Routine Christian Homophobia

I write a monthly column for the local paper and submitted this article in June of 2016 after the Pulse Nightclub shooting. The editor told me it “reads like an anti-Christian screed,” so I posted the original to WordPress, rewrote it for the paper so it was less “screedy.” But with the Trump presidency, and the proliferation of anti-gay bills disguised as “religious freedom,” (even in solidly “purple” Colorado) I thought I’d post it here.

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The early morning hours of June 12 and the slaughter at the Pulse Nightclub, a club that caters to members of the LGBTQ community in Orlando, brought a confluence of a number of issues — gun violence, fear/hatred of members of the LGBTQ community, Islamophobia. Some TV pundits and politicos are trying to make this an issue about “radical Islamic jihadists” while refusing to acknowledge that it happened in a gay bar, on a night specifically celebrating the gay Latino/Latina community.

The shooter may have claimed an allegiance to ISIS; however, he was born in this country. He grew up here. And the United States is steeped in a Christian-tinged disdain of the LGBTQ community.

It’s not Muslims who run websites called “God Hates Fags.” It’s not Muslim members of Congress who want to pass constitutional amendments banning “gay marriage.” It’s not Muslims in our State legislatures who author and pass “bathroom bills” that target the Trans community or “religious freedom protection acts” that look and feel an awful lot like Sharia Law. It’s not Muslim store owners who refuse to serve members of the LGBTQ community because of “deeply held religious beliefs.” It’s not Muslims who go to Target with their holy books screaming bits of scripture out of context. I could go on. You get my point.

It is easy to focus on the “radical extremist” but the truth is, routine Christian-fueled homo- and transphobia kills more people than this one gunman. It kills by shaming members of the LGBTQ community into suicide and by providing justification for violence perpetrated on members of that community.

Routine, Christian homophobia is “love the sinner but hate the sin.”

Routine, Christian homophobia says, “we are all sinners,” and then goes on to list a multitude of personal failings. But when you compare a gay person’s being to your sinful doing, you are far off the mark. Sexual orientation and gender identity are not things one does. They are embodied characteristics. Being GLBTQ is not sinful. Period.

Routine, Christian homophobia defends “family values” as if people who are GLBTQ have neither families nor values. It cautions that churches dare not “capitulate to the culture” and preaches, from “a place of love,” of course, that “gays should reject that lifestyle so they won’t be targets.”

Routine, Christian homophobia shows up from Congressmen who tweet “you reap what you sow,” and quote Galatians. It shows up in the comments on internet news sites and in the debates that threaten to split Christian churches and denominations when they try to decide if people who are LGBTQ, who are made in the image of God, should be welcome into the full life and worship and service of the church.

Church should be a place where people find sanctuary, comfort, and people who will walk with them on their journey. The church should not be a place of condemnation and rejection.

When I see people who identify as LGBTQ legislated against, mocked, shunned, and terrorized in the name of Christianity, Jesus’ statement, “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account” takes on a deeper meaning.

Over the last few years I have realized I am called to help make a space of welcome for people who have been shamed and shunned by organized religion, because I have been shamed and shunned by organized religion. It is easy to scapegoat the attitudes of other religions. Christianity would do well to examine its culpability in the formation of anti-LGBTQ attitudes. The LGBTQ community is defined by who and how it loves. We could all learn a lesson from that.