Normalizing Homosexuality

Conservative Christians often use demeaning terms when addressing LGBTQ folk, like how they are "living in sin" because of their ontological state, that they are "practicing homosexuals" and are guilty of "normalizing homosexuality." Whenever you hear or read such statements understand that the person is reducing the LGBTQ individual to a sex act and thereby objectifying the one who is created in the image of God. Such religious hypocrites forget the simple teachings within the scriptures: "For judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment" (James 2:13); "but no one can tame the tongue -- a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God" (James 3:8, 9). Many more such passages can be offered.

When conservative evangelicals complain of people "normalizing homosexuality," they intend to convey their opinion regarding the alleged disgusting nature of whatever can be related to homosexuality (determinately the "yuck" factor), warning others of the judgment of God upon the same. Franklin Graham, for a prime example, writes:
From the reviews I have read [meaning he did not see the film], "Moonlight" portrays a young gay African American coming of age and it stereotypes him as violent, a drug dealer, and a convict. Hollywood is notorious for glorifying sin. [Graham is sorely, ignorantly mistaken.] This is just another example of the LGBT's agenda to make lifestyle choices that God defines as sin seem more and more culturally acceptable. I warn families and the church -- don't allow your young people to be sucked into Hollywood's dark plan. We love all people, but we have to be honest about sin's consequences. Sin is sin -- it doesn't matter if it gets an Oscar or not.
Franklin is a primary self-determined enemy of LGBTQ people. He in no sense wants those of the LGBTQ community to maintain equal rights, especially regarding same-gendered marriage, but would rather the same "repent" of their "sin of homosexuality," perpetuate a self-loathing nature, and deny oneself the opportunity to love and to be loved by a member of one's gender. The only worse scenario, for Graham, than the LGBTQ person living in freedom and with equality is the "godless secularist" or liberal (Democrat, progressive) who affords LGBTQ folk those rights.

Incidentally, the movie Moonlight portrays three eras of Chiron, a young African-American who discovers his same-sex attraction in his adulthood. His childhood is rife with problems: his mother is a crack addict who neglects him; his neighborhood is riddled with crime; he is bullied for his small stature. He is introduced to a life of violence, sex, and drugs. Bigots like Franklin Graham slant the intent of the writers and directors of Moonlight as "glorifying sin," neglecting the base reality that the storyline is the framework in which many people throughout the world fearfully live their very lives; but Franklin removes himself entirely from such a scenario. He lives in his sanitized 1950s Leave It To Beaver mentality, perpetuating an us vs. them disposition, demonizing "Hollywood" for using art as a platform for social awareness.

Am I just an uneducated blogger who dares to challenge someone like Franklin Graham? He maintains a B.A. from Appalachian State University; so in reality, we both have the same academic credentials, the one no higher than the other. I hold a B.A. in English and a B.A. in Biblical Studies from The College at Southeastern. What I do not have is a famous evangelist as a father upon whose coattails I can ride into political activism against the LGBTQ community and for the Religious Right and the Republican party, be named the CEO of both the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan's Purse respectively (his annual salary is "higher than nearly all other U.S.-headquartered international aid organizations," link). While Franklin is strictly opposed to "normalizing homosexuality" he maintains no problem normalizing greed.

For whom is homosexuality (or even all manner of valid sexuality in toto) normal? (We are, of course, discounting sexuality regarding pederasty or bestiality -- two traits that are believed to be learned and later adopted due to cognitive distortions.) Heterosexuality is "normal" for the heterosexual; homosexuality is "normal" for the homosexual; bisexuality is "normal" for the bisexual; etc. Such is deemed "normal" within one's own context. Homosexuality, for example, is not "normal" for the heterosexual and vice versa. But conservatives like Franklin Graham et al. nominate heterosexuality as "normal" for all persons and then label all those who do not neatly fit within their imagined category as being abnormal, perverse, an abomination. All those who disagree with this framework are labelled guilty of "normalizing sin."

I appear hard at work lately at "normalizing homosexuality" and, in the opinion of the likes of Franklin Graham, "glorifying sin." (I have yet to lose any sleep over the matter.) Franklin uses the movie Moonlight as an evangelical rallying cry to engage in yet another culture war to which Jesus does not call His people: "This is just another example of the LGBT's agenda to make lifestyle choices that God defines as sin seem more and more culturally acceptable." Did you notice that his interpretation (the traditionalist view) of the five LGBTQ-clobber passages (e.g., Lev. 18:22; 20:13; Rom. 1:24-27; 1 Cor. 6:9; 1 Tim. 1:10) is equated with God's position on the matter?


We, by historical experience, expect this sort of exegetical hubris from conservative evangelicals. While I have come to suspect the traditional understanding of ancient homosexuality as at variance from how we understand the subject today, I try to avoid aligning my views to the views of God, as though I am the very mouthpiece of God. But the fundamentalist dogmatism of evangelicals compels them to speak for God rather than confess that they are merely offering their opinions. I offer my opinions.

I am not required, neither by myself nor by others, to "normalize" homosexuality, heterosexuality, bisexuality or pansexuality. Each of these ontological/psychological/emotional ethoses of each individual respectively are normal -- the person who operates within a same-gendered attraction, for example, is conducting him- or herself normally within that individual's personal context. If your opinion is that the homosexually-oriented individual is "living in sin" by longing and even pursuing to love and to be loved, as does Franklin Graham, then ask yourself if you equate sex with love or attraction. In other words, are you guilty of objectifying LGBTQ people, treating them solely as devices of a sex act that you think God views as disgusting?

Franklin Graham nearly lost his proverbial mind when Disney featured gay cartoon characters kissing; as well as included a gay character in the live-action Beauty and the Beast. He is so very threatened by same-gendered attraction and love that he even called for a boycott of Disney. I suppose he (and others) thinks that the display of gay-imaged cartoon characters kissing will "turn straight children gay." I am forced to ask, because I received a valid education and was taught how to think, why did all the straight-imaged cartoon characters not "turn me straight" as a little boy and into adolescence? Do you see the problem here? Do you understand why Graham's traditionalist so-called values are illogical, ignorant, and practically harmful?

There is one aspect I have learned from Franklin Graham and his ilk: what I will not be "normalizing" is his attitude, his rhetoric, his politics and his theological hubris. I intend to meet him one for one in the future: for every protest and boycott he embarks, I will embark on my own opposite him, as long as he demeans LGBTQ people, women, and his imagined political enemies. As I view the issue at hand, normalizing many of the "values" of Franklin Graham is glorifying mean-spiritedness, disunity, inequality, fear-based legalism, judgment without mercy and the Republican party as the Christian party. From my viewpoint, the socio-polotico notions of Franklin Graham are anti-Kingdom and, thus, dangerous to Christian orthodoxy proper.

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The two authors of Scripture who mention some semblance of same-sex sex-acts, namely Moses and St Paul, never address same-gendered love or emotion or psychology. Moses mentions honor-shame male gang rape (Gen. 19:1-11; Judges 19:1-30), which maintains no connection whatsoever to homosexuality; or his strange reference to a man who lies with a man "as with" a woman (Lev. 18:22; 20:13). Why the qualification "as with" a woman in lieu of his oft-used phrase referring to sex?

Moses changes his sexuality expression: he uses the Hebrew euphemism לְגַלֹּ֣ות עֶרְוָ֑ה, "uncovering the nakedness of" someone, when referring to sexual intercourse (cf. Lev. 18:6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19); but he does not use that expression when allegedly proscribing some form of homosexual sexual activity at Leviticus 18:22 (and Leviticus 20:13). Why? The author does not even use the Hebrew תִתֵּ֥ן (Lev. 18:20), "to have sexual intercourse with" someone, at Leviticus 18:22. Are we not only permitted but required to ask why he qualified the statement and changed expression?

St Paul refers to heterosexual men and women who abandon God and, then, they ironically, from my perspective at least (I am not insisting that Paul perceives, strictly, of orientation or nature, whether homo- or heterosexual), abandon their own heterosexual nature (again, my perspective, not that of Paul), in order to engage in same-sex lust and fornication (sexual activity outside of marriage) (cf. Rom. 1:18-28); he also uses two ambiguous references, μαλακοὶ and ἀρσενοκοῖται (1 Cor. 6:9; 1 Tim. 1:10), two terms that could reference same-sex sex-acts in some manner related to lust, vice, or exploitation. But none of these references commit us to proscribing same-gendered unions based on mutual respect and self-sacrificial love. If so then the homosexual pursuing love should not be badgered as "living in sin," "practicing homosexuality," "normalizing homosexuality" or "glorifying sin." I will continue to oppose men like Franklin Graham who continually utter such demeaning statements.

ABOUT WILLIAM BIRCH

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My name is William Birch and I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition but converted, if you will, to Anglicanism in 2012. I am gay, affirming, and take very seriously matters of social justice, religion and politics in the church and the state.