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Why Christians should not use the word “homophobia”

Overlooking the Orwellian use of language in the culture wars is like overlooking the use of defective ammo in real wars.

We shouldn’t use it, nor accept its use of us. Both active and merely passive acceptance of the term lends it a false legitimacy.

A phobia in psychiatry is an abnormal and irrational fear or loathing. By accepting the use of the term homophobia, we are implicitly granting at least the following five things:

  1. Homosexuality is normal
  2. Homosexuality is benign
  3. People who disagree about this are abnormal
  4. People who disagree are irrational
  5. People who disagree fear or loathe homosexuals

Even though (5) is sometimes true, (1)-(3) are always false, and very often it would be extremely hard to make a case for (4) as well. And (4)-(5) are not true of Christians who believe the Bible and love their neighbors.

The language we use matters, because it shapes not just our perception of ideas, views, and people, but how we are able to talk about them. When “homophobia” is the word people automatically choose to describe disagreement about the morality of homosexual behavior, then the discussion has been so skewed from the outset that reasoning together becomes impossible. This is standard operating procedure for the left: they know that poisoning the well by redefining their opposition in emotive terms is much more effective than arguing their case (especially since they have no real case). For example, the term “social justice” is another Orwellian buzzword, typically used not because of what it means, but because of how it sounds. Anyone against social justice must obviously be wrong—even if we don’t understand what social justice actually is! Because…you know, society! And justice!

Another common example of this is the accusation of racism. For a while, quite recently, it was routine to see people saying that if you disagreed with Obamacare, it was because you were racist. And that completely shut down further conversation. There was no need to listen to the reasoning of someone who opposed Obamacare, because it was racist, and racism is wrong. The same thing happened with the Trayvon Martin case. If you didn’t think Trayvon was an innocent victim of white hate, you were a racist. If you argued that Zimmerman was not guilty of murder, you were a fucking racist. And of course, now that Arizona is looking at a bill to protect the consciences of businesses who don’t want to participate in same sex “marriages”, the left is labeling this as akin to a return to the Jim Crow era.

This is the modus operandi for political correctness. It is hard work, and often ineffective, to reason with people who disagree with you. But it is both easy and highly effective to label them:

Even having a contrary opinion is grounds for a witch-hunt. This approach to language seems to have started with the Communist Party, at least in the US. See Bill Vallicella’s article, “On the Origin of Political Correctness”. And it is obviously difficult for the average person to overcome that kind of browbeating. How do you stand firm on your convictions when you are flustered at being likened to a racist? It’s like being accused of being a rapist. Anything you say is taken as further evidence of your guilt.

Btw, it’s even harder to defend yourself when you have no clear reasoning process behind your convictions. Oddly, the church keeps lamenting the erosion of Christian values in society—but does it work harder to train its people with clear, systematic teaching and apologetics classes, so they can resist and fight back?

Pfft.

6 comments

  1. Peter

    Amen.

  2. Grant Hartley

    Perhaps we just disagree on semantics, experiences, or perhaps we disagree on something more; I’m not sure. Help me figure this out?

    When I use the word “homophobia,” I am not granting that a homosexual orientation is desirable, or that people who disagree are abnormal, irrational, or loath LGBTQ* people. What I am granting is that 1) a homosexual orientation is one of a number of things that can happen in a fallen world, and usually happens without a person choosing their attractions (oftentimes, the opposite is true; many of my LGBTQ* friends have told me that they spent considerable time praying constantly for their orientation to change), 2) that a homosexual orientation is “common to man,” (1 Corinthians 10:13) and in that sense, “normal” for broken humanity (but not a part of God’s calling on the lives of Christians), and 3) there are those (inside the Church and outside the Church) who react to LGBTQ* people with fear and loathing, or who refuse to grant the previous two premises.

    For sure, people use the word “homophobia” differently, but isn’t that the same for every word? “Homophobia” is the best word I can use to describe the responses I have experienced from many of the people I have “come out” to (shared my story of same-sex attraction with). It describes the fear or even apathy I have experienced from Christians whom I have challenged to reach out with me and build bridges with the LGBTQ* community. It describes the reason why many of my LGBTQ* friends may find it harder to raise support for ministry, because the Christians to whom they would go for support may not feel comfortable donating money to have a celibate same-sex attracted Christian share the gospel to those in need. It describes the reason why one of my celibate same-sex attracted friends was almost refused a job as a youth minister because of his story.

    I feel that the word “homophobia” can be used in a constructive, helpful way. I would love to hear your thoughts on this! I appreciate the opportunity to respond to what you have written, and I would love to hear from you on this.

    Also, could we not refer to LGBTQ* people as “the homosexuals”? If we both agree that same-sex sex is a sin, then we should refuse to reduce people made in the image of God to their temptations. I prefer using “gay” or “lesbian” or “queer” or “LGBTQ*,” and always follow it with a noun, like “person” or “Christian”. It helps to bring humanity back into the discussion.

  3. Philip C

    Grant,
    You are arguing that we shouldn’t use the word ‘homosexual’ to describe someone who is homo-sexual? We should use the phrase “gay-man” no wait, “gay-person” because that better reminds us that this person isn’t into homo-sex?

    Aside from this being equivalent to running in place, you are actually making the problem worse with your white-washing language. These men who engage in this behavior are sodomites. If you think that word is too 1950s, or too labeling, maybe a short description of these people are in order, like, “they are aroused at the thought of engaging in penetration upon another man’s anus when he’s not using it for expelling feces.” How about we come to grips with the reality of what gay sex actually is before trying to pretend it’s not a deviation from Gods created order, and that our modern culture is celebrating and demanding that deviation.

    Seriously, if I were Bnonn I would shoot myself after writing such articles and then having people come in and post comments like they didn’t even read them. He’s got a lot of grace to continually be able to tolerate it.

  4. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    In fairness to Grant, the language issue goes both ways. Not all people in the LGBTQ community are homosexual men, and even of those who are, calling them sodomites seems calculated to get their backs up rather than encourage dialog.

    In the case of Grant, to the best of my knowledge, he is an orthodox Christian and a celibate homosexual. To call him a sodomite is outrageously insulting. It would be like calling me a man-slut because I am involuntarily attracted to other women than my wife. A sodomite is someone who actually engages in anal sex, and a man-slut is someone who actually sleeps around. Temptation and sin are not the same. Christians do not owe each other insults and judgment, but charity and correction (if needed).

    As for homosexuals, or LGBTQ*whenwillitend people in general, it seems to me that deliberately provoking them with language calculated to hurt, offend, and reinforce a stereotype of Christians, is no more helpful than placating them by denying that there is anything wrong with their proclivities at all. I’m not sure why Christians seem unable to find a middle way here. Why is loving our neighbor so much harder when he is homosexual than when he is a heterosexual man-slut? While we have to keep in mind what Douglas Wilson points out about the attitude of many LGBTQ people being insatiably inclined toward evil, that does not mean we should discount the great commission with respect to them, nor start the fight. Remember Paul’s command:

    Bless those who persecute you; bless, and don’t curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice. Weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Don’t set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Don’t be wise in your own conceits. Repay no one evil for evil. Respect what is honorable in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as it is up to you, be at peace with all men. Romans 12:14-18

    Following this command is very complicated in the online world, and especially given current political events, but that doesn’t mean we should give up on trying.

    To answer your question, Grant, I would agree that there are times when homophobia accurately describes the reaction of some people to homosexuality. The problem as I see it is that people are very inclined to “slip” in their usage of the term, from describing genuine loathing or irrational fear, to describing mere discomfort, to describing simple disagreement. I have been called homophobic many times simply for voicing the belief that homosexual practice is a sin. When a word becomes so diluted, and simultaneously so loaded, it becomes impossible to use correctly without some kind of qualification—along the lines of, “He is a homophobe in the technical sense of the word.”

    At that point, why not just say, “He actually loathes homosexuals”? The original term has lost its use by becoming a tool of ideological coercion.

    Btw, with regard to my use of the term homosexual in this article, that’s simply because homophobia refers specifically to homosexuals. I actually strongly resist the terms gay, queer etc, for precisely the same reason I resist the term homophobia. It is a more difficult question, I think, because I am torn between the right of people to choose their own descriptions for themselves, and the again Orwellian abuse of language involved in being asked to think of homosexuals or bisexuals or transgenders as happily “gay” or oddly “queer”—with all those words connote.

  5. Philip C

    I’m not calling him a sodomite, for the record. If he’s a celibate, faithful orthodox Christian then who cares if he’s attracted to men, women, or dead bodies? He’s a child of God, fully forgiven. But to be that, and then take for yourself the mantle of the world and assign yourself a label based on sinful actions, is, well, not only unhelpful but a very bad idea. I mean yes, Christians may still be fallen, but the new creation is no longer defined by the urgings and promptings of the heart. Grant is a brother, not a gay-person, nor a gay-christian.

    I’ll expound for a moment at what I’m really upset about here: American Evangelicals have let this tyranny by the homosexual mafia in the door by our methods, the way out is not to continue to do them, it’s to quit doing them. Our chickens are coming home to roost and we’re out hatching more chickens. We for so long have come alongside the culture and tried to be friends with it, so that one day we we can share the gospel with it in a contextualized way, that all we have done in actuality is nothing more than given approval to it. We have compromise and accept their labels, and ideas, in trying to Christianize them, and it didn’t work.
    Now I’m not calling for people to be as nasty as possible, I’m calling for reality. I’m saying that rather than continue the charade of “Your a cis-trans-lesbian-non-binary person? Me too! I also follow Jesus and you can too!” we adopt the radical idea of Paul who just called fornicators fornicators, and sodomites sodomites.
    To the person who is struggling and wanting out of the lifestyle I want to be compassionate. To the person who is out to tear the gospel down by pouring new meaning into words until sin no longer looks like sin I say not so fast.

  6. Grant Hartley

    Thank you so much, Bnonn, for your thoughtful response and challenge! However, I do disagree with you on a few points of terminology. I would love to share with you more on this sometime in the future. I also invite you to check out my blog (www.hearttohartley.wordpress.com) and give me your thoughts on the LGBTQ*-related posts (such as “Coming Out”, “Let Love Be Our Orientation”, “Onward, Upward, Homebound”, and “Hope for a Harvest”). Grace and peace, brother!

    And Phillip, I would love to share more about my story and my ministry to the LGBTQ* community with you sometime, if you are open to it. And the same invitation to my blog is open to you as well, brother. Grace and peace.

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