Plastic Flowers and Justin Bieber: Thoughts on Evangelical Homophobia
I glanced at my boss as he tried to freeze his smile in place. The conversation had been innocuous enough, a guest talking about his rather passionate distaste for the plastic flower vase that came standard in his wife’s Volkswagen Beetle. But then he switched tones to the universal we-all-know-’bout-them-queers voice and quipped, “I mean, some guys are cool with the plastic flowers and all in their car, but they’re usually the ones with the rainbow stickers and all on the backs of their cars, if you know what I mean.”
Little did he know that one member of the conversation was openly gay.
Perhaps unlike any other sin, homosexuality conjures up the ‘us verses them’ mentality within our hearts and our churches. Preach a sermon on the evils of homosexuality and the degradation of American society and you’ll have ‘amens’ flying like teenie-bopper screams at a Justin Bieber concert.
This demonizing of homosexuals is Satanic on a number of different levels. And I do say Satanic intentionally, for it tears down some in our own midst and drives away others who might otherwise become our brothers and sisters.
First, it communicates to believers who war against homosexual impulses in their own hearts that they are substandard Christians for having to fight that battle. Victory against sin will not be achieved without the help of the community of believers, and by demonizing one particular sin those individuals who struggle with it are cut off from the very thing that they need to help them win, for their sinful struggle is something that would lead to the community condemning them as well.
And second, it destroys the message of the gospel. Do we treat the rest of the unconverted like we treat the homosexual unconverted? Do we respect the homosexual unconverted in our speech the same way that we to the arrogant unconverted? Our actions should be winsome to both. Are we as winsome to the man who frequents the Pink Pony as we are to the woman who worships $500 purses?
I think part of what fuels this is the definite “creepy” factor in homosexuality. It opens a lot of doors that we don’t want to look behind. We’re used to thinking through the implications and questions about pride or lust or gossip. But the questions homosexuality produces are strange and uncomfortable. Does my male boss think that I’m cute? Suddenly that’s a question that’s on the thought radar.
As dangerous as this sounds, we have to normalize homosexuality in our Christian culture. By “normalize” I do not mean that we should consider homosexuality an acceptable practice that glorifies God. He abominates it. Those who practice it are hell-bound. But as a sin, it cannot shock us. We must not react to it with the demonization of its practitioners. Homosexuality is an understandable byproduct of Genesis 3, and we live in a post-Genesis 3 world. It doesn’t take long for humanity to move in the text from “naked and unashamed” to the attempted homosexual gang-rape of angels.
In a world that either reacts with bigotry or blessing, we as Christians must show a third way. We call to repentance out of a deep desire to see them know Christ, to find what they’re looking for in all the wrong places. But we also respect and treat with honor and compassion and kindness, for those we are called to render to all men, not just those that live like us.