debate on whether or not non-whites are inferior based on their skin color. Like I said, there is no Christian tradition to back racism; there is a tradition behind our approach to same-sex attraction. I do not mean the homophobic and hateful opinions towards homosexuals which my conversation companion believes Christians have. I am referring to the Christian teaching which states that all sexual activity (hetero- and homosexual) outside of a marriage between a man and a woman to be an act of sin. People reading this who do not agree with the Christian teaching will have a hard time seeing any difference between a religious teaching and bigotry, and people who do agree will have no problem seeing the distinction. So we are back where we started, at an unbridgeable chasm separating two very different ways of viewing this world.
I always enter into these discussions with a hope of reaching some sort of understanding between myself and those who do not agree with me. As I said in the latter post, I am not out to convince people of the idea that homosexuality is a sin and should be condemned by right believing Christians. Most often what I am concerned with in these online discussions is countering the false belief that all Christians, secretly or not so secretly, harbor the same attitudes toward the LGBT community as hate mongers like the Westboro Baptist Church. I have attended several churches in my life and talked with many different Christians from many different backgrounds and I can honestly say I have never come in personal contact with someone who voices the opinion that God hates gay people. I understand that often people may keep this opinion to themselves but I find this unlikely with the people I commune with. When one is in a comfortable environment and feels they are with people of like mind they aren’t usually inhibited with their opinions. I certainly have never had a member of the clergy say something of this nature. Of course there are hateful people out there and I still want to separate myself and those who I worship with from them. In the next post I will go into how I believe Christians should approach the topic of same-sex attraction and hopefully better illustrate how a right believing Christian is not acting from an attitude of bigotry.