Christian Fundamentalist Homophobia: It Really Is About Fear (Introducing a New Series)

Trigger warning: The following post contains frank descriptions of the hate speech against LGBTQ people that my church used to inculcate fear and contempt in its youth. It’s probably not something you want to read if you’re already having a bad day.  I have decided to write about homophobia for two reasons: first, to demonstrate the falsity of fundamentalist rhetoric about “hating the sin and loving the sinner,” and, second, to shed light on the tools fundamentalists use to instill fear of LGBTQ people in their children.

I was raised to be homophobic. Oh, my church had lots of ways to deflect the label when it was applied to us, but deep down, I was afraid. The other kids were afraid, too. When pressed, we would spew lines like “hate the sin, love the sinner” or “I’m not afraid of gay people, I just disagree with their lifestyle.” (That one confuses me now: how can you “disagree” with someone else’s life? It’s not about disagreement, it’s about disapproval.) There’s always this old favorite, too: “They don’t even know they’re in sin; they’re deceived. We need to pray for them.” Thing is, all of this masks a genuine, visceral, inculcated fear. I wasn’t raised to have a vague, condescending, pious pity for LGBTQ people. I was raised to be violently afraid of them.

My carefully crafted fundamentalist fear didn’t survive high school. I didn’t have a gay best friend or suddenly notice my own attraction to women. I didn’t “kiss a girl and like it,” which is how fundamentalists imagine lesbians are “made.” As with most major worldview transformations, mine came about by recognizing my own struggles in others’ lives and empathizing with them. The homophobic ideas I was taught didn’t stand up to the test of actually listening to LGBTQ people talking about their experiences (or, as it were, reading their words online). I don’t claim any kind of moral superiority for having “beat” my homophobic background; no one should be taught those things in the first place. I speak for three reasons: to expose the soft language evangelical-fundamentalists use to disguise a brutal fear and hatred, to encourage conservative Christians to examine their beliefs and reactions to LGBTQ people, and to throw my support behind everyone who bucks gender norms in one way or another.

In Part One, I’ll look at the way Christian fundamentalism constructs an aesthetic that is supposed to represent non-gender-normative people. In Part Two, I’ll examine the subtle and not-so-subtle rhetoric and body language fundamentalists use to express their opinions about homosexuality. In Part Three, finally, I’ll discuss the way I found my way out of that matrix of beliefs and became a supporter of LGBTQ rights (otherwise known as human rights).

At the end of this series, I hope to put together another, broader series about how people who have left fundamentalist Christianity have negotiated their beliefs about sexuality (their own or others’). Following the format of Libby Anne’s Raised Quiverfull project, I plan to gather a variety of responses that tell the story of how individuals absorbed, deflected, negotiated or rejected messages about sexuality before and after leaving fundamentalism. If you’d like to be part of this project, please email me at nonprophetmessage@gmail.com.

  • http://gravatar.com/libby43 Libbby Exline

    This is going to be awesome! I was taught that whole “hate the sin, love the sinner” stuff, too. Only the love was hatred labelled “tough love”. I see televangelists spitting (literally, sometimes) their hatred of the LGBTQ community and I shudder to think I once agreed. I’m looking forward to this.

  • http://shadowspring-lovelearningliberty.blogspot.com/2012/05/spiritual-bullying.html shadowspring

    Thank you for starting this series! I appreciate it so much. I have had people ask me if my son is gay, since I have changed my mind about GLBT issues and I always credit him with opening my eyes. Uh, no, you don’t need to be GLBT to care about other human beings. You just have to be human.

  • http://jw-thoughts.blogspot.com JW

    Something that really irritates me is the redefining of homophobia. Phobia is the fear of. Homophobia would then mean the fear of homosexuality. Some people do have that and I would guess in many very fundamental church that probably exists as well. Yet, the word is being reinterpreted as meaning that anyone is disagrees with homosexuality is homophobic. I call it a buzz word, a label word. Like a stigma.

    I am not homophobic. I don’t think homosexuality is going to jump on me if I am near a homosexual. I do not agree that it is an all natural thing and that they were born that way even though others will argue differently. Funny, because my family member at one time was to be married on their other half ran away suddenly. This person then met someone who eventually introduced them into this homosexual thing and they haven’t strayed from it much since then.

    I am also really amazed at how the movement has gained such a foothold in America that it is getting to the point that if a person raises their voice to say it is ‘wrong’ they are chatised as a hatemonger.

    I have always asked myself here lately when reading articles on this whole movement where is ‘truth’? I read all of the buzz words of love, tolerance, acceptance (kumbaya) but whatever happened to truth? Does truth exist in America anymore or is it put aside for the acceptance of……

    This is just my view and I wonder how much hate responses vs rational response will come as a result of my post?

    JW

    • Anonymous

      The definition of phobia is “an extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something.” So, yes, given your prejudice against gay people you are indeed a homophobe.

      Also, get off your damn high horse. Nobody has abandoned “truth”, they just have a different truth than you do, and since you can’t respect that it’s not exactly surprising that people don’t respond “rationally”. However, this does not mean you’re being persecuted. It is not “hate” if you are openly bigoted and people disagree with you. That’s the persecution complex at its finest.

  • Pingback: Christian Fundamentalist Homophobia, Part Three: Finding Unconditional Love Outside the Church « The Phoenix and Olive Branch

  • mark jessup

    william branham molested my father from 1958-1962 im so sorry for what you went thru….all i can do is let people know what he did and the damage he caused..we didnt find out until my father was on his death bed.wb molested alot of children from what ive gathered and brought home several south african children when he was there that i have found no trace of ? where are they ? more and more info n this sick man all the time……….peace :)

  • Pingback: “Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner” – a Christian Myth in Perspective « The Phoenix and Olive Branch

  • Pingback: the only true way « power of language blog: partnering with reality by JR Fibonacci


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