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:
- Homosexuality is normal
- Homosexuality is benign
- People who disagree about this are abnormal
- People who disagree are irrational
- 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:
- “Agree with us, or you’re a racist.”
- “Say that homosexuality is normal, or you’re a homophobe.”
- “Support same-sex marriage, or you’re a closet chattel slaver.”
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?