A discussion of accusations of Christian bigotry
Ok, let me start off by granting as true what several of you have mentioned: there is a significant amount of bigotry surrounding this issue and how people deal with it. We’ve all seen the unbelievable level of hate and ignorance spewing out of groups like Westboro Baptist Church. We all know people who say things like, “Well, I’d just as soon see all those gays burn in hell.” (Or at least, I’ve heard that sort of thing.) I will readily, and with great mutual indignance and horror, agree that people using that sort of rhetoric are bigots.
That being said, I will ask that you grant me this truth: I am not them. If I have proven myself to be a rational, loving, generous man, please assume that my reasons for believing what I do are also rational, loving, and generous. If I have proven myself in word and deed to be a hate-filled bigot, then by all means please disregard me as such. Otherwise, please allow me the grace to explain a Christian perspective that is neither hate-filled nor bigoted.
One further negative response before getting into the positive argument: do I, and does biblical Christianity, believe that those who live homosexual lifestyles are “lesser human beings”, “second class citizens”, or “inferior as people”? Absolutely not. What Scripture says throughout is that all humans are reflections of God’s image. All men and women, without differentiation, qualification, or distinction regardless of gender/race/sexuality/etc are made in the image of God. The playing field is level on this point.
However, that’s not the only thing that levels the playing field according to the Bible. The Bible teaches, and Christians believe, that in just the same way that every human without distinction is made in the image of God, every human without differentiation is also broken by sin. By and large this is perhaps one of the most significant misunderstandings in this whole issue. The Bible does not single out homosexuality as the only sin, nor do honest/informed Christians. We ALL fall into the category of “sinner”, and I will just as readily point out and confess sin in my own life as point it out in someone else’s. Yes, there are people who treat homosexuality as if it were the only real sin, as if it is the sin above all sins. What that points to is the fact that those who speak in that way do not understand the sinfulness of their own hearts. Self-righteousness and hatred will separate a person from God just as surely as sexual immorality. When I profess to believe that homosexuality is sinful, I’m not putting those who live that lifestyle in any different category. We’re all there. We’re all sinful. The playing field is level on this point, just as much as it is level on the previous point. We are all made in the image of God, and we are all broken by sin.
Now, perhaps the argument has crossed your mind, “But people are born with these desires. They cannot help feeling the way they do.” I am more than happy to grant that this is true. However, just because a person naturally feels inclined towards a particular thing does not mean that the particular thing is ok. Allow me to use myself as an example: I naturally feel inclined to be sexually promiscuous. (Whoa. Did the pastor just say that?) It’s true. There are many times when the desire to go out and hook up with random women is incredibly powerful. I can’t help that desire. I didn’t do anything to decide to have those desires. I didn’t choose to have those inclinations. But that does not mean they’re ok. Biblically, it would be just as sinful for me to indulge those natural inclinations as it would be for any person to indulge their own natural inclinations to whatever sin to which they are prone. Some people feel naturally inclined to violence; some to deception; some to self righteousness; and some to sexual immorality. Natural inclination is not grounds for moral justification.
“But still, why all the fuss over this one particular thing? If all people are sinful, and adultery/lying/etc are just as surely in the category of ‘sin’ as homosexuality, then why all the effort for this one thing?”
To this I would say 2 things. First, because, as stated before, there are people who wrongfully(sinfully) harp on, spew hate about, and focus exclusively on homosexuality. There are voices – and loud voices at that – which delight in publicly pointing out the sins of others with as many fireworks as possible. Mind you, just because a Christian states their beliefs doesn’t mean they should be put in this category. I’m talking about the Westboros and such here. They receive a disproportionate platform to their numbers and cause more ruckus than they deserve to be able to. But again, not every Christian who states their belief is doing so in order to hate or single out. Many are simply pressed into responding because the issue is forced. And that brings me to the second reason for all the fuss: this particular issue is so socially charged and ubiquitously discussed that it is impossible to avoid talking about it. If adultery or lying became this politically enflamed, it would be that issue. You hear so much about this particular issue because the media is in the business of staying in business, and right now this issue is good for business. Also, it has become one of the focal social issues of our day. Nobody talks about war when war isn’t going on. And this issue wasn’t as discussed before it became a social issue. All of this lends itself towards the feeling that homosexuality is the only thing Christians ever talk about or against. And if I were not in Christian circles, my perception would be the same, because that’s basically all that ever comes across on the media. So, if you’ll allow an insider to give some insight: I attend one of the largest theological seminaries in the world, I am connected with dozens of churches and church networks, and the truth is that homosexuality really and truly gets talked about very little. Of course, because it is such a pervasive social issue, it comes up, but in the scope of what Christians talk about and focus on, homosexuality is a relatively tiny portion.
So, to wrap this particular note up, let me re-iterate what my initial status update was getting at:
It is entirely possible to disapprove of someone’s lifestyle and not be a bigot. Otherwise, those who disapprove of the Christian lifestyle would be bigots. If saying that someone is wrong means that you’re a hate-monger, then you cannot say Christians (or self-righteous bigots posing as Christians) are wrong without being a hate-monger.
Jesus, the one who is the Christians epitome of love, came because he loved the world and was willing to die on our behalf. And the love of Jesus levels the playing field again. No person is loved any less by Jesus. God loves me just as much as he loves any person committed to the homosexual lifestyle. However, God’s love does not mean he approves of sin. He loves me, and does not approve of my sin. His Word constantly confronts me shows me that I am sinful/wrong in many ways, because he loves me. Parents rebuke their children when they do wrong, and that does not mean they hate their children. As a Christian, like Jesus, I believe that homosexuality is a sin, yes. And also like Jesus, I genuinely love the homosexual people I know. Love and disapproval are not antithetical. If you don’t believe me, then let’s hang out. Let me prove to you that I can love you and still tell you that, no matter who you are, you’re a sinner.
The only difference in the playing field – which is level in that we are all made in God’s image, all loved by God, and all sinners – is in what we do with those things. God has provided a remedy for sin, mine and whoever else grabs hold of it. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Died in order to absorb God’s wrath against my sin. Died in order to purchase my forgiveness by paying for my sins. Died in order to restore the image of God in me which is broken by sin. The playing field is level in that the Bible teaches that whoever comes to Christ as a sinner and puts trust in His ability to save, will in fact be saved. Therefore the only difference in the playing field is how we respond to the offer of God’s grace and eternal, unchanging love. I’m a sinner, I’m loved, AND I’m forgiven. You’re and sinner, you are loved, and there is forgiveness available from Jesus.
Thanks for your time. Thanks for being generous with me as you read this.
(Also, I know I didn’t answer some significant and legitimate questions/objections on how Scripture is often used in these discussions, and on the political aspect of all this. I plan on writing another note on the nature of Scripture and why it is a fallacy/fundamental misunderstanding of the Bible to say “if you say homosexuality is wrong and do not stone adulterers you are inconsistent”. I may or may not get to responding to the political side, because, in all honesty, (1) I hate politics, and (2) that’s a cloudy issue. Thanks!)