Anti-Semitism, Homosexuality, and the “Teaching of Contempt”

Today I read an article linked on Facebook by one my favorite bloggers of all time, Rachel Held Evans. I had so many thoughts running through my head as I read, and I figured there was no better place to get them all down in writing than on my blog (at this point, I really recommend you read the article, as my post won’t make much sense otherwise).

I believe that the message of this article is a game-changer in the Christian treatment of homosexuality. Though I “came out” in support of gay marriage a year and a half ago, I’ve also been consistent in my defense of the beliefs of more conservative Christians who believe homosexuality is sinful.  I am always quick to remind more militant LGBTQ allies that your capacity to love others has nothing to do with what you believe, and that we can love across the divide. I think about my parents and many of my friends, who are non-affirming yet also very loving people.  I suppose in a way, it is them I am defending.

And yet. I don’t think I can anymore, because I don’t think that doing so is faithful to the Gospel that I believe in.

I found the parallels the article drew between anti-Semitism and homophobia to be incredibly alarming. To stretch the analogy further, if I lived in the time before the Holocaust when anti-Semitism was still so deeply engrained in the Christian religion, and I rejected that hatred for the Jews, how could I not believe that anti-Semitism was a toxic belief? How could I not challenge those who believe Jews are little horned devils responsible for the death of Jesus?

In the same way, I have very slowly come to the understanding that believing homosexuality is sinful is, at its core, toxic. I know the situation is a little different. But I also know that there has been no shortage of hatred for LGBTQ people throughout church history, and I think that this hatred, and the belief that homosexuality is sinful, are intrinsically linked.

This harmful belief marginalizes those who identify as LGBTQ in such incredibly hurtful ways. I understand the belief is born out of a desire to be faithful to scripture, and a desire to see God’s will carried out in the lives of others. But I think that in its underbelly, it is a breeding ground for contempt, as the article I shared explains.

I think about my life growing up, how I was implicitly taught that people who say they are gay are just freaks who are displaying a lust-filled distortion of sexuality. I think about the derision and annoyance I felt in my heart whenever the “gay agenda” was “pushed on me” by television. At the time I didn’t know there was a label for what I felt for the LGBT community, and that this label was homophobia

And now, here I am, staunchly resting on the other side of this debate. When I think about my more recent experiences with both affirming and non-affirming Christians, I have discovered that in almost every situation, I need to defend the humanity of LGBT people to non-affirming Christians in ways I never have to do otherwise.

I remember debating fiercely with a friend when the Phil Robertson debacle happened, and I remember feeling so sad and angry when she very callously told me she thought what Robertson had said was funny, and that gay people just need to grow a thicker skin. This is just one experience of many that perhaps aren’t as extreme as anti-Semitism in Europe was, but are harmful nonetheless. And my own experiences have been very mild indeed, compared to some of the heart-breaking stories I have read in which LGBT people are rejected, bullied, and hated.

My experiences have led me to the understanding that to believe that homosexuality is sinful is to believe that an entire people group’s capacity to fall in love is inherently and uniquely broken and distorted. So it comes as no surprise that the non-affirming view generates such contempt.

I never thought I would come to such a place of earnest conviction about my belief in this because I have always, always been the sort of person who desires reconciliation and mutual understanding more than winning an argument. But there is a time when reconciliation requires taking a step away from the radical inclusion of Jesus, and from the powerful message of love which is in the undercurrent of everything he teaches. And supporting gay marriage fits that message in profound ways, ways that the non-affirming view cannot.

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Posted on November 12, 2014, in Belief, Homosexuality. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. “…to believe that homosexuality is sinful is to believe that an entire people group’s capacity to fall in love is inherently and uniquely broken and distorted.”

    Wow – that’s incredibly powerful. And so in line with my experience, both as an evangelical and as a closeted gay man. Thanks for sharing this. What is your background? As in, if you came from a more traditional evangelical view on homosexuality, how long did it take you to get to where you are now?

  2. Hi Greg, thanks for the comment and the question. I did come from a conservative background. I think for me it was a lot of different factors in my life coming together that resulted in my shifting views. I’m in my mid-twenties, and about three years ago I moved away from home and started life on my own. I think moving away from my conservative family and sheltered home life (I also attended a very conservative Christian college) put me in a position that was conducive to asking questions that had never crossed my mind before, and the question of homosexuality was one of them. Quite by accident, I stumbled across Justin Lee’s blog (if you’re a gay Christian, my guess is you’ve heard of him?) and read his article on the GCN website explaining why he affirms same-sex marriage. The first time I read it I was pretty critical, but there was something about it that bothered me in a very small way, and over the course of a few months I read it several more times. After that, I read a lot more about the affirming view, and over the course of about a year and a half of studying and thinking and praying and talking with others and reading the stories of LGBT men and women, I came to realize how much of what I believed was based on a rigid interpretation of the Bible that simply could not hold water when measured up against the overarching themes of love that we see presented in the New Testament over and over again. It was a tough road, and it cost me a lot, but I am so grateful I found my way to transcending the beliefs I held growing up.

    Anyway, I’m sure that was a considerably longer answer than you may have been expecting, though it is still quite condensed compared to what I could have written!

    I also poked around on your blog and read your review of Dr. Gushee’s article. It seems we had similar reactions! I found it especially fascinating that the anti-Semitic climate among Christians evaporated so rapidly in the wake of the Holocaust. Of course it is a tragedy that it took such an event to stir the Church into changing how they viewed Jews. Yet I cannot help but hope that the current shift we are experiencing in attitudes toward LGBT people will unfold in a similarly rapid manner.

    • I just found your blog today. From what I can tell in reading your posts, my faith journey is similar in some ways to yours. By necessity, it has become rather crisis-based…which you will understand if you choose to visit my blog. At any rate, my mind and heart is undergoing quite a transformation these days in regards to LGBTQ issues.

      This statement of yours jumped out at me:
      “I found it especially fascinating that the anti-Semitic climate among Christians evaporated so rapidly in the wake of the Holocaust. Of course it is a tragedy that it took such an event to stir the Church into changing how they viewed Jews. Yet I cannot help but hope that the current shift we are experiencing in attitudes toward LGBT people will unfold in a similarly rapid manner.”

      Yes. Just as there are some nut cases out there who still believe/preach that the holocaust was God’s judgment on the Jewish people for rejecting Jesus as Messiah, there are many today who believe that HIV/AIDS is God’s judgment for homosexuality. Unfortunately, the horrific HIV/AIDS scenario has yet to garner the world-changing force of the Church. In a recent dialog with some pastors on how to reach out to the LGBTQ community, I offered making World AIDS Day a focus of outreach, to partner with local clinics, to offer a service of remembrance and prayer for those who have died of the disease, etc. Guess what the reaction was? **crickets** I know that the current is shifting in society at large and in some more “liberal” denominations, but the battle is far from over and will get even nastier than it already is. I, for one, and ready to “fight the good fight.”

  3. I totally appreciate the long answer! Since you mention that you attended a conservative Christian college, did you see this post on Gay Students at Christian Colleges? (http://gregcomesout.wordpress.com/2014/03/21/gay-students-at-christian-colleges/ )

    Anyway, thanks for what you’re sharing!

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