Thursday, 10 March 2016

Christian Homophilia

Much as I would like it to be otherwise, mainstream Christianity over the past two thousand years or so has promoted a homophobic agenda. The early church fathers had a few choice words on the matter, homosexual actions are condemned in the New Testament and a popular reading of the Destruction of Sodom suggests that God went nuclear on the city because of consensual homosexual acts.

Although it is possible to interpret St Paul's comments as specific to their historical context, or even, by looking at the exact meanings of the Greek words, to reject them as condemnations of homosexuality, these readings go against the grain of their traditional and accepted meanings.

Although I intended this post to be an argument against Christian homophobia, I recognise that other writers have covered this ground. I am hoping, instead, to offer some thoughts and links to these writers.

The Gay Christian Network, for example, discusses the matter in detail. They include the trenchant comment that God is less likely to have done his nut over Sodom because of consensual gay sex than the crowd's attempts to gang rape two visiting angels. Even a literal reading of The Bible suggests this, let alone a more sceptical one.

There is also considerable evidence that homophobia was not the exclusive policy of the early church. At some point, the homophobic writers became part of the dominant Christian tradition, setting the tone for subsequent and contemporary homophobia. 

Contrary evidence would have been ignored, and a body of work developed to protect the homophobic position. By defining the cultural context of theology, the homophobic tradition could easily exclude, or lose, the homophilic authors, or assume that those who did not talk about it (like Jesus, as a random example) gave tacit assent to homophobia.

Contemporary 'liberal' Christians (the ones that don't get invited on talk-shows because they are uncontroversial) tend to accept homosexuality. It's fundamentalists, and literalists, who go large on the hatred, usually excusing it with 'love the sinner, not the sin'.

While it is easy enough to say 'fuck those guys' (literalism tends to ignore the placing of four different Gospels, with contradictions, in the New Testament), their homophobia comes as part of a job-lot of militant ideas. Quite often, they are Dominion Christians, aiming towards a theocratic state. So, they aren't shy about shouting the odds.

Given their agenda - which is against the secular state - they like to use the law to defend their beliefs. Hence the Iain Lee shenanigans. It's not hard to defeat them when they try to use a secular legal system, but beating their arguments is tough, since they appeal to faith and scriptural authority. 

That scriptural authority is their weakness. The Bible rejects state power, has a tradition of prophets who challenge the 'chosen people'. Fundamentalism also encourages a lazy attitude to critique: they use historical documents in simplistic ways, fail to contextualise their quotations, and straight-up ignore bits they don't like (back to that speech on The West Wing). 

It will be difficult... this is about reclaiming history, encouraging new ways of thinking... and possibly leaving them to it... but respecting an opponent is worth the effort, I guess.


  1. Robert Graves 'blames' Plato for spreading the idea that homosexuality (or well,homosexual acts) is against nature. In his explanation of the myth of Ganymedes (who was a young man so beautiful he was Zeus' bedfellow) he explains that homosexual romance was actually the field that emphasized the "victory of patriarchy over matriarchy. It turned Greek philosophy into an intellectual game that men could play without the assistance of women, now that they had found a new field of homosexual romance." He also blames Plato for further establishing patriarchy: "With the spread of Platonic philosophy the hitherto intellectually dominant Greek woman degenerated into an unpaid worker and breeder of children wherever Zeus and Apollo were the ruling gods."

  2. Hmmm... this doesn't make sense. Is Graves saying that homosexuality was defined as 'bad' or 'good' by Plato? And the concept of homosexuality is not consistent throughout history. As for Plato establishing patriarchy - obviously, Graves is ignoring Aeschylus, the Torah, and... er... about a thousand years worth of suggestive texts and archaeological claims.
    Graves was trying to bend history to his idea of 'the white goddess'. Looks like it was a ropey effort...