A Fundamentalist Responds to “What is Homophobia?”

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 moralityif 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

  1. might someday, in the name of your cause, pull people out of pulpits
  2. might someday . . . deny housing and basic freedoms
  3. 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.”

About Ron Goetz

My first wife used to say, "There's nothing so sacred that Ron won't pick it apart." My desire to be a pastor -- that was a temperamental mismatch. She was so patient. If my birth mother had lived somewhere else, maybe I would've become a cold case detective. But I would have had to be J instead of a P, I think. And that mid-life reevaluation, starting adolescence as a GARB fundamentalist and transitioning to a non-theist, that gave me an unusual skill set.
This entry was posted in Bible, Christianity, Gay Christians, Homophobia, Homosexuality, Propaganda, Religion. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to A Fundamentalist Responds to “What is Homophobia?”

  1. xnlover says:

    How sad, Ron, that your brother Noel’s mind and heart have been so poisoned by the venomous rhetoric of some of those upon whom he relies for spiritual guidance that he actually thinks that some of these “worst case scenarios” are plausible!

    I won’t comment on all his remarks, since I believe you have done a good job in addressing most of what he wrote. However, in the final citation, he wrote about his “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.”

    Does he not realize that, first, this is exactly what many families do with their gay and lesbian children when they are under the thrall of groups like Focus on the “Family”, the so-called American “Family” Association, the so-called “Family” Research Council, NARTH, and other anti-gay organizations? Those families force their children to submit to what they call “ex-gay therapy,” thinking they are doing their children good, when, in fact, they are sending them to learn even more severe lessons in self-hatred or, to use Noel’s terms, are being “re-educated and rehabilitated” into being “good little straight kids” – or at least learning how to act like that, instead of learning how to be the gay or lesbian persons they were created to be who devote all their heart, soul, mind and strength to loving God and to loving their neighbor as themselves – and opening themselves up to finding the loving partner God has created just for them, and they for their partner, so they can learn together how to embody more fully God’s love for one another and for the world.

    And, second, does he not recognize what psychologist Carl Jung told us about projection: that people ascribe to others motives and attitudes that are resident within themselves and which they are unwilling to acknowledge, probably because on some level they know that to think and to desire such things is wrong? So, Noel’s projection of these thoughts onto gays and lesbians suggests both that there is something in him that would like to see such a thing happen to LGBTQ persons – and he supports families that send their children to so-called “ex-gay therapy” – and, on the other hand, something – perhaps the God who loves him as well as his gay nephew – tells him that there’s something wrong with desiring such a thing to happen. (But, if he’s a fundamentalist, he probably discounts what he believes is the “quackery” of psychology in favor of the biblical interpretations his mentors have drummed into his head.)

    If I had not believed my family would be rejective of my being gay, I would not have waited until I was 52 years of age and my father was dead and my mother was 88 years old to reveal that fact to her and to my sister, even though I expected that my sister would be accepting, because she had married a man whose daughter from his first marriage was lesbian, and my sister and brother-in-law loved her and her partner very much.

    Can Noel even begin to comprehend the amount of love I failed to receive through most of those 52 years, because I believed – and probably rightly so – that I had to withhold a significant part of who I knew myself to be from those whom God placed on this earth to be my primary teachers in how to love others? Probably not. I hope Noel had nothing in his makeup that he had to withhold from his family to that same degree, and that he always felt loved and appreciated not only for who his family believed him to be but also for who he knew himself to be.

    I no longer doubt God’s love for me, though I did for a long time. But I still feel a hindrance to fulfilling God’s call on my life, which would involve my writing and sharing some wisdom that I believe God has shown me in the scriptures about which I haven’t seen anyone else having written, since I believe that what God has shared with me could make a significant difference in the way we view what the Bible says about same-sex love and the fuller context of the “clobber passages.” I hope Noel will begin questioning what God might be calling him to do in relation to showing love for God’s beautiful LGBTQ children rather than continuing to show only fear and hatred toward us, since “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4.18).


    • Ron Goetz says:

      Thanks for your insightful response.

      I can tell you that my brother does not experience the emotion of hate. He is, to the best of my observations, genuinely concerned and accepting of Jonathan. He has another gay relative that he also, it seems to me, accepts and loves. I’m pretty sure that’s why he resents words like “hater” and “homophobe” so much — because he knows he doesn’t hate. I know this as a fact.

      What he doesn’t seem to realize (and Noel, I don’t mean to be talking about you in the third person, because I know you’ll be reading this 🙂 ) what he doesn’t realize is why certain beliefs, and actions (like voting for Prop 8) can only be perceived as hate if you’re on the receiving end of those “votes.” He can’t help it that genuinely hateful people support imprisonment, the death penalty, and internment behind barbed wire using that same package of verses to support their declaration that homosexuality is a sin.

      Noel, you need to become a little more “philosophical” about this and realize that when you sound like other fundamentalists who really are hateful, and that there are many gays and lesbians whose lives have been made miserable by–by families that have disowned them based on that same set of verses, it is inevitable that people who can’t tell the difference will lump you in with them. “If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck . . . ”

      Jesus was misunderstood and maligned unjustly. And Jesus said that we, you and I and all of us, would also be misunderstood and maligned.

      It’s our destiny. Jesus said so. “Like a sheep before its shearers is dumb.” Jesus didn’t complain and whine.


      • Ron Goetz says:

        Noel, I’m sorry about the “complain and whine” comment. That was snarkish and uncalled for.

        Jesus was silent in the face of his accusers, at least in part because he knew he had provoked it, because his goal was to unmask the falsehood of the clergy so the people would know the truth, and as an example to his followers of what real spiritual “success” would bring. Apparent failure, actual rejection, pain and death.

        You were justified in expressing your irritation and upset with being called names that you feel are not justified.


  2. irina segade says:

    “It takes an awful lot of humility to acknowledge that the damage you did to that kid wasn’t from God, but from you.” To me, that is where brother Noel needs to be—I hope someday this will be.


  3. boomergran says:

    Ron, you’ve responded to your brother in a loving and concerned fashion. You, of course, know him far better than we do, and I accept that you understand that his feelings/beliefs about LGBT people are not borne out of hatred or fear, but from a religious viewpoint.

    However, there are many sincere, loving people who cannot get past the sexual practices of homosexuals and see that there are real, living people for whom sex plays no greater or lesser role than it does in heterosexual lives. To me, that’s where the problem lies. Other people’s sexual activities should never be a concern of ours. To put it bluntly, it’s just none of our business what people do (or don’t do) in privacy. As long as no one is being harmed, as long as we, personally, are not being subjected to or coerced to participate in something we don’t agree with or don’t choose for ourselves, wherein lies the harm?

    Sexuality isn’t contagious. If it were, all of those homosexual children born to heterosexual parents wouldn’t be gay. And the children of gay couples would never be heterosexual. That’s a simple fact. Gay men and women aren’t out to put notches on their belts by seducing straight men and women. Sure, there are some who make unwanted advances, just as there are straight men and women who pursue those who have no interest in them, but for the most part, gay men and women are JUST LIKE YOU AND ME. (I almost said, “except for their romantic/sexual attractions,” but even that is just like you and me – we aren’t all attracted to the same things in a person, regardless of our sexual orientation!)

    Some day, God willing, we will look back on these days with the same abhorrence we have for the days of slavery. Some day, God willing, we will find these beliefs as unfathomable as we do beliefs that people of certain races are intellectually inferior. Some day, God willing, we will learn that we poor humans cannot understand the mind of God, nor can we pick and choose which parts of God’s created order to accept or reject.

    “Beloved, let us love one another, for everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.”


    • Ron Goetz says:

      Boomergran, I couldn’t agree with you more. Thanks for commenting. Some day, God willing, a lot of things will be better. But there’s a lot still to be done! 🙂


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