Straightianity: The Anti-Gay Gospel

I recently witnessed an online argument that really bothered me.

During a long and obviously hurtful theological tussle between two men, one of them (Tom*) made it clear that in his opinion, no person can claim to be a Christian while supporting equal rights for gays.  He seemed to know his theology well.  He made all of the usual “God-says-it-and-that-settles-it” arguments.  He appealed to scripture and to the “natural” order of things.  He wrote about the “gay agenda”, and how American society is being “deceived”.  He stated condescendingly that he would pray for his more liberal friend to see the anti-gay light.

Tom wrote a lot and didn’t care who saw what he had to say.  He was forceful, and passionate, and convincing.  He was totally happy with the line in the sand he was drawing between those who are inside his group and those who are outside.

Tom’s understanding of Christianity seemed to have morphed into a crusade in which defeating the “gay agenda” trumped every other issue including salvation, sanctification, eschatology and the Kingdom of God. Gay rights issues were clearly his theological deal breaker.

An anti-gay gospel is not a “good-news-if-you’re-human” kind of message…  It’s a “good-news-if-you’re-attracted-to-the-opposite-sex” message. It’s a message that is focused on the spiritual benefits of being straight, backed with a seemingly solid interpretation of scripture… It has all the marks of an exclusive denomination. (A denomination that– if I were in the denomination-naming business– I’d likely call “Straightianity”: A version of Christianity which perpetuates the myth that “gay Christian” is an oxymoron and gay-affirming churches are heretical.)

The Heart of Straightianity
It is hard for Jesus’ message of love and acceptance to find its spotlight in a belief system that hinges on God’s preference of one group over another.  Arguments that place straight people above non-heterosexual people are among the more unfortunate as they are usually based on a heap of deeply ingrained cultural biases and under-researched interpretations of scripture.

I don’t totally understand what is happening in circles where Christianity is solely a religion about God’s desire to exact meticulous control over our sex lives… But, I am certain of this: What they’re peddling isn’t about faith. It’s about fear.

Their fear of abandoning anti-gay interpretations of scripture is the same kind of fear that reared its head when theological “progressives” in prior generations argued in favor of the abolition of slavery, the teachings of Galileo and women’s rights. We’re talking about a fear of moving forward, a fear of the unknown and a fear of being wrong.

There’s also some element of group identity at stake. It’s the kind of group identity which insists that we must all be alike if we are to be legitimately united. This insistence upon “sameness” is dangerous… It is the root of the very prejudices that have plagued us since the first settlers encountered the Native Americans. Those who believe God requires sexual hegemony exhibit a symptom of the ongoing issues with diversity that exist in this country.  Those issues are rooted in a misguided, unexplored fear that if the “minority” (the unchosen, the “unclean”, the outsiders) are allowed equality, they will overthrow the majority and take away their privilege.

The only way to conquer one’s fear of diversity, or fear of minorities or fear of being wrong is to confront it head on. We must begin to ask ourselves what we’re trying to protect… Social gender roles? A reputation? An oppressive tradition? Majority privilege?

And those of us who see others exhibit behaviors characteristic of bigoted fear must be willing to ask them to search their souls. We must begin to ask: Why are you so afraid? Do you believe God really prefers you over your brother/sister? Could you be wrong?

We need to speak up because other Biblical, but exclusive, arguments have been painfully wrong in the past. I assure you, arguments for God’s preference of straight people over gays are equally wrong. If there is a God, then this God must certainly be above the shameful acts of tribalism that we’ve imposed upon ourselves. We should aspire to be like the Messenger who included outcasts when no one would touch them– And not like our ancestors who have always attempted to oppress what they didn’t understand.

*Tom isn’t his real name.

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12 responses to “Straightianity: The Anti-Gay Gospel

  1. Very insightful article Crystal.

    Sadly, Tom’s answer to the question, “Do you believe God really prefers you over your brother/sister?” is “yes,” and as such he is not in any way “aspiring to be like the Messenger” of whose “group” he claims to be a member. Because of that attitude he is actually the one on the “outside” of that group.

    You very correctly conclude that it is fear that drives Tom, and those like him, to act and speak as they do. And his loud and forceful voice just proves how fearful he is. But we can all rest assured that “perfect love casts out fear, ” and know that Tom will one day be “perfected in love” as we all will be. For now we just need to speak up for all our fellow man, as you have so rightly pointed out, and have compassion on the those like Tom who are still ignorant about the love of God.

  2. Hi Jim. Thank you for your comment. I couldn’t agree more that we need to have compassion. It’s so easy to become impatient or frustrated with people who don’t see the error of anti-gay rhetoric and theology. I am speaking for myself here as well. I have been in conversations with people like Tom that have caused my blood to boil. And during those arguments– I’ve found out the hard way that two hotheads in a discussion can’t get anything accomplished.

    Great advice. Thanks for sharing it. :)

  3. People understood gay people in the past. They still didn’t like them much. If you have a gay child then they won’t have babies. Oppression is an excellent way to make them ‘straight’ for a couple years and pump out some babies.

    It’s perfectly understandable why people in the past had a distaste for such people. If you didn’t have children in your old age you’d have no one to care for you, to pass on your stuff to.

    As such, people have an inherent distaste for people who are inbetween the two genders, and find them weird and distasteful. It’s probably genetic. Shaming them with words like fear, prejudice, control, all that, all it’s gonna do is make them dislike you, since it doesn’t that well reflect what they do or feel. It’s gonna make you both pissed and close down discussion.

    If you want to reduce people’s dislike of gay people the best way to do that is to show them real gay people and show them that they’re mostly quite normal, have gender roles, and can have kids or take care of kids as well as straight people.

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  6. “An anti-gay gospel is not a “good-news-if-you’re-human” kind of message… ”

    Funny. The narrow anthropocentrism of this “good news if you’re human” message is exactly what has been turning me off Christianity in the past few years, actually. When one suggests to Christians that we should show some kindness and compassion to non-human animals rather than caging and slaughtering them mercilessly because we enjoy their flavour, they usually run to a small select group of standby Bible verses to say “no, but God says to kill and eat them, see?”, just like the homophobes do with the ones that call homosexuality a sin.

    Still, that point aside, this was a great post. I agree with your implication that the Bible is not what’s really behind Christian homophobia, but other more personal, psychological factors.

    I would suggest that one of the reasons gays are such a target, despite featuring so little, and so vaguely, in the Bible, is that they’re just a really safe target. If you condemn someone for being dishonest, it’s only a matter of time before someone catches you telling a lie yourself, since we all do it. Ditto with greed. If you condemn someone for having an affair too loudly, it might rub uncomfortably against that part of you that has sometimes fantasised about having one yourself. And so on and so on….damaging the environment, saying nasty things about people behind their back, loving money, being prejudiced, feeling superior to others, etc. etc. ……..there are few sins out there that we don’t all do ourselves at some point (and probably often)

    But if you’re straight and married, there are two big areas where you can condemn others all day long without fear of being caught out a hypocrite, or without the niggling feeling that you’re condemning yourself. The first is abortion. The second is homosexuality. Bingo! The big two! Two things the Bible barely mentions, yet the two things that conservatives talk so much about that you’d think the Bible spoke of little else. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

    If you’re straight, then homosexuality provides you with a wealth of guilt-free condemnation fun. Sling some mud at someone else and, for once, none of the mud splashes back at you! You’ll feel clean and pure, and as a result your righteousness will seem all the more puffed up, and your victim’s dirtiness all the more apparent, which will just perpetuate the cycle…

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