Sexual minority people are often the victims of several forms of overt sins of word and deed. Many of these are actions that we can all acknowledge are absolutely sinful. However, I find that many Christians are reluctant to admit the frequency with which sexual minorities in particular are victimized. From what I’ve found, this often results simply from lack of awareness, so I would like to use this post to provide some basic background about issues we should be addressing. Unfortunately, the issues are too numerous to do justice to in a single blog post, so I cannot be comprehensive.
In “Day of Silence 2013,” I discussed the grave moral issue of anti-gay bullying and argued that we need to consider more than just sexual ethics when discussing the topic. Similar issues arise with the issue of hate crimes. In some parts of the world, it is tragically common for sexual minority people to be murdered or brutally beaten if their sexuality becomes known. Milder forms of harassment are also common, and are almost ubiquitous in significant segments of society. For example, “faggot” is a common insult, even though it is deeply offensive. Many people will call something they don’t like “gay.” I can tell you that as someone realizing my own attraction to other guys, hearing that has often been hurtful. Sexual minority people may be rejected socially if their sexuality is known, regardless of their beliefs or subsequent decisions about how to live. Although I have fortunately not experienced this personally to any significant degree, it has happened to others. This sort of behavior should never be considered acceptable.
Some people argue that by promoting a traditional understanding of sexual ethics at all, we are inherently responsible for creating this situation. While I disagree with this assessment, I do see how focusing only on sexual ethics at the expense of other (often more serious) sin issues does help foster an environment where these other sins can thrive, and we should work towards correcting this grave problem. Other ways we talk about sexual ethics without much grace also no doubt contribute and absolutely must be addressed as well.
Another fairly common form of sin that victimizes sexual minorities, and one that is unfortunately quite common among professing Christians, is the bearing of false witness that amounts to slander. Much of the time, the people are not actually aware that their claims are false, but that doesn’t reduce their harmful impact, and as Christians in particular we have a responsibility to be careful with our words. In “How is Gay Celibacy Different from Straight Celibacy?,” I discussed how some of this affected me personally while I was younger, and Matt Jones discussed similar issues in “Going Public, Part 2.”
Perhaps the most serious form of false witness is the accusation that sexual minorities are generally a danger to children. Not only is this slander towards people who never chose their orientation and would never dream of abusing children, but it also fails to protect children from the very real danger of abuse from other adults. Measures such as prohibiting an adult from being alone with a child or adding windows to doors are much more effective in protecting children and do not require slander.
Many Christians also make other untrue claims about sexual minorities. For example, some claim that gay relationships are always based entirely on lust and do not display any self-sacrificial love. In addition, some claim that gay people are always promiscuous and are incapable of forming monogamous relationships. These types of claims are not only morally problematic due to their falsehood, but actually work against making a credible case for traditional ethics. People who know loving, monogamous gay couples will not lend any credibility to those making false claims about them. I’ve also seen it claimed that someone who is truly following Christ can’t be attracted to the same sex, which is direct slander against people like myself.
Even some celibate gay Christians face direct consequences as a result of some of these falsehoods. For example, I know several people who have lost or been denied employment at Christian institutions on the basis of their sexuality, despite the fact that they were celibate and in agreement with the institution’s theology. I’ve also heard of people being treated as lesser members of churches, or denied leadership roles, on the basis of their honesty about their sexual attractions. Here again we have serious problems that need to be addressed.
It is also important to point out that many of the sins I’ve brought up here, as well as many I haven’t, contribute to the very real problem of suicide among sexual minorities. Many sexual minority people have reported being made to feel that they were unworthy of love, or that they deserved the mistreatment they faced, on account of their sexuality. Far too many end up taking their own lives. It needs to be abundantly clear to sexual minority people that they matter to God and to other people. Christians should be on the forefront of making sure that this is the case, and of defending this marginalized group of people when they are targeted for injustice.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I have only begun to scratch the surface of some of the overt sins that have been directed at sexual minorities. I strongly believe that as Christians, we can do better both in terms of addressing our own sins and those of others.
Other posts in this series:
- Part 1: Introduction
- Part 2: Why I Criticize Christians
- Part 4: Sins of Omission
- Part 5: Sins of the Heart
- Part 6: How Doctrine Matters
- Part 7: Of Logs and Specks
Jeremy Erickson is a Ph.D. student in Computer Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He previously studied Mathematics and Computer Science at Taylor University in Upland, IN.