For those in the LGBTQ+ community and for those who support us, the idea of using religion to back homophobia is not only deeply offensive, it’s also absurd. At its core is the notion that God, who is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent, deliberately creates people to be a certain way and then tells them that the way they are (i.e., the way He created them) is a sin.
To queer people and the people who support us, the logical fallacy is obvious. Who would want to worship a god who intentionally sets his people up for suffering? This kind of god, if He could be analyzed by an expert psychologist, would no doubt be diagnosed as a psychopath. (Never mind the narcissism inherent in the message, “You’re my child, I love you no matter what, but I’ll condemn you to eternal suffering if you don’t love me back.”)
But the thing about religious folks who hold homophobic views is, they’re not approaching this topic with even close to the same lens as we are. The previous two paragraphs all but guaranteed that most people who “love the sinner but hate the sin” have already quit reading. They don’t want to hear it.
When You Believe Hell Is A Literal Place, You Do Everything In Your Power Not To Get Sent There
Religious conservatives don’t see their views as hypocritical because they honestly believe in a literal hell where you will burn if you don’t repent. It doesn’t matter that we as humans are capable of reasoning that it’s problematic to distribute passes to heaven via coercion. That is human reasoning. God’s mind is not for us to understand. His logic is not for us to attempt to know. You simply have to trust that certain behaviors lead to certain outcomes and adjust your behavior accordingly.
As such, saving a person’s soul is the kindest and most humane thing you could ever do. To an Evangelical Christian parent, their refusal to affirm their child’s queerness is out of concern for their child’s soul. When we get angry with these parents for not showing their child unconditional love, it doesn’t make any sense to them. To them, there is no love deeper than the love that will save their child’s soul.
Religious Conservatives Believe Queerness Is A Behavior, Not An Identity
The other topic we disagree about at a fundamental level is the definition of what it means to be queer. To those who fall under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella, their queerness is their identity. It’s a part of them. It’s not something from which they separate themself. To religious conservatives, queerness does not equal identity — queerness is a behavior, and behavior can be changed. The mindset is, even if it’s painful to resist those “temptations,” it’s worth it, because there is no “pleasure of the flesh” worth burning in hell for eternity.
To religious conservatives, gayness and transgenderism are akin to the cravings of a drug addict: You know a person struggling with addiction shouldn’t give in to their craving because it will lead to dire consequences. You know they are blinded by urges beyond their control. You see yourself as someone who can save them from themselves, and thus save them from those dire consequences.
These people are not generally trying to be mean (though some of them are). They do not see themselves as being cruel. They just want to save your soul.
So our fundamental views of reality don’t match up. We don’t agree on the reason we exist, where we go when we die, who or what dictates reality, or even whether or not queerness constitutes identity. That’s why these arguments can feel like they never go anywhere. We’re not working from the same set of beliefs.
Christian Allies Do Exist, And We Love Them
I want to be clear that there are Christians who are absolutely LGBTQ+ allies. Anecdotally, what I’ve witnessed from comments on social media and real-life conversations is that religious LGBTQ+ allies have arrived at one of two conclusions: In the first, they acknowledge that there are certain parts of the Bible that we just kind of set aside and pretend don’t exist. For example, most Christians ignore that wives are supposed to obey their husbands, that women who have sex before marriage should be stoned to death by local townsmen, that divorce is forbidden, and that slaves are to obey their masters (though enslavers used this argument for centuries to defend slavery). These kinds of allies see the parts of the Bible condemning homosexuality as falling under the umbrella of Biblical rhetoric to which we no longer adhere.
Other religious LGBTQ+ allies argue that the parts of the Bible condemning homosexuality have been mistranslated from the original Greek. They say that the word as written in the original Scriptures was not meant to mean “homosexual.” I’ve researched this claim extensively, and to me it appears the Bible does explicitly say that homosexuality is a sin, no matter how you want to interpret the original Greek. Even Jesus is quoted as having said, “At the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’” There are also sections explicitly forbidding men and women to crossdress.
So I very much prefer my allies are of the former set, simply choosing to throw out the parts of the Bible that over the last couple of millennia we have realized are problematic.
Is There Any Point In Attempting To Reason With People Whose Homophobia Is Rooted In Religion?
How, then, do we argue with people who continue to use religion to support their homophobic views? For the conservative evangelical Christian who is extremely involved in their church, who believes that everything they do in their lives leads to eternal paradise with God, who trusts their church leaders who go on mission trips and give to the less fortunate and preach about loving your neighbor, most of the time, you’re not going to be able to convince these people. You’ll be arguing with someone who has agreed to surrender their own reasoning abilities to the mandates of a book and to their church. If they ask questions, they are accused of lacking faith. And when it comes to saving your soul and avoiding an eternity of suffering, there is nothing more important than faith.
Some can be convinced to let go of their homophobia if you can get them to see that, one: Queerness is not a behavior but part of a person’s identity, a part of themselves from which they cannot separate. And two: We already treat the Bible like a buffet anyway, so maybe we should add this one more thing to the list of ideologies we choose not to consume.
Or the argument becomes a question of freedom. Keep your religion-backed bigotry, but don’t use it to interfere in other people’s freedom to live their lives as they choose. This, we can accomplish from the top down. If you consider yourself an ally, please read this article with tips for how you can advocate for us and help stop the onslaught of bills currently being pushed in so many states. Systemic change is the most surefire way to protect LGBTQ+ people. We appreciate your allyship.