Homosexuality, theology, free speech, and the prices involved

[Content Note:  religiously based anti-gay sentiment]

Should Christians be able to communicate publicly their convictions that homosexuality is sinful.

The above is a question that Wendy Gritter recently got asked, shared her views on the question (she did so on a friends-only Facebook post, so I don’t feel right reposting what she said here), then invited many of us to offer our own thoughts on the matter.  I did so as a couple comments on her Facebook post.  I wish to repeat and/or summarize those thoughts here as well as share a few other thoughts.

My short answer to the question is yes, Christians and everyone else should be permitted to publicly voice whatever convictions they have, even if I personally find those convictions or their choice to voice them to be problematic or downright detestable.

I suspect that some Christians might object to the second half of that sentence, the part that starts “even if.”  The thing is, that’s the price of free speech:  Everyone else gets to exercise theirs as well.  That means that if someone says something that I find objectionable or troubling, I get to critique what they said and state why I find it objectionable or troubling.  Furthermore, I’m allowed to form my opinions of not only what people said, but of those people based on the things that they have said.

Honestly, I find that belief to be hurtful and harmful toward LGBT people.  I’m also inclined to consider even the most gentle, nuanced, and most compassionate of that particular conviction to be harmful to some LGBT people.  I say that as someone who went to a church who never really played up the evils of homosexuality in its sermon, but received the message sufficiently that things almost didn’t end well for me.  Those kinds of convictions have consequences, and far too often, those consequences fall people other than those who hold or express them.

But rather than focus on why I find the belief or conviction itself troublesome, I’m going to spend most of this post explaining why I find the expression of that conviction troublesome, unnecessary, and counterproductive.

First, I want to start with a practical, if somewhat confrontational point.  We all know some Christians are convinced that homosexuality — whether that means being gay, identifying as gay, or having same sex sexual relationships to that particular Christian — is sinful.  Some Christians — a lot of them, really — have been saying it for decades.  I’ve been hearing it for more than seventeen years, myself.  So I have to wonder, at what point are those Christians going to accept that their message has been heard and quiet themselves so they can actually listen to someone else for a change?  Because quite frankly, I’ve had my fill of listening and would like my turn at being listened to.  And I mean really listened to.

So why do some Christians feel the need to keep repeating a message we’ve all heard for decades?  Do they really think they have something to add to that message that we haven’t heard before?  My seventeen years of experience has provided me no evidence that such is the case.  The only new things I’ve heard are from people like Wendy who are saying it’s time to listen.

In many ways, I think Fred Clark is right when he attributes it to tribalism.  For many in the evangelical Christian religion, Fred argues that denouncing homosexuality is a sort of tribal marker, done to demonstrate that a person is properly a part of the evangelical tribe.  That’s all fine and good, but not being a member of that tribe, I’m not all that interested in seeing those tribal markers on parade.  Such Christians have a right to parade them, but they don’t have a right to expect me to stick around and watch, let alone ooh and ah.  And to be honest, I’m not convinced that parading around one’s tribalism makes a lot of sense for a group that — as I understand it, at least — is supposed to be trying to pull as many people into the tribe as they can.  And when the expression of those tribal markers actually negatively impact some outside the tribe, well, I’m not sure you can get much more counterproductive than that.

Moving on, I also want to express my view on morality and how that impacts this whole topic, as words like “conviction” and “sin” lead me to believe that we’re talking morality.  Morality has to do with choice, and the only choices any person has any control over is their own choices.  I can’t make your choices for you, dear reader, nor can you make mine for me.  Ultimately, we are the sole masters of our own morality and solely the masters of our own morality.  So when heterosexual people start talking about whether homosexuality — however they’re defining that word — is moral, I note that they are laying down moral laws that don’t have any direct impact on their own lives.  They don’t have to struggle against those prohibitions or restrictions.  They are effectively trying to dictate burdens to be laid on other people.  Not cool.  To them, I say focus on sins that you actually might struggle with.

Now in fairness, there are non-heterosexual who believe that same sex sexual relationships are sinful.  Because of that belief, they choose to remain celibate or enter into what some call a mixed-orientation marriage.  That is their right, and while it’s certainly a choice I wouldn’t make, I honor their moral agency.  But I really don’t see the point in even them broadcasting that conviction, unless they are discussing at as their personal choice.  The thing is, I’m not convinced that’s why some of them do so.  Too often, I get a sense of “this is what I’m doing and what you should do too” behind them.  To which I say, nope.  My moral agency, my decision.

Personally, I think unless a non-heterosexual person asks for advice on what to do about their sexual feelings or how one handle’s ones own sexual feelings, it’s best to keep one’s own counsel on whether one things homosexuality is a sin.

But yes, everyone has the right to ignore my advice on that count.

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