My fellow evangelicals, it’s time to get real.
Today’s post is going to deal frankly with some explicit subject matter. If you are underage or if you are of sensitive conscience, please just check out on me right now and check back with me some other day. I won’t mind. It won’t hurt my feelings.Still reading? OK. I warned you.
What is it that drives the blatant opposition to homosexuality that exists among many conservative evangelicals and other social conservatives?
What is it that causes us to howl with outrage when Brokeback Mountain racks up at the Academy Awards? When states legalize gay marriage and denominations ordain gay pastors? When World Vision announces that it will, in limited circumstances, hire gays?
It doesn’t have anything to do with what the Bible teaches. Though the Bible contains strong prohibitions against homosexual behavior, those prohibitions make up a very small percentage of the biblical text, hardly proportionate to the emphasis that it gets in contemporary evangelicalism.
It doesn’t have anything to do with high moral standards or an exalted view of marriage.
It doesn’t have anything to do with values, family or otherwise.
It doesn’t have anything to do with concern for society or for the welfare of children.
Those are all the things that people talk about, the reasons that they give. Those are the usual talking points in all the debates and articles. Those are the things that all the talking heads in the media and the pulpits say.
But those things are only secondary. They don’t get to the heart of the matter. They don’t even come close.
The real issue is something that evangelicals and social conservatives won’t talk about. It is this: Many evangelicals and social conservatives are repulsed by gay sex. It isn’t an intellectual thing, it’s a visceral thing. Underneath all that rhetoric about faithfulness to God’s Word, family values, the sanctity of marriage, etc. is a big fat “EEEEEEWWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
Gospel Coalition Council member Thabiti Anyabwile is honest about this, at least:
“Gay” and “homosexual” are polite terms for an ugly practice. They are euphemisms. In all the politeness, we’ve actually stopped talking about the things that lie at the heart of the issue–sexual promiscuity of an abominable sort. … And I think it would be a good thing if more people were gagging on the reality of the sexual behavior that is now becoming public law, protected, and even promoted in public schools.
That’s just a small sampling. If you want to read more, I suggest you go and read his piece for yourself. But be warned, it contains extremely frank and graphic descriptions of very explicit subject matter. The piece is entitled “The Importance of Your Gag Reflex When Discussing Homosexuality and “Gay Marriage” “.
If you read Anyabwile’s piece you probably noticed that what he calls “moral” outrage is closer to physical or emotional outrage. The same thing you would feel if I did some “conscious uncoupling” with my lunch all over the elevator at work and you had to stand in it.
But it’s OK, my fellow evangelicals. I can relate. I can understand if, when you think of homosexuality, the first thing your mind runs to is the “Squeal like a pig” scene in Deliverance, or the gay rape scene in Pulp Fiction, or pretty much all of Brokeback Mountain or The Crying Game. Those are things that, once you’ve seen, you just can’t unsee. I know. I saw The Crying Game several years ago and had a pretty visceral reaction to it myself.
It’s only natural to feel that way.
But is that what Jesus would feel?
Somehow I doubt it.
When Jesus felt moral outrage it was directed primarily towards the religious leaders and so-called spiritual elites of his day. The ones who created an inflexible religious system that oppressed and marginalized so many who didn’t have a prayer of keeping all those rules. He had little, if any, in the way of moral outrage directed towards people engaged in behaviors which others believed we ought to consider offensive. The Samaritan woman and the woman caught in adultery are prime examples.
Allowing moral outrage of the kind Anyabwile calls for to be an ingredient in your relationships with others–no matter how offensive you might consider their behavior to be–is never a good road to go down. There are just too many ways this can go off the rails. It is far too easy to delude ourselves into thinking that we are outraged at the same things God is outraged at, when in reality we are not even close.
As Christians we are called to love our neighbors, to serve them, even to the point of laying down our lives for them. It is all but impossible to do this while harboring feelings of the sort that Anyabwile calls for.