Posted by: Dan | May 1, 2009

Who is the True Neigbour? Discussing Sexuality with Evangelicals

In all my time within the GLBTQ community, I have never once felt rejected or discriminated against because of my (hetero)sexual orientation or my (Christian) religious beliefs.  Even though most members of the GLBTQ community have had extremely negative, oppressive, or hurtful encounters with people who are (most often) straight, male Christians, I have never felt judged or discriminated against because of how others who look like me have acted.  Far from it — I have always felt welcomed by members of the GLBTQ community, and have always felt as though I was respected for believing what I do.

Perhaps this was most evident during the time when I was volunteering at a drop-in centre for male and transgendered sex workers.  In the ten year history of this centre, I was the only straight male volunteer and the only Christian volunteer as well.  This was not because the centre discrimated against straight males or against Christians — far from it, many of the sex workers who came to the drop-in were both straight and Christian, and I was embraced with open arms by the other volunteers — rather, I suspect that this was because Christians tend to keep the hell away from the GLBTQ community in general, and from male and transgendered prostitutes in particular (because, you know, helping female prostitutes lets Christian men feel like macho/noble knights in shining armour and all that, whereas male prostitutes are just a bunch of ‘faggots’ or something like that).

In sum, even though I have my origins in an oppressive group that has deeply and personally wounded many people within the GLBTQ community, I have still been treated with respect, greeted with openness, and welcomed with love.

In contrast, when I have spoken of my respect for members of the GLBTQ community, and of my faith that these expressions of human sexuality are a part of God’s wonderful and ongoing creative activity within the world, I have been treated very differently by many who claim to be followers of Jesus.  Far from being treated with any respect, I have had my words twisted beyond recognition, I have been called everything from a ‘heretic’ and a ‘schismatic’ to a ‘bully’ and a ‘dog’, and I have listened as those who have stated these things have compared my gay friends to pedophiles, murderers, rapists, and people who have sex with animals.  There has been little to no respect shown here.  No openness.  No embrace.  No love.

In all of this, recalling Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, it has become pretty obvious to me as to which group in my life has acted as a true neighbour to me.  Members of the GLBTQ community are those who have acted as the ‘Good Samaritan’ — a person from an oppressed minority who shows Christlike love, even for a member of the oppressive majority.  Unfortunately, members of Conservative Evangelicalism have acted, at best, like the Priest and Levite who pass by the wounded and, at worst, like the robbers who beat others and leave them for dead.

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Responses

  1. Thanks for sharing this story. Some Christians here the few passages on homosexuality but ignore the huge emphasis on Love your neighbour. If Jesus came to church today, how many Christians would also reject him as “a glutton and drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners”?

  2. Thanks for this, Dan. Important text.

  3. Piercing post Dan – that hits the mark.

    The realities of our gay friends often stir up such anxiety and fear within Christians who, more often than not, are not invested in authentic relationships with gay people. This seems completely inconsistent with the way of Jesus – who continually told his followers to fear not and modeled a profoundly relational approach to announcing the Kingdom of God.

  4. Having followed at least one of the exchanges in question, I think one thing that bears mention is that at least some of the people who call you names are threatened by your theology as a whole.

    I very loosely reconstruct the dialogue as follows:

    you: God loves queer folk qua queer.

    other: ? How can you say that, given Scripture etc etc.

    you: Scripture is to be read with an awareness of historical and cultural contingency such that we must exercise discernment.

    other: ?? if the traditional reading of Romans 1 can be set aside, then of what CAN we be sure?

    you: Well, for instance, the “preferential option for the poor” is solid. You can be absolutely sure that God loves the poor without regard for their religious life (or lack thereof) whereas your relative wealth should throw your own salvation into question – in your own mind, at least.

    other: ???

    At that point, if someone starts ranting and raving, it’s because they’ve met a provocateur and, by gum, been PROVOKED.

  5. I think Andrew’s got it right and it will be like this for the rest of your life, Daniel.

    Not to mention that there is a ‘repulsion’ that many/most heterosexual people have been conditioned to think and feel about homosexual acts.

  6. I’m starting to think that much anti-gay feeling has everything to do with a baseline level of disgust and proceeds from there. I would like to believe that this is not the case, but this belief has become sorely tried offline and on.

  7. It is sad that Christians often seem to come across as people who are not genuinely interested in others – it’s so often a means to a different end, whether that’s evangelism, or feeling like a noble knight, as you say…. we resemble the pharisees far too much

    • I agree with Matthew. The notable thing however is that the marginalised will very often make you feel unconditionally welcome even if you’re doing that, and they can feel it from a mile.

      • That last comment was by Dany.

  8. This is not directed negatively at the first person to comment, but I wanted to mention something. When we consider the scriptural texts that supposedly deal with “homosexuality,” we should probably begin to condition ourselves to understand that they do not seem to be simply dealing with homosexuality as we understand it at present (i.e., a committed, monogamous relationship between two people of the same gender). Rather, there is so much religious, political, and other issues wound up within the few texts in scripture, including pre-scientific views of procreation, that it becomes hard to make a one-to-one correlation as many of our conservative brothers and sisters seem to think.

  9. This stuff is pretty hard to disentangle.

    There certainly is a “baseline level of disgust,” or homophobia, as Dan says. Disgust is bad.

    Then there’s a political dimension where you are less entitled to certain civil protections because your romantic partner is the “wrong” gender. Discrimination is also bad. Civil union legislation attempts to remedy this.

    Same-sex marriage legislation ALSO remedies that problem, while remedying another problem at the same time: a stigmatizing of gay relationships as somehow inferior to hetero relationships.

    The problem with erasing the stigma is that often what we’re told is that there’s no basis for the stigma, because there’s no reason to differentiate between men and women (and so no reason to distinguish MM or FF from MF relationships) and/or no reason to consider gay relationships as emotionally/physiologically/spiritually different from hetero relationships.

    I can’t affirm those propositions. I suspect, from reading folks like Hays, that it’s not because of my ignorance of the cultural context of the NT or my ham-fisted approach to hermeneutics, but because the counterculture that is (we hope) nourished and disciplined by the authority of God as found in Scripture stands in rebuke not only to certain pet conservative notions but certain pet liberal notions.

    What I see in the response to someone like Rick Warren with regard to his advocacy of Prop 8 is a complete inability or unwillingness to distinguish between homophobia and the traditional evangelical position. It’s not that we have to see the man as heroic, or that the response amounts to “persecution,” but the hostility was clearly driven by a conviction that, not only had Warren done material harm to queer people, but that he could not in principle have had any good reasons for what he did. This attribution of malice is unhelpful, and possibly unjust.

    It’s best to keep it simple, as Dan does in his post, and focus on practical forms of respect, openness and receptivity. Interactions should be characterized by love, no matter the degree of disagreement therein.

  10. re: Dustin

    I agree with your critique. In anthropology (and other fields that like Marx, I guess) we refer to that sort of thing as reification — making the ‘homosexuality’ there into a sort of essentialized, ahistorical ‘thing’.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reification_(Marxism)

    Then there is the reductionism of all expressions of homosexuality to the sexual orientation and the reified homosexuality in biblical texts is conflated with orientation despite describing concrete acts or generic groups of people.

    It would be funny to imagine the same being done to heterosexuality, as the same processes could happen, if homophobia weren’t so violent.

  11. […] Dan on sexuality and evangelicals […]

  12. thx for your friendship, dan.

  13. I think what Dustin says in important.

    I also believe that we are all sexual beings and not identical as sexual beings. Thus our heterosexuality is not as clean cut as imagined. I think homosexuality is part of the variation – a demonstration of our diversity, and not ‘wrong’.

  14. […] voices within evangelicalism deafen everyone else as they seek to “protect marriage”. Thoughtful voices don’t sell newspapers, don’t keep people listening to the radio and don’t get you […]

  15. And you can replace “LGBT community” in your post with just about any other ‘other’ community and the sentiments would be the same.

    As I read it, I was thinking of my own involvement with immigrant/refugee Muslim groups. I have had the identical experience, feeling that these Muslims who have welcomed me are much more Christian than most Christians I have known.


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