How to do Homophobia

Now most regular readers of this website know that I’m not overly socially liberal in the slightest and that I believe that God has designed us to relate sexually within marriage of a man and a woman and that any other sexual relationship is sinful. I link to websites that share the same view and they sometimes link back. As part of the general internet fun I get at least one email or comment a week telling me what a homophobic, fundamentalist bigot I am (though over half of them are anonymous – curious).

I don’t think I’m homophobic and while promoting a traditional sexual ethic I’ll quite happily pull up anybody who’s language or attitude borders on the offensive, intentionally or unintentionally. I’ve done it before and I’m about to do it again.

VirtueOnline publised a story on Tuesday about TEC Bishops supporting housing rights in Ohio and the comment thread displays how in some parts of the traditional Anglican community the phrase "hate the sin, love the sinner" is just an excuse for homophobia.

OHIO: Episcopal Bishops Support Housing Access for Homosexuals

A Message From the Bishop’s Office
April 21, 2008
Brothers and Sisters in Christ

Today Bishop Mark Hollingsworth, Bishop Price and I, along with the three assisting bishops of the Diocese of Ohio, have submitted a memorandum to the Ohio State Legislature as they consider current legislation that would protect the civil rights of homosexual persons in the State of Ohio, particularly as regards equal access to housing and employment (House Bill 502 and Senate Bill 305). The text of the memorandum is as follows:

*To: Members of the Ohio State Legislature

From: The Rt. Rev. Thomas E. Breidenthal, Bishop of Southern Ohio
The Rt. Rev. Mark Hollingsworth Jr. Bishop of Ohio
The Rt. Rev. Kenneth L. Price Jr., Bishop Suffragan of Southern Ohio
The Rt. Rev. David C. Bowman, Assisting Bishop of Ohio
The Rt. Rev. William D. Persell, Assisting Bishop of Ohio
The Rt. Rev. Arthur B. Williams, Jr., Assisting Bishop of Ohio

Re: Statement of Support for Civil Rights for Gay and Lesbian Persons in Ohio

Legislation currently before the Ohio State Legislature seeks to secure equal access to housing and employment opportunities for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons. The Episcopal Church has stated unequivocally that the civil rights of all persons, regardless of sexual orientation, must be upheld and protected. As the bishops of the two Episcopal dioceses in Ohio, we strongly support the enactment of laws that further this goal in our state. We pray that the demands of justice and equity will guide you as you consider this opportunity to extend a small measure of protection and dignity to our brothers and sisters in the GLBT community.

I am very pleased that the bishops of our two dioceses have been able to speak with one voice on this matter. While there is a wide range of perspective and conviction in our Church and Diocese on issues related to human sexuality, there is and must be consistent advocacy for the civil rights of all people. This is well reflected in Resolution A069 of the 65th General Convention (1976) which states that "homosexual persons are children of God who have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of the Church," and A071, which states that homosexual persons are entitled to equal protection of the laws with all other citizens, and calls upon our society to see that such protection is provided in actuality." In 2003 our own diocesan convention resolved that "it is the intent of this Diocese that all persons be treated with respect and dignity, regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation or theological stance" (R-2003-03).

We must never flag in our efforts to insist on such equal respect and dignity. This includes working to protect such basic rights as equal access to housing and employment.

Yours in Christ,

+Tom Breidenthal

Bishop Thomas E. Breidenthal
Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio

You see, I have no problem with this. I think it’s ridiculous that anybody should be denied housing or employment simply on the basis of their current sexual desires. Makes no sense at all and I think most of the readers of this blog would agree, whatever side of the debate they are. Not so the commenters on VO:

I am not a lawyer; however I do not believe there is anything in the US Constitution, Federal Law or any state constitution or state law, anywhere which discriminates against any member of the homosexual set.

The Bill of Rights does not guarantee the right to peaceable assembly, except for sodomites! No state where the speed limit is 55 miles an hour…. except for sodomites! "I’m sorry Sir, the speed limit on this road is usually 55 MPH but your gay and the sodomite speed limit is 45 MPH, so I am going to have to give you a ticket."

The sodomite lobby and ECUSA seem to be calling for Supra rights for sodomites making them a protected class. After all, George Orwell and his Animal Farm taught us: “All animals are equal only some are more equal than others.”

I just don’t get this comment. The law being proposed would prevent discrimination. It’s not that the state currently promotes discrimination, it’s that it doesn’t prohibit it.

And what is it with this word "sodomite"? Do you know what the word means? Do you think that *all* gay men engage in anal sex? What about lesbians?

The word sodomite here is used entirely in an ignorant, perjorative manner and is designed as such not to be used as descriptive but as derogative.

If they could show me that by no choice of their own the GLBT are the way they claim I might believe part of this. But they can’t. Maybe the two bishops are trying to say we are an equal opportunity diocese, bring any perversion here and we will fight for you "right" to act on it.

Most men and women who experience same-sex attraction have no control over having it, even if the root of their same-sex attraction is developmental rather than biological (i.e. nurture rather than nature). Andrew Sullivan, the gay catholic writer argues that basic civil rights should be afforded to gay men and women regardless of the source of their sexuality. I agree – basic human rights are about being able to perform the same specific action as anybody else and should be guaranteed by law.

This sort of law, if it’s like others I’ve seen, means that as a property owner who rents out, you can’t deny a practicing homosexual couple to rent from you, even right next door to your family. On your property.

This is coercive promotion of homosexual behavior of the most vile kind.

No it’s not!!! Loads of Christians rent houses to unmarried heterosexual couples without batting an eyelid. Why is an unmarried homosexual couple any different to any other unmarried couple engaging in sex?

The UK has fallen into this deep pit. Remember the pansexual that was rejected for employment by one of the clergy and the clergy paid many a pound after being taken to court.

Well he was a homosexual, not a pansexual, and while we can argue about the rights and wrongs of the case, your use of the word "pansexual" was factually incorrect and designed simply to be derogatory. Nothing less than homophobia* really.

Do you see my point readers? The whole comment thread could have been undertaken in a much more graceful manner, but the antipathy just seeps through the whole page. If I was gay and came and read that site, I’d think it was just a nest of homophobia and knee-jerk response-merchants. Why would I want to talk to these people and hear about the love of Jesus when they practically spit on me with their words?

It’s so disappointing, because there are other excellent conservative sites where such language is stamped on and the commenters warned and then thrown out if they do it again. Why can’t VirtueOnline do the same?

* The technical definition of homophobia is "an irrational fear of homosexuals". While I use the word homophobia in this post, I think some of the comments on the page I link to demonstrate an irrational hatred of homosexuals. Anybody got a good word for that?

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14 Comments on “How to do Homophobia

  1. I’m shocked — shocked!! — that a comment on VOL might contain intemperate language!

    As for myself, I’m strongly against this Episcopal effort — not out of any dislike for homosexuals, but because I’m against all anti-discrimination legislation in principle. Whose building/shop/whatever is it, anyway? (And as we’ve seen in Europe and Canada, creation of special protected groups can easily get out of hand.)

  2. Great post. I had thought David Virtue had made a commitment to clean this up for 2008. I agree with you that these comments reveal an ugliness that is not consistent with the standards of Christian behavior.

    However, I disagree with you in terms of renting one’s property as a landlord. Currently in California, it is illegal to discriminate against unmarried couples in renting one’s property. I don’t think that should be illegal. And there is a proposition on the June ballot to change this.

    Similarly, I disagree regarding employment. I think we should be able to discriminate in hiring child care workers, teachers, etc. to ensure they reflect our moral values.

    (Regarding the Stand Firm policy for “throwing out” commenters, depending on the offense, I think some offending commenters should just be placed on suspension and then considered for reinstatement.)

  3. Ooops, I didn’t mean to post that twice. I’m sorry. Please don’t ban me.

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  4. Well, this really isn’t anything new. Christians still have a long way to go before handling this subject with grace. I think the only Christians I know who deal with this subject well (while still maintaining a Biblical sexual ethic, mind you) are ones who are either post-gay, ex-gay, or celibate themselves. Consider me cynical, but the “ever-straights” just don’t really seem to care.

  5. Thanks Peter. We would be in a better place if more of us on the “conservative” side of the fence would call a spade a spade as you do here and guard ourselves against thinking the same.

  6. RE: “I think some of the comments on the page I link to demonstrate an irrational hatred of homosexuals. Anybody got a good word for that?”

    Perhaps homoantipathy, or homomisity?

    Pete, I dig your blog.

    Er, I would unfortunately argue in favor of the right of an employer to discriminate against public philanderers, and the right of landlords to discriminate against unmarried heterosexual couples (even if there’s nothing “going on”). Mutual respect between opposing sets of values that are held openly, I think, would require an amicable parting of the ways. Since racism and religious bigotry do not fit with the values of a pluralistic society, it behooves those governments to discourage discrimination on the basis of religion and race.

    Having said that, I do not believe that people have the right to make assumptions about two roommates of the same gender.

  7. Moot, your post reminded me of an article in a back copy of New Directions, which contains the following paragraph:

    Homophobia is a queer word, and for two reasons in particular. First of all, why phobia? Presumably, it is apeing the term `xenophobia’. But the use to which the word is put shows that it means not `fear of’ but `hatred for’ something. `Miso-‘ would be better here than `-phobia’. And secondly, usage shows that the word is meant to mean `hatred of homosexuals’. But `homo-‘ used as a prefix means `the same’, and not `of homosexuals’. So homophobia, if it means anything at all, must mean `fear of the same’, and not `hatred of homosexuals’. The appropriate word for the latter phenomenon would be something like `misosodomy’.

    The whole article is here: http://trushare.com/0100Sep03/SE03HOMO.htm and is well worth reading.

  8. Hi Jill,

    Interesting article, and points. I think though that the tendency in our language is to contract words as much as possible, so that when someone uses the word ‘homophobic,’ the audience understands the meaning to be ‘homosexual-phobic.’ That said, I do think there is genuine abuse of the suffix ‘phobic.’

    Also, I don’t like the word ‘sodomite,’ in the sense of the word ‘homosexual.’ Post-gay Christians don’t seem to like it, either. Now, if it’s used to mean citizens of Sodom (which included Lot), I think that’s okay. ;)

  9. Thanks, Peter. A good piece.

    I have sent David some writings and he has published at least 3 of them over the past few years. One has to do with teaching our children (“Salt the Children. Save the Nation”). Another was written to express the emotional pain of divorce from ECUSA (“Divorce Episcopal Style”) and the most recent was “The Paradox of Feminism.” The comments on these essays never sunk to the low level of the comments you have lifted out. This suggests that the subject of homosexuality draws commenters who are angry and seek to lash out. I regret that David doesn’t delete some of the worst comments.

  10. I don’t like ‘sodomite’ either, Moot, because it has an ugly judgmental ring about it, but I think ‘sodomy’ is okay, being, I believe, a legal term – besides which, none of the other terms describing this act are particularly lovely!

    The thing is, though, most people are NOT homosexual-phobic, but they ARE sodomy-phobic (with very good reason) – separating the person from the act; so ‘misosodomy’ is probably a more accurate description of conservative thinking, which I suppose makes us ‘misosodomists’. This means that we (conservatives) are able to ‘love the sinner but hate the sin’, in just the same way that we do not hate smokers or substance-abusers, even if we happen to hate what they do. Although we are not widely believed on this by those affected, it is perfectly true.

    It is gay activists themselves who have reunited the sin with the sinner, rebranding themselves as the bright and cheerful ‘gay’, at the same time trying to convince the rest of us that because they are such nice people (which they usually are, at least the ones I know) what they do cannot be regarded as sinful. There is no such thing as ‘the homosexual’ per se in the Bible, only homosexual acts. It is only these acts which we condemn, not the people who feel compulsion to commit them.

    Unfortunately people do get provoked into angry responses to being called homophobes, bigots, etc, which may, or may not, (and I believe for Christians in most cases NOT), be true.

  11. I agree with Peter’s point about highly inappropriate language when discussing anything related to homosexuality and homosexually oriented people.

    However, I would like to chime in with those who, without any hatred of homosexually inclined persons, prefer not to rent to a homosexual couple or to a nonmarried heterosexual couple, or who would like to make value judgements when hiring for their privately held business.

    I think it is o.k. for the legislature to mandate generally binding non-discrimination based on race and to some extent on sex; but I think that non-discrimination legislation related to sexual orientation and even religion (in other words, anything where a person has a degree of choice) ought to be limited to government and quasi-government entities.

    I believe a private individual or a privately held business ought to have a lot of freedom in renting and hiring decision; as a private property owner I do not OWE anyone a rental contract, nor, as a private business owner, to I OWE anyone employment, and it should be entirely my choice who I rent to or who I hire.

    I note that Peter said that a homosexually inclined person has no choice in the matter; that may be true concerning the inclination or orientation; it is not true regarding the behavior. I would never dream to ask a person for his or her sexual orientation; but if two men live together as a couple in a manner that makes the nature of their relationship obvious then we are not talking about “no choice” and therefore I as a landlord ought to also have a choice.

    Now, how I relate as a Christian to any of the folks under consideration here is an altogether different matter again — that is not for the government or the legislature to regulate.

  12. I probably disagree with you on absolutely everything either political or religious. Nevertheless, I can certainly tell the difference between your way of expressing your views, and those of VO or some of the contributors to Anglican mainstream.

    The definition of ‘homophobia’ tends, like many other words, to be used in different ways by different people. Colloquially, it is used to simply mean ‘anti-gay’ , and like racism, there will be some who would see a view as homophobic, and otjhers who would have a narrower definition, and so wouldn’t.

    I don’t think there is anything which connects social liberals and social conservatives. Its as if they speak to each other in entirely different languages. The view of the world is so utterly different. When they try and share the same organisation, no wonder the outcome is disastrous.

    Personally, I do not think that discrimination in the provision of goods and services is acceptable, and if people cannot provide services without discriminating, then they need to move into another business. But, then, I’m not a free-marketeer.

  13. Jay,

    I think it sometimes helps if we think about it this way – us Christians (and non-Christians) have difficulty dealing with any subject well. We are sinners. We are weak. Our (as a group and individuals) difficulty in dealing with homosexuality stems from the same weakness as our difficulties in all other areas in our lives.

    Considering a Christian’s entire universe of sin, various sins against his homosexual neighbour would probably be a tiny part. I think this realization may help gay Christians realize that our struggle is not in isolation, but just another part of the whole human struggle to get closer to God.

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