I wish my answer to this question could be an unqualified “No.” And I really do not think most Christian feel a specific animosity to LGBT people. Unfortunately, however, being unable to read minds, we have to look at actions. Historically, Christians do not come off as loving and, in fact, appear unusually spiteful toward LGBT people.
Much of how Christians have hated LGBT people with their actions has already been recounted in this letter. Christians have isolated gay kids by objecting to LGBT kid joining things like Boy Scouts, by vocally objecting to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” regulations because they would allow closeted gay people to join the army and then objecting again when DODA was repealed and by actually protesting protections of gay kids on the grounds that such actions would create a “protected class,” in spite of the fact that LGBT kids are bullied in unusually high numbers and need such protection. We see this same hate when Christian protest any kind of compassionate act toward gay people such as sending comfort dogs to survivors of one of the worst shootings in US history and when Christians fail to deliver the Gospel when speaking of homosexuality. The fact is that you don’t treat people you love in these ways. When you isolate, ignore, allow the persecution of, protest kindness towards and withhold the Gospel from any group of people, you are demonstrating hate.
But these last few weeks have been especially discouraging as Christians have responded to the Grand Jury report on sexual abuse by priests in Pennsylvania. Suddenly, gay priests are being blamed for the abuse of children in the Catholic church. Even in the LCMS, Gene Veith on his blog “Cranach” and Todd Wilken on his podcast “Issues Etc” have both more than once promoted the idea that the primary reason for the sexual abuse of children in the Roman Catholic Church is the presence of gay men in the priesthood.
This in spite of all we know about the sexual abuse of children today, in spite of logic and in spite of one of the most comprehensive studies to date on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, the John Jay report.
What makes the situation all the worse is that the gay men I know who enter the Catholic priesthood are men who, like myself, accept a biblical view of marriage and sexuality. They have experienced attacks from both sides for much of their lives; from Christians for being gay and from LGBT people for being conservative Christians. Yet the vast majority have remained faithful to their vows, their God and their Church. Yet these are the men who are being blamed for the abuse of children and teens by many vocal leaders in both the RCC and protestant denominations.
Further, this kind of offensive accusation of the innocent does not protect children. In trying to solve the wrong problem, these leaders are on the track to allowing the real problem, the sexual abuse of kids, to continue.
This kind of unreasoning and irrational attack on gay men can only be described as hate. I’m sorry, but I have real trouble saying that Christians do not hate LGBT people with this kind of behavior is perpetrated by respected men in the LCMS and unchallenged by other pastors and leader.
But where does this “hate” come from? As I said, I do not think it comes from a sense of animosity. But I do think it comes from fear. Perhaps, in this sense, it could truly be called “homophobia.” The position of pastor is a difficult one, as is the position of a conservative Christian in the world today. It is not easy to maintain a balance between witnessing the truth of the Law and demonstrating the love of Christ. Whenever someone comes to the pastor or the congregation who is unusual or unfamiliar in some way, they present a challenge – and not one that is usually easy to deal with. Questions arise like “how do we minister to this person?” “what if we make a mistake?” “can we trust this individual?” “What will people say about this person?” “If I present the Gospel will it be taken as license?” “Conversely, will the Law insult or overburden this person?” “What demands on our time or resources will this person make?” “How do we get to know this person?” These, honestly, are not easy questions. To the pastor, who is trying to minister to and keep hundreds of congregation members happy, beginning to minister to a LGBT individual must feel very like venturing into a foreign and odd country full of pitfalls. It is far easier, safer and less confusing to minister to people like one’s self. And perhaps this is why so many congregations are pretty homogeneous in terms of culture, age and economic affluence. We feel comfortable with people like ourselves and deeply uncomfortable with those who are different. It is easier, therefore, to push people away without even realizing we are doing it. And that distancing from individuals based on culture, skin color or sexuality will be experienced as hate. There is no way around that.
So I would very much like to say that Christian do not hate LGBT but history and the last few weeks are against that. At this point all I can truly say is that I hope that as the Church learns to apply the Gospel to LGBT people, Christians will also learn to see LGBT people as people for whom God died and who should not be treated in this way. And, perhaps, as Pastors begin to see LGBT people as people who need to be loved, they will find ways to stop scolding us that “your identity should be in Christ” and, instead find ways to help us find and form such an identity.