My brother Noel is a fundamentalist. He’s responded to some of my posts in the past, and the “What is Homophobia–Really?” post piqued his interest.
I’m publishing most of his reply here, and will respond section by section.
What is Homophobia? Homophobia is a word that can reliably be used in any situation, to demonize any person who fits into a catagory that ranges from an individual who finds the thought of homosexual sex distasteful, all the way to the person who would seek to make homosexual sex a crime. It is word that vilifies those who may disagree on the biblical interpretations.
So far, so good. All this is true.
It is a hate word. It is a word equal in it’s exaggerated and prejudicial use as Nigger, Kike, Spic, pollock, Dike and buttfucker. It lumps anyone and everyone as being void of or lacking in humanity, grace and love because they don’t agree with a particular view-point. It’s a finger pointing word.
Noel, this is how it feels for everyone who is on the receiving end of name-calling. We use such names casually, but they wound the people they’re aimed at. That’s why I never use the word “homophobe” or “homophobic.”
There is, however, a difference between the word “homophobe” and the words you brought up. An African-American is born an African-American. A Jew is born a Jew. Spanish-speakers are born to Spanish-speaking parents. Poles are born to Polish parents. And gays and lesbians are born, well, usually to straight parents, but they’re born gays and lesbians.
“Homophobes,” however, are not born homophobes. The attitudes that characterize homophobia are not genetic. In 1943 an adolescent might have learned to hate the Japanese and the Germans, but there was nothing genetic about the focus of that hatred, and after the war most of them stopped hating “Japs” an “Krauts.” In 1956 adolescents might have been indoctrinated to fear and hate the Russians and the Chinese, but there was nothing genetic in the focus of those feelings.
People become homophobes more in the way that others become Democrats or Republicans, or White Militia, Tea Party-ers, Minute Men or Occupiers, or independent Baptists. There’s an interaction of family culture, propaganda (or “education”), and personal decisions. People’s hostility to gays and lesbians, and their willingness to vote the way their leaders tell them, is something for which they are personally responsible. What is learned can be thought about, analyzed, and either accepted or rejected.
If you label people who don’t agree with what may be your heart-felt and logical, or religious view of morality— if you label them homophobes, you are in league with those who might someday, in the name of your cause, pull people out of pulpits, deny housing, food and basic freedoms, or compel them to wear special insignia on their clothing to identify them as less than human.
(Demonizing can be subtle. In English, the phrase usually reads, “in league with the devil.”)
First of all, Noel, I’m not talking about disagreeing with people’s feelings or beliefs. We are all free to feel or believe what we want. You can disagree with me until the day I die, and it won’t make a difference. Fortunately, our families–yours and mine–enjoy Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations together, and Jonathan and others are welcome anytime, anywhere. It’s always been like that, and I am glad his orientation doesn’t interfere with our extended family. Unfortunately there are many families where this is not the case.
As for all the things you’re afraid might happen — this is nothing but propaganda brought to you by people trying to preserve their power. Sorry, but that’s the truth. You said to me, “You are in league with those who
- might someday, in the name of your cause, pull people out of pulpits
- might someday . . . deny housing and basic freedoms
- might someday . . . compel them to wear special insignia on their clothing to identify them as less than human.”
Noel, as ridiculous as these fears seem to me, as a Christian I believe you are missing one of the central lessons of Jesus’ life. He wasn’t concerned about what happened to him; he lived his entire life for others. Paul understood this when he wrote, “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” The author of the N.T. letter to the Hebrews gave this a concrete meaning, something that materialistic American Christianity doesn’t like to preach to its comfortable and affluent clientele:
Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.
Noel, I know that you know what this is. Our parents lived this way. You live this way. You are generous to a fault. You give to others to the point of your own impoverishment because you KNOW that you have better and lasting possessions. Please join me in standing “side by side” with those teenage gays and young lesbians who are not only “publicly exposed to insult and persecution,” but are beaten, murdered, and driven to suicide. This is the Christian way. We need to be in that spiritual place where we can joyfully accept the confiscation of our property without thought for ourselves. Don’t be conformed to the politics, selfishness, and fear of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind from within.
And once this reverse hatred is fully ingrained in society you may even elicit sentimental or forgiving statements to those you disagree with. Personal exceptions to the rules. You may even go so far as to claim that you have a friend that’s a homophobe and their an alright guy or gal.
Noel, I already hear this from gay and lesbian Christians. Some have been ostracized from their churches, shunned. They’ve been told that they are no longer welcome at family gatherings like Christmas and Thanksgiving. Or they’ve been told that they can come, but their partner of ten years is not welcome. These gay and lesbian believers hear, day in and day out, the bitter propaganda against them, yet they still say,
“No, I’m not angry. I understand where they’re coming from. I know that basically they’re kind, loving people. They’re good people, and I still love them. I just wish things were different.”
When I hear this, I am humbled. I don’t know that I would feel that gracious and forgiving. Those words are an example to me of genuine Christian virtue.
Do all gays and lesbians feel this way? Obviously not. Some have angrily given up on the churches and the families that kicked them out when they were 18 or 20, and are understandably unable to see that those churches do not represent God or Christ. The physical and emotional damage is too severe, yet those churches and those families continue to justify themselves and their “works of holiness, purity, and righteousness” by resorting to the Written Code. There is no repentance on the part of those churches.
It takes an awful lot of humility to acknowledge that the damage you did to that kid wasn’t from God, but from you.
God’s word for the angry and the wounded is, “Don’t stay where they’re not wanted. Find a fellowship where you are welcome, where you can exercise your gifts and grow spiritually. There are people who need you healthy and growing. I love you.”
It’s my firm belief that many in the gay community would like to see all these people thrown in jail until they are re-educated and rehabilitated for their backwardness and hate.
Noel, when you put rant like this reply on the internet, then you will provoke those sorts of comments about jail, re-education, and rehabilitation. People may post that sort of stuff in their anger and frustration, but politically it’ll never happen. “Never again.”
The Lord said, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” The Book of Proverbs says, “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.”
Paul said that “outbursts of anger” are a work of the flesh. Paul also said, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”
Finally, James wrote, “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.”