Grant Hartley asked me what I thought of Aaron Taylor’s recent article, “Crucifixion and the Experience of Sexual Minorities”.
If I had to summarize my thoughts, I’d say I am in highly attenuated agreement with Aaron. His overall thesis seems right to me—that the church should take the same approach to homosexual people as it takes to the sick. As a rule, the church is good about caring for the sick. We don’t just tell them to “take up their cross” and suffer through it; we also recognize an obligation to ameliorate that suffering if we can. Gay people should be no more lonely in the church than sick people.
But as I say, my position is attenuated, because it seems to me that the situation is much more complicated than Aaron’s analogy implies. For example…
He heavily overstates the case for homosexual persecution outside the church
Aaron talks about how…
…our reaction when LGBTQ people are bullied, beaten, tortured, murdered, imprisoned, sexually abused, disowned by parents, made homeless, denied employment, discriminated against in the workplace, fired, driven to suicide, and robbed of human dignity in both word and deed, should not be simply to tell them to “unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter.”
In the article, each word from “bullied” to “suicide” is a link to some case or other of these things happening. The trouble is, a large proportion of such incidents are far from clear-cut, or are outright fabricated (as websites like FakeHateCrimes.org document). For example, Aaron refers to the case of Matthew Shepard, a teenager allegedly killed for being gay. But this has been utterly discredited, as even LGBTQ* advocacy site Advocate.com acknowledges..
When gay people routinely fabricate hate crimes, it becomes hard to assess the overall truth of the LGBTQ* persecution narrative. Aaron calls the church to be at the forefront of condemning such persecution, but as Steve Hays observes,
…members of the LGBT community have shot their credibility. When a homosexual or transgender claims to be the victim of bullying, violence, or harassment, there’s no presumption that the allegation is true. Absent independent corroboration, Christians are entitled to be skeptical. Gullibility is not a theological virtue. Allowing yourself to be manipulated by a cynical political strategy is not an intellectual virtue.
Of course, this is not to say that gay bashing doesn’t occur; but as Steve also points out,
Some students have always been bullied. Straight students are bullied. Smaller students are bullied by bigger students. If a school is predominantly one race, then students of another race tend to be bullied. So we need to distinguish between a bullied student who happens to be homosexual and a student who’s bullied because he’s homosexual.
The fact that someone gets bullied and is gay shows correlation—not causation. The presumption of causation is convenient for the LGBTQ* persecution narrative, but Christians ought to be cautious about jumping to conclusions.
The cum hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy, continued
By the same token, Aaron’s implication that high suicide rates among homosexuals must be due to discrimination is tendentious at best. Homosexual lifestyles are linked to higher rates of all kinds of negative outcomes, like violence and HIV, which are in no way caused by discrimination. Similarly, higher rates of promiscuity among all sexual orientations are related to depression and lower self-esteem. So surely it is plausible to imagine that a lifestyle which Aaron himself would acknowledge is both “inherently disordered” and characterized by promiscuity is likely to be correlated to higher rates of depression—regardless of external factors like prejudice or discrimination?
Indeed, how does Aaron know that the same people innately inclined to depression and suicide are not also innately inclined towards homosexuality? His leaping from correlation to a particular kind of causation suggests a hasty approach to this issue; one influenced by the insistent secular LGBTQ* narrative. This doesn’t bode well for the accuracy of his overall thesis.
So while I agree in principle with his comment that “homophobia … should still be eradicated wherever possible, and Christians should be in the forefront of the movement for its eradication” (taking homophobia as he defines it; not retracting my contention that we shouldn’t even use the term), I cannot help thinking Steve Hays is again correct to note that since we are on the losing end of a culture war, our priorities should be somewhat different:
To the extent that we should break our silence, it should be to condemn the strategy of using fake hate crimes as a ruse to leverage a totalitarian change in social policy.
How serious a problem is LGBTQ* persecution?
I do seriously wonder whether homosexuals are persecuted more than other groups. On the face of it, this seems implausible given how extraordinarily politically incorrect it now is. Are people simply being duped into believing a false narrative pushed by an extremely vocal minority to further their cynical agenda? Is LGBTQ* persecution over-reported in comparison with other groups because other groups man up and get over it—whereas at least some LGBTQ* people are hyper-sensitive to any kind of criticism? It does seem to be a common implication that disagreement with their lifestyle is synonymous with denying the validity of their very identities as people.
This leads me to my next point…
Where does responsibility lie in the church?
I am not denying that such persecution happens at all. Nor am I denying that many people (including Christians) respond poorly to LGBTQ* people. Many within the church are well outside their comfort zones when they encounter such people—to say the least. They fail to love them rightly because they fail to overcome what we might call an ingrained disgust at homosexuality. This disgust is appropriate as a response to sin and perversion, but it should not overwhelm our ability to befriend and minister to LGBTQ* people, just as Jesus befriended and ministered to people that his religious culture considered scum.
So it is this kind of “homophobia” we should be trying to correct—not fabricated hate crimes.
But while some fault certainly lies at the feet of many Christians, my comments above about the vocal minority reflect an issue that makes ministering to LGBTQ* people very difficult…
Are LGBTQ* people problematically sensitive?
Let me speak frankly. When I meet a gay Christian, I immediately go into eggshell mode. I choose every word with extreme care. The reason is simple: all my exposure to LGBTQ* people, via debate and via the media, has conditioned me to think they are so emotionally fragile that the slightest ill-picked phrase, the smallest wrong move, the merest hint of misunderstanding, could send them into an irrecoverable tizzy of vindictive resentment.
This is not to say that my perception is accurate—but this is the reality.
I don’t think I am alone in this. My sense is that there is a general perception that LGBTQ* people as a “species” do not have normal, adult responses to disagreement, criticism, or condemnation; because this is the view we see every time a new controversy erupts in the media. The most recent example is the LGBTQ* lobby basically emotionally blackmailing senators in Arizona into changing their vote on a bill they previously supported.
How are Christians supposed to feel confident in having frank conversations—let alone ministering to—people whom they fear will erupt in self-righteous offense at the merest perceived slight?
Of course, this view of LGBTQ* people as hyper-sensitive, litigious whiners is subject to a huge selection-bias—it is exactly the members of the LGBTQ* community who are like this that call the most attention to themselves, and claim to represent LGBTQ* people in general. They are doing their community no favors by ingraining their worst traits into our minds as a stereotype of everyone who identifies with their movement. Surely many LGBTQ* people—especially Christians—are perfectly level-headed, and do not let others exercise power over them by taking offense at everything.
But by the same token, surely many Christians are perfectly able to overcome their discomfort of abnormal sexual identity and form strong, valuable relationships with LGBTQ* brothers.
You see, the relational difficulties are two-way.