When I had my wisdom teeth removed several years ago, I felt as if I was going to choke to death. Awake, but sedated, I kept gagging on something. It was something unnatural and awful. I was convinced a piece of my tooth had broken off and gotten caught in my throat.
I became frantic, gagging and choking.
I couldn’t get enough oxygen.
I gasped for air, but found none.
“I can’t breathe!” I croaked to my dentist. “I’m choking on something!”
My dentist calmly put a hand on me, and in a lilting Southern drawl, said, “Honey, the only thing in your mouth is your uvula.”
That’s right. I was gagging on my own throat. I wasn’t gagging on a nasty bit of broken tooth. I wasn’t gagging on something that was out of place or in the wrong location. I was gagging on something perfectly natural. Or perhaps, more accurately, I was gagging on a figment of my imagination.
And my inability to understand that damn near killed me.
Or at least I thought it would.
This, it seems to me, is the best way to explain the hate-filled, homophobic, and crass article posted by The Gospel Coalition, suggesting that opponents of same-sex marriage should play up “the gag reflex” of the issue. Apparently, the author assumes that describing same-sex relationships in the bedroom causes people to have a gut-wrenching, Holy-Spirit convicting gag reflex experience.
In reality, much like I was in that dentist’s chair, the Gospel Coalition is gagging on a fiction. Only theirs isn’t a imaginary tooth fragment, but a homophobic, hate-filled worldview that sees gay and lesbian people as something that will make them sick to their stomachs. It represents an outdated and poorly exegeted understanding of a few cherry-picked texts from the Bible (and an even worse understanding of sexuality). Worse, it is about as far away from the spirit and teaching of Jesus as I can imagine — to imagine a group of human beings as sickening.
A more faithful position, instead of wanting to throw up at the mention of gay sex, would be to advocate for equality for LGBTQ+ persons under the law and within our religious institutions. No one should have to live closeted, though we shouldn’t be surprised if change and equality makes the privileged and powerful queasy. It always does.
And it’s a shame, too, that I can’t use my gag reflex as a way to identify sin. Because then all the things I hate would wind up being — quite conveniently — a sin, and I would have an excuse to avoid anything that brings me discomfort.
I would never have to change out the litter box again. Nor would I ever have to squish a roach. Giving blood would be out of the question. I wouldn’t have to clean my children’s bathroom, or at least the part where they miss the toilet — every single time! I would never have to sing sappy worship songs.When my children are sick and vomiting all over themselves and the bed, well, too bad, it makes me gag, which means their vomit is sinful and I don’t have to clean it up. And I would never, ever, have to eat mushrooms again with their gag-inducing, sinful nature.
And this is the problem with understanding a natural biological response — the gag reflex — as the body’s way of warning that sin and danger is near.
That, and it would put all dentists out of business.
But imagine if it were true.
Imagine if we went around gagging every time we encountered sin in the world.
Imagine if we gagged at every time we witnessed or experienced racism; every time we witnessed injustice in the form of systemic poverty and hunger; every time we witnessed sexism; every time we witnessed oppression; every time we witnessed homophobia that treated our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters as anything less than beloved human beings who deserve the same rights as heterosexuals.
The streets would run with bile.
Our world would stink with the kind of sin it is already filled with:
Come to think of it, I suppose the Gospel Coalition has done us all a favor. It’s done exactly this.
It’s revealed the vile stench of hate coming from it.
Don’t get angry. Do something. Donate to SAFE Samford the LGBTQ organization at Samford University, whose divinity school advisory board includes Gospel Coalition editors. Donate to the Gay Christian Network. Donate to your local LGBTQ Gay-Straight Alliance or marriage equality organization or march in a Pride parade. Do something!