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Against Homophobia

March 29, 2012 – During the era of American slavery, it was not uncommon for religious slave-owners to attempt to find justification for their practice in the pages of Scripture.  So they tended to appeal to the biblical guidelines for the master-slave relationship (Lev. 25-26) and the apostolic exhortations of obedience (Eph. 6:5-6; Col. 3:22, etc.) as grounds for a practice which was, at its core, entirely antithetical to the ethos of Scripture.
Later, after slavery came to its predestined end in this country, the general feelings of racial prejudice continued (in both North and South) and this prejudice too was vindicated, it was felt, through an appeal to divine authority.  The most obvious example of this perceived biblical sanction for racial prejudice is the (lingering) disapproval of interracial marriage on the supposed grounds that the Bible forbids it.  Appeal in this instance is made to such passages as Genesis 26:34-35, where Esau, the son of Isaac and Rebekah marries two Hittite women who are a cause of grief to his parents, as well as Ezra 10, where marriages to foreign women are repented of as sinful.  It should not be necessary to point out the sinfulness of these marriages and others consisted not so much in their interracial nature as in their inter-faith nature, as is evidenced by the blessed marriage of Moses to an Egyptian woman, described in Numbers 12.
Nevertheless, these examples illustrate the tendency of Christians to attempt to justify sinful social practices through an appeal to Scripture.  I fear many of us are guilty of a similar context-challenged prejudice when it comes to our attitude towards homosexuality.  Do not misunderstand me: I am not condoning the practice of homosexuality.  Homosexuality, like all sexual perversions, is a sin (Lev. 18:11; Rom. 1:26-27; I Cor. 6:9; I Tim. 1:10).  This is not the first time that I have affirmed this principle (see The Growing Approval of Homosexuality) nor is it likely to be the last.  Still, it is the biblical testimony to the sinfulness of homosexuality that too often becomes the basis for supremely un-biblical attitudes towards individual homosexuals: attitudes which too much characterize our churches, in both pulpit and pew.
It is scintillatingly easy for the natural disgust many of us feel at the thought of homosexual intercourse to become a disgust with a particular homosexual person.  But while it is good for our natures to rebel against that which is unnatural, we must not give way to feelings of superiority on the strength of that rebellion.  We would do well to remember that our holy God is disgusted at all sins, even our more “natural” ones.  It is tempting to justify our resulting homophobia through an appeal to Scripture’s prohibition of homosexuality, just as our parents and grandparents attempted to root their prejudices in the same authoritative soil.  We must not.  Surely we can stand firm on the Scriptural characterization of homosexuality as a sin without giving way to homophobia.  We are able to do it with all of our own sins: I understand that pride is a sin, but I do not avert my gaze from those who are proud.  I believe that sloth is sinful but I don’t try to justify a hatred of lazy people.  Rage is also condemned in the Bible, but I still associate with people who have anger-management problems.  Lust is a threat to many of us, but we still walk lovingly with those afflicted by it.  We must learn to think of homosexuality in the same way.
There are other issues involved here, I know.  The other sins mentioned above have not become the rallying cry of an entire movement in our culture, like homosexuality.  The homosexual movement seeks to establish itself as a viable subculture, with intrinsic rights and privileges as such, and as such, it needs to be opposed.  Still, we must develop a plan for standing firm against the societally destructive aspects of the homosexual agenda without becoming mired in opposition to homosexuals themselves.  After all, isn’t it possible that this whole movement has arisen as a result of the marginalization of homosexuals in our culture for the last two hundred years?  Perhaps, if churches and individual Christians had embraced homosexuals and walked with them in the power of the Gospel and the Holy Spirit rather than ostracizing them, this movement would never have been felt necessary.  But it’s not too late.  God is gracious to all his sinful people, whether gay or straight.  If we repent and start rebuilding the bridges to the homosexual community, God will forgive us for burning them down to begin with and he will give us the power to communicate his forgiveness to those in that community as well.

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