One of the very first references the Bible makes to LGBT people is a command to execute gay men.
“If a man lies with a male as with a women, both of them shall be put to death for their abominable deed; they have forfeited their lives.” (Leviticus 20:13 NAB).
After this passage, no one who sincerely believes that gay people shouldn’t be murdered should be putting any moral stock in what the Bible has to say about homosexuality.
But that’s not the world we live in, and so this article is necessary.
The Bible’s other admonishments against LGBT people are likewise detestable. In Leviticus 18:22 they are called abominations. Romans 1 calls them unnatural. 1 Timothy 1 claims that they cannot inherit eternal life.
Fortunately, the Bible is wrong. As sure as it was wrong about a geocentric earth, slavery, genocide, child abuse, the role of women in society, the creation mythos, and a hundred other things, the Bible is wrong about homosexuality. LGBT people are not abominations, nor do they choose to be ‘unnatural.’ Sexual orientation is an immutable part of a human being, like race, eye colour, artistic or intellectual talent, etc. Whether or not sexual orientation is defined by genes, prenatal conditions, or other factors, scientific advancement has made it blindingly obvious that sexual orientation is a natural spectrum, ranging in heterosexuality as the most common but including bisexuality and homosexuality as alternative traits.
The Christian prejudice against the LGBT community should have been dropped around the same time they discovered that black people are not cursed by their god and that owning and selling them like chattel isn’t moral, despite the Bible’s contrary commands on the subject. There are a hundred different Christian ways to defend or dismiss the passages in the Bible that allow for the owning of human beings, but it still stands that very few Christians today believe that slavery is a morally acceptable practise in the modern world. These verses are easily dismissed. So are the New Testament verses that call long hair on a man detestable and call for women to keep their heads covered. When a verse clearly affects the powers that be in Christianity, it is excused and dismissed. When they target a vulnerable minority like LGBT people, however,,,well skip back to history.
I addressed American Christianity’s crusade against LGBT people in my previous article written on the anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s murder, but they are points that bear repeating. Ever since the word ‘homosexual’ was first used in the English language in 1891, ever since a better understanding of what orientation is, ever since the APA removed homosexuality from its list of psychological disorders in 1973, Christians have fought tooth and nail to prevent LGBT people from being treated like human beings.
Christian groups were behind the Briggs initiative that strove to ban LGBT people from being public school teachers.
They have opposed every measure for marriage equality that has ever come up. (And before SSM, they equally opposed interracial marriage).
They have opposed every measure to ensure that LGBT people are not discriminated against in the public and business quarters.
They opposed the repeal of DADT and supported stripping gay men and women of their careers and service on account of their partners and families. More servicemen and women were discharged under DADT than were killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
They campaigned for the draconian laws abroad in places like Uganda that have mandated the death penalty and life imprisonment for LGBT people.
They have opposed programmes in public schools meant to assist at-risk LGBT youth.
They have spread lies about links between homosexuality and pedophilia.
They have told their Christian followers to treat LGBT people with disgust and a gag reflex.
They have used every slanderous term, slur, and description when addressing LGBT people in the public forum.
So why, why, why do people still give a rat’s shit about the Christian view of homosexuality? The majority of Christians still see LGBT people as sexual deviants who will burn eternally for their sins. A minority believes that churches should be inclusive and actively campaign to draw LGBT people back. But the lack of LGBT interest in religion shows that the majority of the community wishes that Christians would just, for once in history, leave them alone. Stop ministering to them, discriminating against them, pandering to them, discussing them, debating them and just leave them be to live their lives in peace.
But Christianity can never let go of its abuse of minorities without a fight. Which brings us to ‘The Third Way.’
Marriage equality is marching across the land. Gay people have the right to serve their country in dignity and honour. In the past decade, the LGBT community has lived openly and freely for the first time in history. Acceptance of bigotry against LGBT people is no longer the norm. And those Christians who desperately want to cling to their prejudices and moral superiority have been forced to repackage anti-LGBT animosity in a new and shiny package, wrapped in ‘compassion’ and ‘love.’ They call it ‘the Third Way.’
Christian articles on ‘the Third Way can be found here, here, and here. In essence, the Third Way states that a Christian can show love and compassion to an LGBT person and support their human dignity while still personally opposing homosexuality and same sex marriage as God-pleasing. More importantly, the Third Way teaches that LGBT people, Christians who are LGBT affirming, and those who are still prejudiced against LGBT people, can come together under the great banner of Christianity and not let their disagreements affect their fellowship. The Third Way claims that homosexuality or prejudice against it is not a fundamental doctrine of Christianity, and therefore fellowship can exist in tension.
Sorry, I just vomited in my mouth a little as I wrote that.
I’m going to spell this out very clearly. The Third Way is not compassion, or compromise, or fellowship, or love. It’s spiritual abuse.
Several definitions of spiritual abuse are listed here. I’m using Ronald Enroth’s definition as stated here:
“Spiritual abuse takes place when leaders to whom people look for guidance and spiritual nurture use their positions of authority to manipulate, control, and dominate.”
When you tell LGBT people that they are disordered, damaged, or spiritually unpleasing because of an intrinsic part of their humanity, because of the gender of the individual they fall in love with, or because of the family they raise, that is spiritual abuse.
When you pressure or shame someone into celibacy, it’s spiritual abuse.
When you disguise these actions as piety, love, or spiritual compassion, it’s spiritual abuse.
When you tell someone that condemning their orientation, partner or family is loving because living in sin results in damnation, it’s spiritual abuse. Saying ‘I abuse you because I love you and something worse will happen if I don’t abuse you, so don’t complain about being abused,’ is spiritual abuse.
And trying to bridge the gap between abusers and victims is enabling spiritual abuse.
The Third Way is how Christian writers like Jen Hatmaker can publish a 2,000 word article about how much she loves and emphasises with and cares for LGBT people and still say “I want you to know that I land on the side of traditional marriage as God’s first and clear design. I believe God’s original creation is how we were crafted to thrive: in marriage, in family, and in community, which has borne out for millennia in Scripture, interpretation, practice, and society.” You see, Ms. Hatmaker’s family is a blessing from God and a joy in her life because she’s straight. LGBT people’s marriages and families are contrary to God’s will and therefore to be condemned. But she loves them.
This type of love is worth nothing. This is spiritual abuse.
It’s how Zach Hoag can write about how Vicky Beeching’s parents condemn her sexual orientation and say “This is what I mean when I talk about a third way….The mutual acceptance and love among affirming and non-affirming Christians, which really lays the much heavier burden of change upon the non-affirming side of that equation.”
This is enabling spiritual abuse.
And I’m calling it out.
My blog turned a year old a few days ago. Over the past year, I’ve developed friendly acquaintanceships and even friendships with (primarily progressive) Christian bloggers. I didn’t think it possible considering my past experiences with extremist Christianity. But that’s not going to stop me from calling out abusive ideas and teachings.
Progressive Christians, your attempts to find a third way between affirming and non-affirming Christians disgust me just as much as the bigotry of your conservative brothers in Christ.
In many ways, it disgusts me even more because its wrapped in an insidious package being touted as ‘love.’ It disgusts me because once again you have allowed concern for your theology and the fellowship of your religious sects to get in the way of your basic human dignity.
I am disgusted by how Christians like Jen Hatmaker and others like her so casually cause grief and pain to a community that just wants to find happiness in their lives and families. I am disgusted by the pious compassion they wrap this abuse in.
And I am beyond disgusted by Christians who try to bridge the gap between abused and abusers for the sake of unity and fellowship and at the continued cost of spiritual abuse.
You’ve had 2,000 years to get your religion right. There is no excuse anymore.
You either condemn abuse, condemn those who teach spiritual abuse whether in a spirit of Christian love or otherwise, or you stand by and let more people endure the pain of your prejudices. And then you wonder why people flee your sanctuaries in droves.
Christians, you boast of your love towards your LGBT brothers and sisters. Now, defend them.
Image from http://www.joy105.com