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Six things wrong with this article on "homophobia" in the church

I just became aware of this article, "Homophobia Has No Place in the Church," from a year ago at the "Desiring God" blog. In case you don't know, this is the blog of an organization run by (normally insightful and careful) Pastor John Piper. Piper didn't write this article, but it's highly disappointing that it appeared on Desiring God.

The piece is by a pastor named Nick Roen, who (according to the article) has revealed that he struggles with same-sex attraction. It epitomizes what is often wrong with even relatively conservative Christian dealings with the issue of homosexuality. In these dealings, Christians state that actually having homosexual sex is morally wrong, but they repeatedly undermine their own position by attacking any natural law basis for this position and by generally normalizing homosexuality (e.g., through teaching that it is no worse than any other sin and by encouraging "coming out") and watering down opposition to it. In the end, it becomes "just another sin," and this position fails to do justice either to the unnaturalness of homosexuality or to its current cultural urgency and the need, now more than ever, for us to speak clearly about it. The article runs almost entirely on implication, and here I'm going to draw out a number of these implications and point out their falsehood.

False implication #1: Feeling revulsion toward some sin means that there is something wrong with the person who feels the revulsion. The person who feels revulsion should feel bad about his feelings and seek to eliminate them. In no way should those feelings be taken as a clue that that sin is particularly revolting.

Simply put, homophobia means a fear of homosexuality and, more specifically, homosexual people. And while it is not the same as loving, biblical opposition to certain behaviors or beliefs, this fear-based attitude often leads to unhelpful stereotypes, prejudice, and even cruel mistreatment.

So, let’s call a spade a spade. Homophobia exists, and it has no place in the church.

[snip]

Is your belief that same-sex sexual activity is sin based finally on solid biblical exegesis? Or is it really based on the fact that you don’t understand how someone could be attracted to the same sex, and this unknown seems to you just plain creepy? [LM: Nice false dilemma. It couldn't legitimately be based on both? And the sense of creepiness can't possibly have a legitimate place in our ethical epistemology?]

Furthermore, we are called to love with the very love of our Father (Matthew 5:45), which calls us to love even our enemies (Matthew 5:44–48). Such love casts out fear because it no longer fears God’s judgment and therefore is freed to love with lavishness (1 John 4:18). [LM: Roen stigmatizes moral disgust as "fear" and springs from this stigmatization into a manipulative, cloying misuse of these verses to imply that God is displeased if Christians feel disgust at homosexual acts or are alarmed at the influence of homosexuality in society or distressed by its ubiquity in their lives.]
Happily upholding Christian sexual ethics is not the same as harboring animosity toward an entire group of people simply because you find them yucky. [LM: Nice segue from natural revulsion to harboring animosity.]
So, let us examine our hearts, identify attitudes of fear and the roots of pride, wherever they exist, and put to death ungodly prejudices that ultimately hinder the truth. In our quest for biblical fidelity, we must not only uphold the truth, but do so in love (Ephesians 4:15).

Biblical love requires that we speak the truth. And when we speak out of homophobia, rather than in love, it is we who are in the wrong.

I can't help noting the irony: Roen is trying to shame "homophobes" for their feelings of revulsion concerning homosexual acts, but it seems highly unlikely that he would want homosexuals to feel shame for their homosexual feelings.

False implication #2: There is something wrong with any suggestion that parading one's sexually perverse desires in society and in the church is TMI (too much information), that doing so normalizes the perversion in question, and that other human beings legitimately do not want to be constantly forced to think (and have their children think) about the perversions that other people around them are attracted to. Hence, people who are Christians and have same-sex attraction, and even people who are unrepentant and active homosexuals, should be entirely free to parade their "orientation" in society and in church, and anyone who wishes they wouldn't should feel guilty about wishing that.

Is your opposition to so-called same-sex marriage based on a principled biblical definition of marriage? Or is it more influenced by a fear that same-sex couples might signal the unraveling of comfortable cultural norms and usher in the end of a once-pristine “Judeo-Christian society”? Or maybe your fear is more that one such couple might move in next door, and you might actually be pressured to befriend them?

Does your opposition to homosexual practice include the ability to lovingly welcome LGBT people into a Sunday service or other gathering with other Christians? Or does opposition for you mean that you wish they would just stay away so you aren’t made uncomfortable by their very presence?

False implication #3: The fact that a Christian has a sexually perverse desire shouldn't make any difference whatsoever to what activities he can engage in, and if you think that it should or even might limit, e.g., his ability to work with the youth group, you have a problem.

In standing for Christian sexual ethics, do you encourage and support those SSA believers within the church who are striving to remain faithful to biblical teaching by welcoming them into full participation in church life? Or does standing for biblical sexuality mean that they can come to church, but they can’t grow in influence or serve the body through teaching, and they should probably stay away from the youth group?

(This quote also implies #2--that "SSA believers" have a right to be telling the entire congregation that they have a desire to engage in acts of sodomy, and that the congregation should be "welcoming" of this.)

False implication #4: Taking precautions that involve treating a same-sex-attracted person differently in a social context is a sign of, if not equivalent to, being unloving. (E.g. Not having a homosexual man, even a Christian and celibate one, take your boys' youth group on an overnight camping trip.)

Therefore, our comfort, our convenience, our safety, or our perception of our country’s values are no longer valid reasons to operate in any way that is opposed to genuine biblical love. [LM: Because obviously, worrying about our safety and desire for privacy in such a way that, e.g., you wouldn't put a homosexual man in a dorm room with another man, or you wouldn't allow a man who thinks he's a woman to use the women's bathroom at your church, is opposed to genuine biblical love, right?]

False implication #5: Homosexuality is no worse than other sins.

When we love in this manner, we expose homophobia for what it really is: pride. It is an attitude that puts beneath us others whose sins and temptations we deem “more depraved” than our own, as we wickedly proclaim with the Pharisee, “Well, at least I don’t struggle with that” (Luke 18:11).
The truth is that sin is sin, temptation is temptation, and “men who have sex with men” is listed right alongside greed, drunkenness, deception, and slander as worthy of exclusion from the kingdom (1 Corinthians 6:9–10). All equally damnable. Who among us is innocent?

False implication #6: There are no natural-law reasons against homosexual practice, only reasons drawn narrowly from biblical exegesis. Everything else is "phobia" and "thinking homosexual people are yucky."

See again this dichotomy:


Is your belief that same-sex sexual activity is sin based finally on solid biblical exegesis? Or is it really based on the fact that you don’t understand how someone could be attracted to the same sex, and this unknown seems to you just plain creepy?

Reiterated here:

Biblical exegesis is a wonderful underpinning for belief, and love is a worthy motive for action. Fear is a horrible reason for both.

No room here for natural law reasoning, not even as a way of achieving a deeper understanding of what we learn from biblical exegesis. Everything is either "thus saith the Lord (why? heck, I have no idea!)" or else "fear."

So let's go back and say something about each of these in turn.

On false implication #1: Actually, it's just fine to be disgusted by homosexual activities. The Apostle Paul appears to have been, and he teaches it as a biblical view. (If we're into "biblical exegesis.")

Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.

"Degrading," "unnatural," "indecent acts," and "dishonor[ing]" to one's own body. That doesn't just sound like a vague or sterile prohibition. It's a prohibition based upon the specifically degrading nature of homosexuality.

In general, it just isn't true that we shouldn't feel revulsion toward any particular sin or that revulsion is per se unloving. We would see that if we were talking about a sin that wasn't fashionable. Those of us old enough to remember when homosexuality was unfashionable can see the arbitrariness of Roen's nonsense. Why is it still okay (presumably) to see pedophilia, cannibalism, and bestiality as disgusting, but you're a mean, bad, unloving, un-Christian, phobic, fearful person if you think of homosexuality as not only wrong but (to use Roen's word) creepy? It's the sheerest fashion of the times--the last gasp of a system of ethics that elevates consent as the only inviolable moral norm. (And for that matter, cannibalism could be carried out with consent.) Our culture has grown desensitized to homosexuality, it has been normalized among us, and now Christians and other normal people are being guilt-tripped for being creeped out by a sin that dishonors the human body. That's just emotional manipulation based on a cultural fad. Both the Bible and common sense teach that some sins are not only wrong but also disgusting and that our disgust is a sign that our minds are unwarped in that particular respect. So let's stop pontificating about the evils of thinking that certain sins are yucky.

On false implication #2:

There is no reason why everyone in your neighborhood and your church needs to know about all of your secret sexual sins or temptations to sin. If a man has a p*rn habit, he doesn't need to be telling the entire church, and probably shouldn't be, unless there are special reasons to do so (e.g., perhaps to explain why he is under church discipline). If a person is tempted to have sex with members of the same sex, he doesn't need to be sharing this with everyone. There is such a thing as discretion, and there is more than a whiff of exhibitionism in the contemporary idea that the only way to be "real" is to tell everyone about your darkest sins and temptations.

Moreover, in the case of homosexuality, the persistent insistence on "coming out" and demanding that the church be accepting of one qua "homosexual person" has a very strong tendency to identify the person with his sin temptation. Notice that Roen uses the "LGBT people" phrase in the article as a case in point. A person with this problem should be discouraged from grounding his own self-acceptance in an entire community's willingness happily to hear that he has a perverse inclination and then to act like it doesn't matter. Nor should we be judging Christians (as Roen unquestionably does) as deficient if they would rather not know about this. St. Paul again:

For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. (Ephesians 5:12)

I guess Paul was a homophobe who valued his own comfort more than love.

It is misleading to young people in our churches to identify people as "LGBT people" and to act like this is no big deal. It is a big deal. If someone has same-sex attraction, that is, at a minimum, a tragedy for him. It would be better in most cases if he could keep this tragedy a more or less private matter, revealing the information on a need-to-know basis. Nonchalance about dark temptations, much less dark acts, is not next to godliness. Forcing nonchalance about same-sex attraction by dint of insufferable scolding like Roen's is bad for everyone involved.

To false implication #3: It should be obvious that a same-sex attraction, even in the case of a person who is committed to celibacy, makes a difference to the sorts of ways in which one can and should serve in the church. Nor is such a principle confined to same-sex attraction. A person who has an urge to embezzle shouldn't be the church treasurer. A person who struggles with porn addiction maybe shouldn't be the church's IT guy, because of the misuse he might be tempted to make of the church Internet service. By the same token, a person with same-sex attraction should not be involved in activities that require him to be spending time overnight, in showers, in rooming together, etc., with members of the same sex. And, to be blunt, given the close association of homosexual attraction with ephebophilia, there is a legitimate question as to whether a same-sex-attracted man should be set up as a role model to boys and young men in general, due to the temptations this could generate. Also due to the fact that boys and young men need (really need) heterosexual male role models.

These are all sane and sober concerns, but Roen pretty clearly dismisses all such thoughts as fear and unkindness.

To false implication #5: Roen's use of phrases like "temptation is temptation" and "sin is sin" strongly suggest that all sins are equally bad.

This is clearly unbiblical. Ironically, the very fact that Paul (and others) bother to list certain sins as particularly noteworthy (Roen mentions one of these lists) falsifies this claim. Paul emphasizes the special harm of sexual immorality to the person (I Cor. 6:18). Jesus directly states or implies on repeated occasions that some sins are worse than others. (John 19:11, Matt. 10:15, Matt. 12:31, Luke 17:2)

It is also contrary to all moral intuition. If you really think that losing your temper and snapping at your dog is just as morally bad as torturing a child to death, you need to have your head examined.

But suppose we envisage Roen as backing off from the implication that all sins are equal and merely taking his stand on the list he happens to mention--that is, the one in I Corinthians 6:9-10. Perhaps he would argue that even if all sins aren't equally bad, at least homosexuality is no worse than covetousness and drunkenness, both of which are mentioned in this particular list. The verses occur after Paul has been castigating the Corinthians for taking one another to court in civil suits, saying that they are defrauding one another and making a spectacle of themselves for unbelievers. He then continues:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

Paul loves lists, and such lists of sins are scattered throughout the Pauline epistles and aren't always the same. (See, for example, the "works of the flesh" in Galatians 5:19-21.) He certainly does say here that no one who commits--presumably, continues to commit or is stubborn in clinging to--the sins listed here will inherit the kingdom of God.

Roen takes this as an opportunity to say that all are "equally damnable" and to ask rhetorically, "Who among us is innocent?" This is a common ploy of those who want to say that homosexual practice is no worse than any other sin in any way. First assert that all sins (or all of some list) can send you to hell, and conclude that all "damnable" sins are equal. Then say that everyone is guilty of one of these, so it's "Phariseeism" to say, even as a carefully considered opinion, that there is something worse about some particular sin.

Note, again, that consistently applied this form of argument would be ludicrous. Imagine a similar article written about torturing children. Paul doesn't even list torturing children in I Corinthians 6 among those things that will prevent one from inheriting the kingdom! He lists others that are all "damnable," and "who among us is innocent"? Therefore (rewritten)

When we love in this manner, we expose [fear of those who torture children] for what it really is: pride. It is an attitude that puts beneath us others whose sins and temptations we deem “more depraved” than our own, as we wickedly proclaim with the Pharisee, “Well, at least I don’t struggle with that” (Luke 18:11).

So all of this is just a silly rhetorical technique. Which brings us back to the list in I Corinthians 6. The fact that any of these sins can take you to hell (as can many others) does not mean that they are all equally bad in a variety of important senses. It doesn't mean that they are all equally harmful to the self and/or to society, equally difficult to put aside, or even equally grave qua sins in a given instance. (It's the persistence in following sin rather than God that takes one to hell, not just a sin's gravity on a given occasion.) Nor does Paul say that they are. On the contrary, in this very passage, just a few verses later, he says this about sexual sins:

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be! Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, “The two shall become one flesh.” But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. (I Cor. 6:15-20)

If these remarks apply to having sex with a prostitute, they apply a fortiori to homosexual acts, which Paul explicitly says in Romans 1 are dishonoring to one's own body.

One can maintain quite plausibly that there are senses in which homosexuality is worse than covetousness: It does more harm to the body, it is a sin against nature (the nature of the body). It harms the soul in a unique way by teaching the soul to love perversion. It tends to be taught to others and hence is spread in a deliberate and explicit way that is not the case with covetousness. In its normalization, it attacks marriage and the male-female bonding that is the very glue of society. In another sense, of course, homosexual acts and deliberately indulged covetousness are apples and oranges. But one is an act of perversion and the other isn't, and that's a relevant difference.

To false implication #6: Roen's narrow biblicism and sweeping, sneering dismissal of natural law arguments is particularly pernicious. It has implications that go far beyond the issue of homosexuality. The Bible does not teach explicitly against suicide and euthanasia. The Bible does not teach clearly against abortion. The Bible does not teach clearly against war crimes.

What if, instead of talking about active homosexuals, we were talking about a general who came home from a war zone and proudly declared that he had wantonly killed civilians? Perhaps he would cite the Bible's passages on the slaughter of the Canaanites to argue that doing so isn't always wrong, and then give a consequentialist defense for his decision deliberately to take out an entire village, including men, women, and children. What if there were a church member who took up the profession of abortionist and pointed out that the Bible never explicitly says that abortion is wrong?

Wouldn't Roen, to be consistent, have to tell people that they are "in the wrong" and "Pharisees" if they condemn these acts on the basis of something other than "solid biblical exegesis"? How dare they just feel that the war criminal or the abortionist is "yucky"!

The point could be extended. Slavery is a notorious example of something on which explicit biblical teaching is murky, but I doubt that Roen would want to call people "Pharisees" if they think that slavery is uniquely bad. Given biblical injunctions not to spare the rod, one could argue that what we would now consider quite excessive corporal punishment is not clearly taught against by "sound exegesis," so perhaps we shouldn't get up on our high horse against church members who beat the tar out of their children.

My point is not to deny that there are biblical principles that are relevant to these issues. My point, rather, is that if anything biblical teaching against homosexuality is much clearer and more explicit than biblical teaching against acts that people like Roen would definitely want to condemn in the strongest possible terms. The convenient biblicism with which he snarkily dismisses the natural law is not something he will want to hang on to in other contexts.

Moreover, the Bible itself teaches that there is a law written on our hearts and that those who do not have special revelation can know right from wrong. Paul's condemnation of homosexuality in the Romans 1 passage comes in the context of discussing pagans who didn't have the special revelation of the Old Testament, yet he holds them guilty for not living according to the law written on the heart. It is therefore supremely ironic that Roen and others like him should speak as though we, in our post-Christian age, should be debarred from opposing homosexuality on any basis other than "solid exegesis." Heaven forbid that we should appeal to people's sense of the teleology of the body that makes them feel that homosexual acts are perverse! Roen's narrow biblicism at this point is unbiblical.

Indeed, since the male-female complementarity is, according to Genesis (part of the Bible!) built into the design plan of mankind, we would expect that people would be able to see that rejecting this complementarity in sex is unnatural. The Bible's own teaching about the origins of sexuality directs our attention to the extra-biblical human sense of teleology in the human body.

It's a really, really bad idea to give people the impression that biology has nothing to tell us in this area, that revulsion has nothing to tell us, and that the prohibition against particular acts is and should be based on the Bible alone. Let's face it: Man is endlessly inventive for evil. People have already come up with obscene sexual acts (please, no examples in the comments) that aren't explicitly addressed in Scripture. We really should not be treating sexual ethical norms as black-box prohibitions that come from God and that we have no way of knowing the reason for.

The ideas represented by Roen's article are, sociologically, unstable. A church that systematically scolds people for an aversion to homosexuality, that systematically reduces the prohibition against it to a black-box biblical fiat, that systematically encourages those with same-sex attraction to "come out," that acquiesces in identity terminology like "LGBT people," that insists that those with same-sex attraction are in no way limited in their ministry and activity options, and that prides itself (were we talking about pride?) in its acceptingness towards "LGBT people," is in the end going to be a church that doesn't condemn homosexual acts. Young people raised with suppression of the natural law are going to disdain it, as they have been taught. This will make it extremely hard for them to see what is wrong with homosexual practice at all, which will make them much more friendly to twistings even of the Bible's clear prohibitions. We see this happening right now, already, in the evangelical church. No doubt you know young people like this, and so do I. Roen's vision of a welcoming, gay-friendly (in some senses) church that places no special social stigma upon homosexuality but that still condemns it from the Bible just isn't something that is going to last.

The alternative is not "hatred," though Roen and a fortiori the homosexual activists think that it is. The alternative is an informed understanding of the natural law, of who we are as human beings, and of the tragic evil of dishonoring that law with our bodies.

Robert Gagnon has been an especially eloquent voice for the right position. Here is his brief and well-considered response to the Roen article.

Related post here.

Comments (27)

Does your opposition to homosexual practice include the ability to lovingly welcome LGBT people

Well, we could figure this guy out right from this point, without going any further. He may (possibly) be observing continence in his outward actions, but inwardly he has not accepted the reality that homosexuality is disordered. For, the hallmark of being part of the LGBQNTXZK crowd is an insistence that their desires are not perverse. One cannot today pretend that a person who self-styles as belonging to the LKGB might be one who suffers from SSA and who struggles against that attraction as disordered.

So, in reality that church needs to get rid of that pastor. Sorry if it is hard on him, but that's the truth.

Actually, one might go further: even for a person who feels SSA, and who has struggled against those desires, who wholeheartedly accepts that they are disordered, and who has experienced several years of success against that attraction, the churches cannot safely employ men like this as a pastor. And it's not solely because they might be tempted beyond their strength: it's because our own degenerate culture has poisoned the well and made it so that such men no longer can be held before others as an example. The pervasive false homophobia cant has now made it so that we have to be extreme in reaction, and reject anything that could be mistaken as in cahoots with that pervasive cant - and that's just what it WOULD look like to hire a pastor publicly known to suffer from SSA. The gays have poisoned the possibility of treating such men just the same as others who have suffered from wrong desires and worked to overcome them.

Which goes hand in hand with a man's not even talking about with others broadly. Even to require of others that they know about your wrongly-directed desires is a kind of perverse exhibitionism. We are all so nice and cuddly about not ruining others' reputations - what does it say about a man who would willingly ruin his OWN reputation? It suffices, in general society, to admit "I am a sinner in need of God's salvation".

Simply put, homophobia means a fear of homosexuality

Not exactly. Homophobia means an irrational fear of homosexuality.

Furthermore, we are called to love with the very love of our Father (Matthew 5:45), which calls us to love even our enemies (Matthew 5:44–48).

True, but love doesn't mean tolerance or acceptance; it means to will the good of another. In other words, part of what it means to will the good of a homosexual means not accepting homosexual behavior.

In other words, part of what it means to will the good of a homosexual means not accepting homosexual behavior.

Since he allegedly opposes homosexual behavior, he'd probably agree with you there.

Where he'd disagree is if one said, "Part of what it means to will the good of a homosexual is not accepting terminology like 'LGBT people' and asking him to exercise discretion, to recognize that he suffers from objectively perverted desires, and not to subject the entire congregation to knowing about his perverted desires. It also means that he should voluntarily refrain from seeking ministry activities that would put him in the way of temptation or that would be inappropriate given his disordered desires. It means recognizing that there are such activities. And if he does not do this voluntarily, and those in leadership in the church know of his disordered desires, part of willing his good is refusing to place him in those positions."

Now *that* kind of thing Roen would flip out over.

A magnificent article, Lydia. I appreciate your detailed clarity, which so often helps me in making clear arguments to my students on issues such as this and end-of-life concerns.

Thank you for this.Somebody has to say it — even the parts I find hard sayings.

I am particularly hostile, from close experiences, toward Roen's implications 2 and 3.

#2: There is something wrong with any suggestion that parading one's sexually perverse desires in society and in the church is TMI (too much information), that doing so normalizes the perversion in question, and that other human beings legitimately do not want to be constantly forced to think (and have their children think) about the perversions that other people around them are attracted to. … #3: The fact that a Christian has a sexually perverse desire shouldn't make any difference whatsoever to what activities he can engage in, and if you think that it should or even might limit, e.g., his ability to work with the youth group, you have a problem.
#2: I have watched a friend approach spiritual shipwreck by obsessively self-identifying as Lesbian, which gave her an endless supply of indignities to complain about - including complaints against her confessors to whose counsel she should have submitted. She has weakened herself, I'm convinced, and harmed friends who tried to empathize on the "it's just one sin among equals" theory. Better had we just been left to assume her sexual inclinations from her presentation.

#3: This one really stirs up feelings. On this theory, my fair city allowed an "out" young homosexual male to have de facto unsupervised access to troubled adolescent males. When two accused him of taking them to his parents' home and sodomizing them, elite opinion was unanimous: fundamentalist homophobes has suborned perjury from the lads. The pressure was so great that they retracted their true accusations — accusations proven true when he repeated his crimes in Wisconsin, was caught, was found with a library videos of his exploitive sodomy (including the local lads), and sent to prison for life.

And y'know, even if the SSA person in question were a) a Christian, b) sincere, and c) self-controlled, so that he would never abuse anyone, what people don't understand is the notion of *personal privacy* in relation to those who are sexually attracted to oneself. That is to say, no person with SSA, even someone chaste, should be rooming, showering, etc., with the same sex. It is a de facto violation of the privacy of the others involved. This seems so obvious that it shouldn't need to be said, but apparently it does need to be said. And *many* church activities involve such situations: Taking kids to camp as a counselor. Men's retreats. (Or women's retreats.) Church staff traveling together for conferences. Etc.

Apparently, too, it is not understood well that even a chaste person with SSA is not the *type* of role model that young men need. They need healthy men as role models. By "healthy" I do *not* mean he-men or neanderthals, and I certainly don't mean men who will teach them to ogle girls. But I do mean heterosexual men who have their own sexuality in its proper, healthy place. For that matter, a heterosexual man who has had his sexuality blasted and warped by a porn addiction shouldn't be a youth leader of young men either.

I'll add that among the Vanguard of the Proleperviats there is another sense homophobia: that any critic of homosexuality is motivated by his latent fear of his own suppressed homosexuality. This is a favorite trope in movies and television. When it isn't dead, white, European male Karl Marx running the show, it's dead, white, European male Freud. Read a manual on setting up a "safe zone" on a college campus and see terms like "heterosexism" and you'll see the movement in all its Orwellian glory.

I would take the name of the article, "Homophobia Has No Place in the Church," and restate it correctly: The irrational fear of homophobia has no place in the Church.

Thank you Lydia for such excellent moral clarity and careful reasoning.

I've often wondered that since Paul says "and such were some of you" why pastors do not emphasize this for people who commit the sins disussed in this article.

I seems that people who really follow the way of Jesus would agree that they were once sinners but now are working towards being saints.

The pr0stitutes and tax collectors who followed Jesus didn't ask the disciples to respect their "struggles"... they just responded in loving obedience to the only Person who could radically alter the structure of their souls toward its proper telos/end.
Could Mary Magdalene or Saint Pelagia or any even Saint Augustine have written such an article?

One would think that the more transformed the heart the more vehemently one would oppose one's former sins. St. Paul was pretty good at that and so he could write that "such WERE some of you."

Yes, this raises the very interesting question of what I call "bait and switch" in evangelism. We expect to be able to downplay the problem of homosexuality when trying to evangelize active homosexuals, but we expect them just to be able to divine by ESP that they are going to have to change their lifestyle radically after we have succeeded in evangelizing them. Why assume that? Why not guess instead that they will figure they are in one of those churches that "accepts them the way they are" and that they won't have to make any changes? I discussed this here concerning a chapel speaker at quite a conservative Christian college who said that the matter of homosexual sin is a matter of "chores and etiquette" in God's house that should be brought up only after making it clear that all are "unconditionally" welcome in God's house.

http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2012/06/what_was_wrong_with_matt_jenso.html

That message is not very well-suited to produce people who will condemn their own past sins clearly and will abandon them wholly.

Lydia,

I'm coming late to the party but I just wanted to echo some of the other comments and offer my praise for an excellent post on this subject. This got me thinking about an off-hand comment Rod Dreher made recently as he was discussing his hot new book (I have it and hope to post something in the coming weeks) with an interviewer:

R&P: The Benedict Option still seems like a shrinking away from the basic, messy work of pluralism. Are you shying away from this uncomfortable reckoning with how to deal with people who think very differently from you about what it means to build a family or a culture?

RD: The fact is, it’s more important to be faithful Christians than it is to be good Americans. That’s the bottom line. And I would think that anybody, from whatever religion—Islam, Judaism, whatever—would place fidelity to what God expects of them above conforming to a culture.
[...]
I think of myself, and my generation—most of us, even we who are conservative Christians, would never want to go back to a time when gays and lesbians have to be back in the closet. I don’t want that at all. At the same time, I don’t want the state compelling religious institutions—churches, hospitals, schools—to violate our conscience on what sex is for and who the human person is and what marriage is.

So I read his answer to the interview question coupled with this post and I think to myself, why not bring back the closet? Or at least a massive dose of modestly and reticence by everyone (gay and straight) to refrain from talking about sex all the time?

The other thing I had to shake my head at in your analysis of this article is when the author says, "Or is it more influenced by a fear that same-sex couples might signal the unraveling of comfortable cultural norms and usher in the end of a once-pristine “Judeo-Christian society”? Or maybe your fear is more that one such couple might move in next door, and you might actually be pressured to befriend them?" As if the fact that back in 1878 we still were all still sinners has anything to do with the fact that it was objectively better for society and families that no one had to deal with questions of public homosexuality on a regular basis or worry how to deal shield their kids from the influence of an 'out' couple moving in next door! Talk about false dilemmas!!

Anyway, great piece and a reminder of how confused both society and folks in the church have become around these issues.

Interesting that Dreher said that. It's an odd kind of gesture, isn't it? Like a nominee for a federal position in a Republican administration having to refer to Roe v. Wade as "the law of the land" to get confirmed. Dreher has to salute the flag by talking about how terrible the closet was.

Certainly nobody should have been in the closet because otherwise he was going to be beaten or killed. Fine. But what was so bad about people's feeling that they had to keep their sexual problems to themselves, and realizing that those around them regarded homosexual urges as a major sexual problem?

I have sometimes wondered to what extent the new perspective (of which Dreher's comment is a symptom) is a result of our "let it all hang out" culture and to what extent it's a result of the normalization of homosexuality *specifically*. I've come to the not-very-profound conclusion that it's some of both. It definitely has something to do with normalization, because even if an alcoholic or a drug addict were going with the "let it all hang out" culture and telling his friends about his problem as part of "being real," it wouldn't mean the same thing that it means when a person "comes out" as gay. In particular, it wouldn't mean that everyone was expected to tell him how wonderful his revelation was and how they supported him and thought no less of him. Indeed, it would be expected that it might affect some jobs or positions the alcoholic or drug addict might otherwise have: Long-distance truck driving, just to pick one out of the hat.

It's an odd kind of gesture, isn't it? Like a nominee for a federal position in a Republican administration having to refer to Roe v. Wade as "the law of the land" to get confirmed. Dreher has to salute the flag by talking about how terrible the closet was.

Given Dreher's standing, (he can afford to thumb his nose at some idol and still get on with his life), and his explicit reference to being countercultural to be fully Christian, I am not sure it makes sense to think of this as Dreher somewhat insincerely saluting the "law of the land". I think it is more likely that he is just a bit warped and incoherent on the topic, and saying what he really thinks - however poorly the different parts of what he thinks hang together.

Sadly, there appears to be most of a generation of adults who imagine that the change in our culture to promote the LKGB agenda is "what most people want" because polls have trumpeted that for the last 8 years. I think those numbers were highly suspect, and if the polling had been done properly 8 years ago, the numbers for ACTUAL support for gay marriage would have been a lot lower. At this point, after more than 8 years of the big lie, of course easily swayed people spout the answer the media-drenched culture wants. If the polled question were, however, "would it bother you if your 18-year old son started dating a 30 year old man", or better yet "would it bother you if you overheard a 30-year old man at the beach say that he thought your son was really hot and he hoped to date him", the number would be one hell of a lot higher than the 40% (or whatever the current claim is) for "resistance" to the gay so-called "rights".

There's a BIG DIFFERENCE between the implied conclusions of the media claims of support for gays, and the actuality of what people WANT to see in their daily lives. People do not want to see 2 women kissing in a romance movie. (Though the hoodwinked have forced themselves to not like themselves for not wanting to see that.) They do not want their kids drawn to persons of the same sex. To the extent that Dreher doesn't get this, he is not such a great observer of human nature.

Routine decrying of bullying even by conservatives like Dreher does not help. It needs to be appreciated that this so-called bullying served vital needs in keeping the transgressive urges of the deviants and the latents in tight bounds. It is good for the deviants and the latents themselves.

A problem lies in not distinguishing what truly is bullying from social stigma per se. I can well imagine that some of our new "right" people are now going to start advocating vigilante behavior, literally running homosexuals out on a rail or beating people up or what-not. Or even mere insult for the sake of insult. And the activists, of course, will treat any stigma or request for public decency and discretion as equivalent to plain cruelty.

But there are ways of evincing disgust and asking people not to parade perversions that don't involve such methods.

A problem lies in not distinguishing what truly is bullying from social stigma per se.

Lydia, I think this is really true. The LKGB would have us believe that even a non-act that is merely the failure to be positively supportive of gayness amounts to "being mean", and even so much as a facial expression of disgust, or turning away, is "bullying". We can easily reject such characterizations: That's not what "bullying" means in any other context, so it isn't here either.

On the other hand, some of what the Alt-right and the Reactionary crowd seems to condone is actual full-on violence to gays. I think that we have to admit this would be bullying (at least, if not something worse). I gather that those in Reaction see this as "yep, that's bullying - just what's needed here."

I think we are staking a claim that there is a middle ground, and that we even have a moral obligation to pursue behavior that does constitute overt social repudiation of the gay attitude and behavior, and that does not constitute a sin itself. It is hard to see how we can do justice to the reality of gay desires and actions as perverse and disordered and socially destructive, without giving them firm negative social attention. What would that be? At a minimum, turning away, and walking away, when gays make their gayness front and center (holding hands, kissing, etc). But that's pretty limited and, frankly, soft. How about: Shunning. Expressing outrage. Direct denial or rejection when someone expresses support for the LKGB.

So, here's my question: does exclaiming loudly "that's disgusting!" when two guys snuggle in front of you fall into the same category as shouting "you freaks!" at them?

So, here's my question: does exclaiming loudly "that's disgusting!" when two guys snuggle in front of you fall into the same category as shouting "you freaks!" at them?

No. I would go farther. I would say that various venues, especially those that are privately owned, ought to have the prerogative to have standards of behavior. In all honesty, I could imagine that this might include reasonable limits on the behavior of male-female couples. If the owner of a restaurant tells a guy and a girl that they can't be passionately embracing and kissing while waiting in line at his restaurant, if he quietly sends an employee to say, "Would you please not do that? It's offensive to us and to our patrons" to them and asks them to leave if they don't stop, I would support him to the hilt. A fortiori, for a venue to tell a pair of homosexuals that they can't be smooching, even (yea verily) to a much lesser extent than would have been considered offensive if done by a man and a woman, this is completely legit. Of course, nowadays you'd be sued. You'd have to find a way to prove you weren't discriminating, blah, blah. But we're talking about what is morally legitimate and even a good idea, aside from the draconian world of "public accommodations" laws we live in, in which you not only have to permit the smooching in your establishment but have to take celebratory photos of it if you are a photographer and sell your services.

I also support job discrimination for those who behave in these ways, and depending on the circumstances, a man might not want word to get back to his employer that he was kissing his boyfriend at the ballgame on Saturday.

As for the *outright* public nudity and indecency that is endemic to "gay neighborhoods" or to abominations like "pride" parades, that behavior should be subject to arrest if we are to have any public decency laws at all, and that would be true even if the people involved happened to have a different "orientation" and were displaying it with such behavior.

Things have come to such a pass that I have heard one homosexual activist complain when police in a neighboring town enforced existing laws against having sex in the park because the activist believed the enforcement was a form of "targeting" homosexuals. Presumably because more homosexuals than heterosexuals have sex in public parks. So I guess it would be a kind of revolutionary act in some places, and would disrupt "gay culture," for the police merely to enforce normal laws against sex in public places.

Lydia,

All good suggestions.

I would add the willingness and indeed, the importance, of telling the truth about the so-called "gay lifestyle" -- I thought of this as I came across this piece recently by Austin Ruse (not for the faint of heart):

http://www.crisismagazine.com/2017/homo-homophobia

Of course, nowadays you'd be sued. You'd have to find a way to prove you weren't discriminating, blah, blah.

Right. I was limiting myself to stuff that, at least for the moment, won't get you hauled into court to defend.

As for the *outright* public nudity and indecency that is endemic to "gay neighborhoods" or to abominations like "pride" parades, that behavior should be subject to arrest if we are to have any public decency laws at all...So I guess it would be a kind of revolutionary act in some places, and would disrupt "gay culture," for the police merely to enforce normal laws against sex in public places.

I suspect that in a lot of places public authorities actually do not know what is legal to enforce regarding public decency. There have been so much refusal to enforce basic common sense (esp. with LKGB parades) that my guess is that plenty of police don't actually think indecency laws apply. Which is pure craziness.

I agree that we ought to be ready to discriminate against gays in all those matters where their behavior is something objectively contrary to the common good in ways that bear public (or interpersonal private) notice: we ought to be ready not to rent a room to them, etc. (Much less do their gwedding photos). But what I was trying to get at was whether we should include or exclude from our repertoire the kinds of non-violent social opprobrium that - if applied to, say, those of other religious groups, or other political party activists - would be considered "bullying". I think a person should be free to not rent a room to people he doesn't get along with, including those of another political party, or those of another religion. But that's not bullying. Is it appropriate for a Christian to single out a gay couple that just kissed in a public park and openly mock their behavior, and encourage others to mock their behavior, to call them names, to shout at them with contemptuous tones, tell them to get out of town, etc? (All without overt threats, let's say.)

Let's put that question a different way: can you carry out those actions with charity in your heart?

Tony,

we are staking a claim that there is a middle ground

The so-called middle ground has never existed, All societies have employed a degree of coercion and sanction to keep those of transgressive urges in tight bounds, at least in public.

Lydia,
You need to decide whether the New Right is too accepting of homosexuality thereby corrupting the conservatism or it is too vigilante of homosexuality thereby brutalizing the conservatism.

Oh, believe me, sir, they are large, they contain multitudes. If it serves their purposes on a given day (for example to "be shocking" or "make the left mad" or "be tough"), they'd advocate tarring and feathering. If it serves their purposes on a different day, they will tell us all to bow down and adore a self-styled Dangerous F*gg*t because he's so "courageous" and not afraid of anybody, blah blah, and because what really matters is "fighting the left," blah-more-blah.

A nicely postmodern movement, which is convenient for them. As witness, e.g., the constant claim of "irony."

Indeed, I have seen people who embody both of these tendencies in their own rhetoric at different times.

When what you really care about is ticking people off and being destructive, consistency is not one of the virtues you have to strive for.

Lydia, thank you for the insightful article. I love the Bible but appreciate that you point out that creation is a revelation from God too. (I finished your book, it was great!)

You or your readers might be interested in this free audio, "Kids, God Made Marriage."

http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=71415115240

There is also a parents guide which expands on and makes explicit the implicit arguments in the children's audio.

http://media.sermonaudio.com/mediapdf/71415115240.pdf

This audio makes the case for natural marriage to children as young as four, implicitly stating and countering arguments for two dozen of the issues in the current marriage debate. This is done while only mentioning marriage between a man and a woman. There is no mention of homosexuality, polygamy, divorce etc.

All societies have employed a degree of coercion and sanction to keep those of transgressive urges in tight bounds, at least in public.

Mactoul, I was calling for a normative point (what is right or wrong), and you have answered with a descriptive point: all societies HAVE used "coercion and sanction". Well, most societies done things with broad approval that we think are wrong. Until well along into the Christian era, most societies have had slavery. Many societies have had polygamy. Many societies seem to have had at least a few modes of torture for criminals. Etc. (By the way, the ancient Greeks, for one, did not punish homosexual behavior.)

Are you saying that people should be locked up for sodomy? I have no problem with laws like that. But we are not going to get any such laws here in the foreseeable future, so I was focusing on social penalties, not legal ones.

And even granting that putting a convicted criminal behind bars is good, there can STILL be wrong ways to impose social penalties that harm society and are contrary to charity. So, even if we were to restore laws (and actual enforcement) against sodomy, that would not itself tell us whether intense public mockery, inducing others to mock them, yelling at them in contemptuous tones, calling them names, and shouting that they should get out of town, are the kinds of behavior that we ought to employ to restrain the spread of homosexual nonsense.

Tony,
I am really talking of schools and impressionable adolescents who might be nudged into a less transgressive norms by an atmosphere that does not coddle transgressions. A certain degree of roughness--you don't really know how effective societies socialize their young into accepting norms. We have the description--everywhere boys are asked to man up and not be sissies. But the prescription--never do anything that might be not nice and slightest bit uncharitable? Can it work? Who knows.

But the prescription--never do anything that might be not nice and slightest bit uncharitable? Can it work? Who knows.

Mactoul, I suspect we are working under different meanings of "charitable".

I have no problem being hard-nosed, stiff-necked, and tough on those who would consider breaking an important social boundary. I have no problem with, for example, shunning those who would deliberately and openly engage in fornication (as witnessed by 'living together'), so at least the same would apply to similarly situated gays. I have no problem with what some would _call_ being "mean" to gays who unrepentently hold to their 'lifestyle' as if it were morally licit.

By being "uncharitable", though, I mean actually sinful behavior. Which is never OK, even for a good end goal. At an extreme, it would be wrong to kill a friend because I think he might be about to give in to the gay pressure and openly adopt the gay life. But many lesser acts would also be wrong.

Generally, I think that there is a discernible difference between being "tough" and being mean-spirited, and between due punishment and bullying, between appropriate social pressure and tyranny. The mean-spirited, tyrannical behavior, beneath the visible level, does not leave room for any desire to do well to the person being acted upon, only to do well for yourself or some others. But this invisible reality often comes out in visible or discernible differences in action: open contempt, for example, which is a moral wrong.

Due punishment, though it may actually be more painful to the sufferer than some other ill treatment, can be delivered to the criminal without wishing and intending that they be made worse off overall, because the due punishment is seen to rectify justice in their regard which the criminal himself should desire (were his desires in accordance with reason); hence the criminal by suffering due punishment is worse off in ONE sense but is better off in toto. Therefore, jailors and executioners need not act with malice or contempt in carrying out due punishment to offenders. (Though they CAN act with malice, and then it is a sin even though the punishment is just: this is doing a right action for a wrong motive.)

Quite otherwise is the behavior of the mean-spirited, who actually wants the offender to be worse off than before, simply, and not "for his own good and the good of others as well". To wish evil simply upon someone, and not "to wish evil in a sense but good considered in the whole" is to act in malice, which is always a wrong act.

The trick is to know which ways of social pressure are malicious and which are upright. Social pressure, itself, is a good and necessary feature of society, at it ought to help restrain a person's worse impulses. What is at issue is not whether to use it, but how to use it well and not by committing wrong ourselves.

I reject the idea that "never do something that isn't 'nice' " as being the sort of thing I am talking about. Even after you reject the idiocy of the gay mantra that not positively affirming them is "mean", and you get back to something more rational, there is no reason to be 'nice' to someone who is flouting good and healthy social boundaries (as well as defying moral norms, which the social boundaries serve). You can be hard-nosed and tough, you can be unyielding and demanding and (what to the offender will FEEL like) mean about their behavior, without actually being mean-spirited and wishing them ill. Indeed, every parent who demands obedience to a rule and properly punishes a child does as much: few children right at the moment of being punished don't feel like their parent is being mean. But what the child feels at that moment is due to their disordered passions, and a parent in control of himself doesn't punish the child SIMPLY out of a desire to hurt the child.

Generally, I think that there is a discernible difference between being "tough" and being mean-spirited, and between due punishment and bullying, between appropriate social pressure and tyranny.

Right. This is what is being lost, now. The ability to discern any difference. The false dichotomy is: Either you're a namby pamby (like the author of the article in the main post) when it comes to condemning sin, or else you think it's necessary or even laudable to be beating people up, threatening to beat them up, or at a minimum treating them with nothing higher or other than coarse contempt.

Our society has an impoverished imagination. I suppose one could wonder what else to expect after several decades (at least) in which manliness that is simultaneously dignified, strong, uncompromising, and kindly has been lost. We don't know what a real man of mature, much less Christian, authority would act like anymore.

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