Christians and Gays Part Two Homophobia and Tolerance

duncan-mcnab-getting-away-with-murder

Since my previous post on Christians and Gays I have read Getting Away with Murder by Duncan McNab about gay bashings and murders in Sydney  and the attitude of the police during the 1970s t0 1990s. McNab  writes,

“In some instances the perpetrators are young men unsure of their own sexuality and rather than dealing with this, they direct their confusion at gay men.” (Duncan McNab, Getting Away with Murder, Vintage, Sydney, 2017, p 33)

While Fred Nile gets a mention, there is no suggestion that the perpetrators of gay violence  were motivated by the Bible. Furthermore, no one has ever accused the NSW police of being influenced by the teachings of the Bible.

As I argued in the previous post, Australia is not a particularly Christian place, so I do not believe homophobia in Australia in the past can be largely blamed on the handful of passages in the Bible which condemn homosexuality. There are other psychological and cultural factors, namely young men who are insecure about their masculinity. Mainstream society’s attitude to homosexuality has shifted and Christians are arguably being scapegoated for what the majority of non-Christians once believed, but the underlying cause of homophobic violence – male insecurity – has not really been addressed. I also noted that those, who are most likely to carry out homophobic violence, young males, tend to be under-represented in most churches. They have no time for Christianity.

It is often overlooked but many of the countries, which persecute homosexuals, also tend to persecute Christians. There are exceptions but if we compare the first map from the website Erasing 76 Crimes showing countries where homosexuality is illegal to the second map  from Open Doors showing countries where Christians are persecuted, there is a clear overlap.

Countries where homosexuality is illegal
Countries where homosexuality is illegal
Countries where Christians are persecuted
Countries where Christians are persecuted

Nevertheless many assume that Christians are homophobic because they believe homosexuality is wrong. A 2005 report Mapping Homophobia in Australia by the Australia Institute says, “Homophobia refers to the unreasoning fear or hared of homosexuals and to anti-homosexual beliefs and prejudices.”  However, it largely ignores its own definition  and seeks to identify who is homophobic if they agree with the statement “I believe that homosexuality is immoral”. This definition of homophobia, as believing that homosexuality is immoral, is widespread today.

In an article “The Homophobic Zone” on the Tasmanian Times website Rodney Croome wrote,

“Tasmania has the best lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) human rights laws in Australia. It has the best anti-homophobic policies in education, health, tourism and policing … But according to the Australia Institute, Tasmania remains Australia’s most homophobic state.”

Surely this paradox must mean there is something wrong with their definition.

This understanding of homophobia and intolerance has its roots in postmodernism. Postmodernists claim there is no such thing as absolute truth or moral absolutes (yet it is somehow true that there are no absolute truths). They believe that to believe any belief is wrong is intolerant. Of course, if a postmodernist believes that Person A is wrong and intolerant to believe that Person B is wrong about something, by their own standard that makes the postmodernist intolerant of Person A (Romans 2:1). Postmodernism is clearly self-contradictory and unviable.

Nevertheless, postmodernist thinking appears to be behind the assumption that Christians, who believe homosexuality is sinful or immoral, must be homophobic and intolerant.

Some of the time this is clearly true. I have met Christians who seem obsessed with homosexuality and could be described as homophobic. As I will explore in future posts, many Christians have double standards.  They believe homosexuals in the church should repent and change their behaviour while often ignoring the heterosexual fornication and adultery and pornography addiction in the church. They want to “save marriage” by opposing gay marriage while not addressing the divorce crisis in the churches. This double standard is based on prejudice against gays.

However, believing a person is wrong does not necessarily mean you are intolerant of that person. It just means you think they are wrong. As one of the comments to Rodney Croome’s article “The Homophobic Zone” put it, “I find shoplifting immoral, am I kleptophobic?”

Most of us understand this. We do not hate everyone we disagree with. Australian multiculturalism and pluralism is founded on the assumption that people can believe different things and still get along. Most of the time it works.

The Penguin Macquarie Dictionary defines “tolerate” as “to allow to be, be practised, or to be done without prohibition or hindrance; permit” and “to bear with without repugnance; put up with”. It does not say that to tolerate someone  means not believing they are wrong. It has to do with how you treat those you believe are wrong.

There is nothing virtuous about tolerating someone if you agree with what they believe or do and they are just like you. Real tolerance is when you accept and tolerate and allow opinions and behaviour which you disagree with.

It is often presented that Christians have two choices – they can believe homosexuals are sinners, a special class of exceptionally evil sinners, or they can believe that homosexuals are not sinners at all, which would mean that being gay will get you into Heaven.

For Christians to tolerate homosexuals does not mean Christians should not believe homosexuals are sinners and rewrite Romans 3:23 so it says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, except homosexuals”. It means Christians should still love and accept them in spite of their sinfulness.

In my previous post I mentioned how the Tasmanian Council of Churches  believed homosexuality was sinful but still called for the decriminalization of homosexuality in 1977 when the majority of the population was still opposed to decriminalization. Were they tolerant or intolerant?

I would think the Tasmanian Council of Churches were truly tolerant because they supported decriminalization and greater rights for homosexuals in spite of their belief that homosexuality was sinful. However, they would still meet the Australia Institute’s criteria for homophobia.

whats-so-amazing-about-grace

In his 1997 book What’s So Amazing About Grace Philip Yancey gives the example of Dr C. Everett Koop, a Christian and Surgeon General of the United States,

“Koop always expressed his personal abhorrence of sexual promiscuity – consistently he used the word “sodomy” when referring to homosexual acts – but as Surgeon General he lobbied on homosexuals’ behalf and cared for them. Koop could hardly believe it when he spoke to twelve thousand gay people in Boston and they chanted Koop! Koop! Koop! Koop! “They gave unbelievable support – in spite of what I say about their practices. I guess it’s because I’m the person who came out and said, I’m the Surgeon General of all the people and I’ll meet them where they are. In addition I’ve asked for compassion for them, and for volunteers to go and care for them.” Koop never compromised his beliefs – even now he persists in using the emotionally charged word “sodomy”  – but no evangelical Christian gets a warmer reception among homosexuals.” (Philip Yancey, What’s So Amazing About Grace, Strand Publishing, Sydney, 2000, p 170)

But again, the Australia Institute would probably classify Everett Koop as homophobic and intolerant.

It appears to be easier to tolerate and accept those you disagree with if there is some relationship with them, you see them as people and do not dehumanize and demonize them as the enemy.

This does not always work. A 2014 article in Rolling Stone “The Forsaken: A Rising Number of Homeless Gay Teens Are Being Cast Out by Religious Families” describes several cases of conservative Christian families throwing out and cutting off their children for being gay.

This is not very logical. Their middle class teenagers were probably not having that much gay sex while they were living at home. So what do they do? They kick them out, force them to live on the streets where they often have to engage in high risk behaviour in order to survive.

On the other hand, if the same conservative Christian families had caught their teenagers in sinful heterosexual behaviour, I doubt they would have thrown them out. Being gay is not the only problem which arise between parents and teenagers. Other solutions or compromises are used rather than throwing them out.

If Christian wonder how to relate to any homosexuals they know, the answer is – the same way they relate to any other non-Christians they know. Anything different does not come from the Bible. As I have said in the previous post, the Bible says very little about homosexuality and does not discriminate or single them out. It says we are all equally sinners before God. Even if the homosexuals were straight, they would still be sinners. The difference between Christians and non-Christians is that Christians believe that Jesus paid the price for their sinfulness and made it possible for them to be reconciled with God.

Jesus spent much of his time around people who were marginalized and considered immoral. This presumably means that if Jesus were around today, he would spend this time with homosexuals. If any Christians find that offensive, they have not really understood the Christian message. The real problem with this argument is that homosexuals are becoming more mainstream and can no longer be considered immoral, despised and marginalized.

In a 2 December 2016 in The Australian “Push in schools to fight “modern” homophobia” the goalposts have been moved again. It says,

“Educators are being urged to look out for a new form of “modern homophobia” – characterized by disinterest, disingenuous support, or “sham tolerance” – as part of efforts to promote sexual diversity in schools.”

Disinterest? So now I’m not homophobic if I hate gays  and bash them or think they are immoral. I am homophobic if I  am not interested and I have got better things to do then be interested in homosexuality

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Author: Malcolm Nicholson

I am a small business owner and I live in northern Tasmania. I am a graduate of the University of Tasmania and I have a Master of Arts in Early Christian and Jewish Studies from Macquarie University. I am a member of the Churches of Christ. I have been a teacher librarian, New Testament Greek teacher, branch president and state policy committee chairman of a political party, university Christian group president. My interests include ancient history, early Christian history, the Holocaust, Bible prophecy, revival, UFOs, peak oil and science fiction.

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