The Conversation Loop: Each week at Tribe we have a conversation. On the Sunday, you get to hear a conversation starter. The conversation starter is designed to get you thinking. After this, it is envisaged that people do some follow up thinking, either by watching the video the conversation is built on or by reading the summary. This conversation starter and the video it is based on, from Bruxy at the Meeting House, is can be found below. Finally, people get together in house churchces to have a conversation and think about how all this applies to their lives. Make sure you share any ideas or questions to our Facebook group or to other people at our lunch gatherings!
Why are Christians so homophobic?
Note the precision of this week’s question. It’s not asking: should Christians be anti-gay marriage? It’s not asking: does God hate gay-marriage? It is asking: ‘why are Christians so homophobic?’ And this is the question that Bruxy starts off addressing.
It was a question that received over double the votes of any other question in their ‘Questioning God’ series, and so it obviously strikes a chord with people, both Christians and people who are not Christians.
How should we approach this issue?
Prior to jumping into responses to what could be a very heated conversation, it’s important to note that there is a particularly way we can approach controversial issues that doesn’t result in division, bitterness and hatred. It is possible to actually get closer and closer relationally to those who disagree with us. So even if we don’t come to agree in our theology or ideology, we can at least have a change of attitude towards people we disagree with, and we cultivate greater unity and our community grows in a healthy way. We don’t have to pretend to agree, but real unity can bear the weight of disagreement and become even more healthy as a result of it.
Is this really a big issue?
Bruxy then goes on to share a number of examples of why this whole question becomes a big issue. I won’t go into these issues, but feel free to google them if you are interested! He sites World Vision USA’s decision to employ people in same-sex marriages and then retract it after the backlash they received. He shares the story of Matthew Vines who is a conservative Christian, who is also gay, who released a book called ‘God and the gay Christian’ and was countered immediately by a book called ‘God and the gay Christian?’ And then shares how the lead singer of Jars of Clay, a Christian band, tweeted some questions about the possibility of homosexual marriage being ok in God’s eyes, only to receive a huge backlash and enormous pressure on people to not endorse or use the band.
In light of these examples, and many others (insert your favourite Westboro Baptist youtube clip – ‘God hates fags’) you can understand why Christians have a reputation of being ‘homophobic’. You can also appreciate that many Christians are actually homophobic, and not just passively, but with such intensity and emotion that not many, if any, issues that people disagree on produce. People just get so angry about this one. Bruxy suggests that it can become more than just ‘homophobia’, more like ‘homohatred’.
So, why are Christians so homophobic?
Answer in a sentence: people fear what they don’t know. Religion then offers an escape from people who are not like us, which just makes the problem worse and the fear increases. People fear that which is different and push away people that are different. Religion is a great excuse to push away people we don’t know, which just increases the discomfort, which in turn leads to greater fear.
A one sentence answer to this question, however, is not enough. So, Bruxy adds an extra sentence: it’s because people hate what makes them uncomfortable, and religion makes the problem worse by giving hateful people the authority of God. We hate what makes us uncomfortable, we resent that which is different to us, then when I have God on my side, it increases my self-righteousness, hatred and hostility to those who are different, and helps me to feel good about it because God is backing me up.
Get rid of religion?
So, in this case, when someone enlists God to reinforce their hatred of that which is different, God does become a problem. Some would say that we should get rid of religion, but this is just replacing one problem with another because then we have no moral guidelines for how we are to treat one another. Survival of the fittest is all we are left with. If you remove the guidelines of God the only thing Hitler wrong was lose. Religion isn’t the answer, the lack of religion is not the answer. All that is left is God offering you an answer of peace, of love, of living the way of Jesus. You get to chose whether that will be your answer, or not.
Jesus went to the temple. Turned over the tables. And judged the system. My house is to be for all people (see Matthew 21:13). Religion is a hideout for bad people, to help them feel better about their judgement, hatred and bigotry.
Bruxy then outlines the current debate regarding homosexuality, spending five minutes on each side. They’ve done series on this before, so the purpose is just to give a bit of an overview of each position.
Based on Matthew 19, Jesus says that God made ‘male’ and ‘female’ to be ‘one flesh’. From this passage, we can deduce that: 1) Marriage as male and female is God’s original idea and ideal, 2) male and female reflect together reflect the fullness of God’s image in us, and 3) ultimately God is the one who joins us together in the covenant of marriage.
You can hold this traditional view and not be homophobic (as Bruxy does). Those who are quick to judge in the reverse and say ‘if you don’t agree with same-sex marriage then you must be a bigot’, that it’s own kind of judgmentalism, and xenophobia (fear of the foreign, strange or different).
The progressive view is based on passages like Genesis 2:18, it’s not good for man to be alone. Even if God may have designed male and female to be one, the emphasis need to be on the ‘not aloneness’ of God’s desires for humankind. In the context of emphasising singleness in 1 Corinthians 7:9 ‘if they cannot control themselves they should marry’. Even tho there may be an ideal, in Paul’s mind singleness, marriage is still good in God’s mind. The progressive view then is that God originally designed us for covenantal companionship, in the New Testament God champions singleness but allows for marriage when singleness is too hard. God delights in fidelity, covenantal love and partnership. Biblical teaching against same gender sex, the ‘clober’ passages, does not account for the possibility of same-sex marriage which was unacceptable in Bible days and wouldn’t become a socially and culturally acceptable practice for another two thousand years. What the Bible would say about gay-marriage, if it were a possibility at the time, is open to interpretation and so today we can err on the side of grace.
Steps to Third Way Fellowship
The Meeting House tries to plot a third-way to be a space where both views can come together, where ‘iron can sharpen iron’. Whilst their church holds to the traditional view, they want to have the culture where people with different takes can be in conversation together, understanding each others’ views. Traditionally, traditionalists see progressives as heretics – you don’t have a place with us. And progressives see traditionalists as bigots – we don’t want to have a place with you. Bruxy wants to suggests that they want to have a place where traditionalists can embrace rather than push away and progressives can take a chance on willing to work this out in community and challenge each other.
The steps towards third way fellowship include:
- Loving the other – love is a choice, determine in your heart, that is the right way.
- Accept one another – we create a hospitable environment, otherwise we will never get to know and understand.
- Understand the other – listening and learning and respecting the other, we may not agree, but you will know them better.
- Knowing the other – taking time to be with, not just a theological discussion, but becoming brothers and sisters with with them.
- Serving the other – finding ways to contribute. I may not be fully comfortable with your position or agree with you, but I choose to serve you as a person.
Bruxy then goes on to share some examples of those who hold a more progressive view but still find community at The Meeting House. There is a LBGT group, another couple who were in the traditionalist camp until their son came out as gay, a man who is gay who is married to a woman and one of their lead pastors who says she is gay, but chooses to be single. Well worth listening to and hearing their stories!
Conversation Starter Questions
- So, why do you think Christians have become known as being homophobic?
- Do you think you are homophobic?
- Do you think this is a big issue for people in our society – Christians and people who aren’t Christians?
- Have you spoken to any friends for whom this is a big issue?
- Which view on the homosexuality issue do you swing towards at the moment: the traditional or progressive?
- Bruxy mentioned that their ‘church’s position was the traditional view’. Do you think a ‘church’ should have a position? If so, why? If not, why not?
- Do you think we are guilty of homophobia? What about xenophobia?
- Have a read of 1 Corinthians 7:1-15. What points does the passage make? How does this impact your view?