Pastoral Reflections on Homophobia

Pastoral Reflections on Homophobia April 22, 2012

In my next response to James Crossley’s allegations of “homophobia,” I thought I would narrate two stories, two experiences with gay men and women, which have shaped my perceptions and pastoral approach to homosexuality.

Story One: Violent Homophobia.

In a previous life time, I was a soldier in the Australian Army. One evening my section was on a boys night out on the town in Sydney, doing bit of a pub crawl. I was not a heavy drinker, so I was the only sober one in the group by 9. 00 p.m. In one of our excursions across a park, several of us walked passed a couple of gay men innocuously holding hands as they strolled through the park. As they walked by, however, one of my group (the highest ranked member in fact) began yelling all sorts of hateful things interspersed with vicious expletives at them. He pushed his way over towards them as the couple quickly hurried their pace. Sensing the potential for fruitless violence at two innocent citizens, I grabbed my superior (and let it be known that this guy was built like Sylvester Stallone in his 80s physique) and dragged him back towards the group, fortunately a few other guys stepped in to help me. Eventually the drunken aggressive man desisted from his attempted attack and rejoined us on our walk. It was a vivid experience, one I’ve never forgotten. I felt sorry for that couple who could not even walk down a public park after dark without fear of physical attack due to no more than holding hands. From that experience I can say that I believe homophobia exists, it is real, it is based on nothing more than prejudice without reason, and it is morally wrong … and I say this as a Christian, one who tries to follow Jesus by loving my neighbor, even my gay neighbors walking down the street.

Story Two: The Ultimate Homophobia.

Back in 2002, just after it was announced that Rowan Williams was going to be the next Archbishop of Canterbury, I led an ecumenical Bible study among a group of Christians from the Army. I remember vividly the small group in question: A fiery Lutheran warrant officer, a meek Pentecostal girl from transport corps, a liberal Catholic logistics Captain, and a softly spoken nominal Anglican lady working for the DoD. When we got to the subject of Rowan Williams and his views of sexuality, well, the conversation heated up, like a furnace. The Lutheran warrant officer earnestly made the point that the Bible condemns homosexuality, the liberal Catholic rebutted that sexuality is genetically innate and cannot be helped so one should not oppose it, the nominal Anglican lady said that gay people make great friends and are great at helping you decorate your house, while the Pentecostal girl just sat there quietly not saying anything. Well, the conversation, now argument, got hotter and hotter. Despite my best efforts to moderate the tone and change the subject, it just got worse. It turned into a yelling match with the Bible-bashing Lutheran trying to shout down the liberal Catholic on the one side and the nominal Anglican lady adding her two-cents every so often. The poor Pentecostal girl sat their very quiet, staring catatonically at the floor, wisely avoiding the melee. Right before I was gonna yell “time out children, time to go home,” all of a sudden the Pentecostal girl loudly interjected with these words, “I used to be a Lesbian but Jesus saved me.” Right after that there was a silence you could cut with a knife. The Lutheran, the Catholic, the Anglican, and the poor Bible study leader, had nothing to say. What do you say to that? How do you follow that up? The young girl was engaged and a few months later was married and last I heard she was living a joyous heterosexual marriage with her new husband. In her story, homosexuality was something that she needed to be saved from, Jesus saved her from it, and she remained grateful for the transformation that had taken place in her life. But I want to say that her story is the greatest homophobic epic that can ever be told. In her story, it is possible, indeed actual, for some (note the qualifier) gay men and women to be changed and transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ. Indeed, homosexual men and women can be liberated, rescued, and saved from homosexualilty … that is their testimony, not mine. Now I know that the reasons why people have same-sex desires are complex and range from biology to upbringing to sociology to psychology. I do not believe that the Pentecostal girl’s story would necessarily be true of all homosexual men and women. I don’t think homosexuality is a disease much less something that can be cured. Some Christians with same-sex desires struggle with it for all their lives (just as heterosexuals can struggle with certain desires and behaviors). I know that there are many ex-gays, but I also know that there are many ex-ex-gays too. My point is that I have heard the testimony of men and women who consider themselves saved from homosexuality. Moreover, their words constitute the greatest act of betrayal of the gay-cause, the greatest act of treachery in gay-rights, and the greatest attack on efforts to deny that same-sex desires can change in people. In our secular and pansexual culture, ex-gay Christians are the worst and most vile homophobes in the universe because they announce that Jesus saved them from homosexuality and the Holy Spirit transformed them and empowered them to live a holy life without it. Though society may call them homophobes, I am not ashamed to call them my brother or sister.

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