In the wake of the Kim Burrell controversy new conversations about religion, homosexuality and homophobia are being had across the nation and the web. Mrs. Burrell and others like her, who disagree with homosexuality on a moral/religious basis, are being labeled as homophobes and hatemongers. This led me to ask ‘is everyone who disagrees with homosexuality a homophobe?’
Of course we know that the answer to that question is an emphatic ‘no!’; We understand that someone can be against abortion and despise the firebombing of Planned Parenthood centers, we know that someone can be against Israeli settlements and its violence against civilians and still not applaud Palestinian suicide bombers. We also know that someone can disagree with the act of homosexuality and not have irrational or negative thoughts about homosexuals that would lead to discrimination in the work place or any other unfair treatment. So why then does anyone who speaks out against homosexuality get labeled as a homophobe?
Part of the reason is that no matter what the movement, no matter what the group, there will be people within it who will not tolerate any sort of criticism, justified or no, without trying to silence the critic with some sort of derogatory label. Racist, anti-Semite, homophobe, bigot. These are all terms that, while accurately describing large segments of the society we live in, have been used to undermine the valid critiques of people who, understandably, don’t want to be saddled with any of those horrendous designations. In a world where freedom of speech is truly valued, a person should feel safe to speak out against the ills of the Blacklivesmatter movement without being labeled a bigot. A person should feel safe from being call an anti-Semite and at the same time feel free to call Israel out on the illegality of the settlements in Palestine. And in the same way, people should feel free to speak out on their religious and moral convictions in regard to homosexuality without be termed a homophobe.
However, this does not preclude the fact that some people who do speak out against homosexuals, even from a religious/moral standpoint, are indeed homophobes. Robert Jeffress, for example, is a pastor that is well known for his negative stance on homosexuality. He has been quoted as saying “Homosexuality is perverse; it represents a degradation of a person’s mind.” And that “God established the pattern of one man–one woman marriage on the sixth day of creation (Genesis 1:26-27). Any deviation from that norm—adultery, unbiblical divorce, or homosexuality—is wrong.” He equates homosexuality with adultery, yet he supports Donald Trump, an infamous adulterer. I doubt Jeffress would have supported an openly gay candidate. And Christians, represented in this duplicity by Robert Jeffress and his ilk, are not alone. In Islam the punishment for homosexuality is the same as the punishment for adultery, yet there is no public debate on whether adulterers can pray in the masjid with the rest of the Muslims like there is for homosexuals. No questions as to if adulterers are Muslims which are questions being posed in regard to homosexuals. There are many people among Christians, Muslims and Jews, scholars and laymen, who chastise homosexuals while befriending adulterers and fornicators.
This double standard must stop if there is to be any constructive conversation about the relationship between sex and morality and the role that relationship plays in religion and our country. If people who object to homosexuality on moral grounds want to do so without being labeled a homophobe, they need to object just as forcefully and just as frequently to other sexual behaviors that are equally reprehensible in the eyes of their faith. Fornication, Adultery, out of wedlock children and divorce seem to be a part of this country’s culture and it is unfair, homophobic in fact, to single out homosexuality as our nation’s foremost sexual problem.
Maybe Robert Jeffress isn’t a homophobe it just wants people and the nation to follow the word of God. Maybe Kim Burrell truly is concerned with the souls of homosexuals and hates the sin while loving the sinner. Perhaps the Muslims concerned with whether homosexuals are Muslims are just as concerned with whether or not adulterers are Muslims. Maybe. But until their worry and concern for other sexual issues are spoken of just as vociferously and frequently as their concern for homosexuality, I’m guessing that they’ll continue to hear the term homophobe bandied about.