Perhaps the quintessential example of homophobia is that of Westboro Baptist Church. We all know them by their signs and protests of soldier’s funerals, declaring God’s judgment on America for not hating the LGBT community enough. It is fair enough to say that even Christians who are opposed to gay marriage find Westboro to be out there and would call them fanatics. Positions on gay marriage can run from those who see it as a matter of promoting civil rights to those who see it as a case of loving the sinner, but hating the sin, to those who believe it a crucial step right before God rains fire and brimstone from heaven.
At The Atlantic this last week, Brandon Ambrosino (full disclosure: Brandon and I are friends), who is gay, wrote a piece challenging an article by Paul Raushenbush, senior editor of the religion section at The Huffington Post. (Full disclosure again: Paul and I are friends as well and I contribute to The Huffington Post). Raushenbush’s piece (“No Cardinal Dolan, the Catholic Church Wasn’t ‘Outmarketed’ on Gay Marriage“) challenges Cardinal Dolan, who recently said that he felt the Catholic Church was unfairly maligned as anti-gay.
“No Cardinal Dolan, the Catholic Church hierarchy hasn’t been ‘outmarketed’ on gay marriage,” writes Raushenbush, “nor have you been ‘caricatured’ as anti-gay. The hard truth is that, while right on so many of the most important issues of our time, the Catholic Church leadership in America is wrong on the question of gay marriage and someday (probably centuries from now) you will have to own up to it.”
Ambrosino’s take on it is very different.
Below there are three articles on the issue of homophobia. The first is that of Ambrosino’s, the second is from Slate in response to Ambrosino, and the third is from The Huffington Post in response to Ambrosino. While these are not three entirely different views, they are part of a conversation that is necessary to have.
If Raushenbush is right, then that means my parents are anti-gay, many of my religious friends (of all faiths) are anti-gay, the Pope is anti-gay, and—yes, we’ll go here—first-century, Jewish theologian Jesus is anti-gay. That’s despite the fact that while some religious people don’t support gay marriage in a sacramental sense, many of them are in favor of same-sex civil unions and full rights for the parties involved…
Opposition to gay marriage isn’t just some abstract principle with little practical effect. It’s a harmful belief with real-world consequences, and it has contributed immeasurable pain, sorrow, and suffering to the lives of gay people throughout history. To oppose gay marriage is to help prevent loving couples from visiting each other in the hospital, from raising a child together, from enjoying the most basic facets of a fulfilling life.
It may be tempting to look at homophobia as some rarely glimpsed, cartoonish evil that only reveals itself during hate crimes or appearances by the Westboro Baptist Church. But when we conceive of homophobia as a boogeyman responsible for only the most obvious and egregious horrors, we miss the finer, nuanced, harder-to-see — and therefore in some ways more dangerous — moments that are also homophobic (however “polite” they might seem) and have very real consequences.