I don’t usually link to the anti-gay writings of conservative religionists because there’s so much homophobia the sheer volume of potential posts would just be crazy. Besides, everyone knows religious traditionalism and anti-gay bias go hand in hand, so it’s not exactly a dog bites man story.
But it’s nice to be able to occasionally find examples of religious conservatives pointing out another conservative’s anti-gay bias, and offering constructive corrections. While it’s not exactly a heartwarming tale of conservatives losing their bias, it does speak to the ways that individuals can make a small difference by speaking out.
A popular Roman Catholic priest tells his parish that he’s gaybut celibate and abides by the Church’s teaching.
So popular Roman Catholic blogger Mark Shea opines:
I think this priest means well… but as a layman, I am no more interested in the fact that he is a celibate SSA guy than I am in knowing whether the guy in the pew next to me made love with his wife last night. It’s not information that concerns me and it’s not information that my kids need to be subjected to in a homily. Priests who use the homily as a chance to engage in True Confessions like this seem to me to be engaging in a none-too-subtle form of narcissism.
… Assuming the complaint is “Too Much Information,” then the proper analogy to the guy in the pew next to you would be the priest saying he abused himself last night. At the level of personal disclosure and specific information, the priest is doing nothing more than the guy in the pew next to you does by wearing a wedding band or introducing “my wife.”
Excellent. Now to hear this latter comment from a gay man would be expected; to hear it from a conservative Catholic is an encouraging sign. I advocate the approach of combatting homophobia in social institutions using strategies grounded upon divergent, even seemingly contradictory, rationales.Among religiously conservative institutions, that means arguing against homophobia by challenging bias without necessarily challenging the orthodoxy of the institution.
If a church teaches that homosexual sex is sinful, religious conservatives can avoid challenging that assumption while focusing on other areas such as combating negative stereotypes and double standards. Persons who self-define as “ex-gay” or “living with Same-Sex Attraction (SSA)” are among those religious traditionalists leading the way in this sort of work.
An integal perspective to combatting homophobia must include and encourage the ameliorative efforts of folks like Courage Man. Little steps at correcting bias when he happens upon it in his life. His views of homosexuality as a sin may be repugnant to those who see the world from a very different lense. But serious change in religious institutions cannot happen without religionists on the inside doing what they can to discourage homophobia given the limitations of their institution’s strictures.
Update: A second example of conservative Christians fighting homophobia in their own ways, these evangelicals writing on the Vindicated blog, who have engaged in an unusually thoughtful exchange about bringing the gospel to gays in new ways. Of course, to engage in bald generalizations, their core theological mindset is strictly of the mythic/rationalist sort typical of people who routinely write things like “God is good and sin is bad, so of course God despises sin, and most people believe this.” Still, there are encouraging signs. At a simplistic level, there’s talk of alternatives to using words like “despise,” because they are perceived as hurtful. There’s frank admission of the hypocrisy of evangelical churches in dealing with gays. And most promising yet: a call to develop a theology that allows for monogamous, committed same-sex relationships as “God’s Plan B.”
Now if only I could believe these were mainstream sentiments among evangelicals and not some sort of liberal fringe. In any case, from my perspective, it’s still shameful homophobic bullshit that has no rightful place in spirituality. But not everyone is there yet. We all start somewhere in the spiral of development, and these mythic/rational-level religionists are still at an immature stage in their thinking about homosexuality. Still, it’s definitely a step in the right direction.