I once had one friend say to me in front of another friend, “so, Ed, what is your position on homosexuality?” The friend who said it was a political conservative, but a social moderate, while the other friend was a liberal. I simply smiled, having no interest in the game he was playing. However, the other friend saw the smile and made this stinging, straightforward remark: “I have a problem with anyone who has a problem with homosexuality.” It seems to me that every generation below the baby boomer generation has increasingly moved away from one of America’s foundational principles: freedom of religion. I find this fact extremely disturbing, and not simply because it reflects a growing ignorance in American culture around the core ideologies of why this nation exists in the first place. It is disturbing because it marks a form of religious oppression that has the real potential to expand into full-blown persecution. Christians in other parts of the world need to understand that America is rapidly moving toward religious intolerance. More specifically, America is moving toward an intolerance of Christianity.
One of my favorite preachers is Dr. Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lexington, Ky. Dr. Mohler has come out and urged Baptists to repent of their homophobia. Now, to be sure, Dr. Mohler does not condemn homosexual behavior any less than he did before the statement. To be honest, I find Dr. Mohler’s comments somewhat confusing and just a little disturbing. If by this statement, Dr. Mohler means that we should not treat homosexuals differently than we do anyone else, then I agree. I think that is what he is getting at. However, I think he could have stated it a bit differently. Is homosexual sin different from other sin? Of course not. Lying, stealing, and even unbiblical divorce are on par with homosexual sin. Moreover, it is true that pseudo Christians do treat homosexuality different from these other sins. They condemn homosexuality in the strongest of language, but murder their own brothers and sisters in Christ with their mouths. Dr. Mohler is right in this regard if this is his point.
Dr. Mohler said two things I really wish he had not. Moreover, he created an unintended consequence that I wish was not the case. I wish Dr. Mohler did not say, “We have said to people that homosexuality is just a choice. Well, it’s clear that it’s more than a choice.” This lends fodder to the ungodly contention that homosexuality is beyond the control of the homosexual. Does this statement have anything to commend it from a biblical perspective? Scripture always presents sin as a deliberate choice on the part of rebellious human beings and always commands us to repent. It is one thing to experience a homosexual desire to temptation. It is another to engage in the activity. Moreover, there are people who have left the homosexual lifestyle for reasons other than religion. Not every former homosexual turned heterosexual is an adherent of the gospel. Now, to be sure, the gospel is the only cure for sin. However, human beings shift their sin all the time. Liars reform their lying but continue to sin in other ways. Adulterers cease their adultery from time to time, but continue to sin in other ways. I am not saying that man can escape his sinful nature by his own free will. I am contending that unregenerate humans do have the ability to shift their sinful behavior from time to time. They just continue to sin in other ways. I really, really wish that Dr. Mohler had not said, “We have also exhibited a form of homophobia.”
Homophobia is a very polarizing word that comes with an exceptionally broad definition. First, homosexual supporters use the word to manipulate those who disagree with them. Here is how it works in the real world. Homophobia is identified with immoral people who commit acts of violence or discrimination against homosexuals. They treat a homosexual as if they are a lower form of human being. That behavior is unacceptable in the Christian community. It is true that if a Christian is engaging in such behavior, they need to repent. However, this is not true of most Christians. Once the word homophobia achieved it polarizing stigma, it was then ready to use as a grand weapon of manipulation. Now, you apply the word, not to real homophobes, but to people who simply disagree with the homosexual choice. This is a subtle way to persuading some to accept the lifestyle and quieting others who don’t. The strategy has worked brilliantly. Most Christians are not homophobes. They are simply applying what the Bible teaches about the homosexual choice. The argument is not about homosexual choice as much as it is about the Bible. When we move off that ground and focus on the homosexual choice, we move away from God. The question is, “what does God say about the homosexual choice?”
Now, the unintended consequence is that many will see Mohler’s comments as supportive regardless of whatever else he said. Homosexual advocates will point fingers and say, “even one of your most conservative leaders says you are a bunch of homophobes.” Moreover, this creates a significant distraction from the gospel. We move from the discussion around the sinfulness of homosexual choice to a discussion around whether or not we are homophobes. Unfortunately, that is an unintended consequence. The second problem is that bound up in the definition of homophobia is the idea of discrimination. You are guilty of being a homophobe, to most secular thinking, if treat a homosexual different from others. The Christian community is entirely guilty of this practice. For example, we will not ordain those who engage in homosexual choice to the ministry, the eldership, or even the deaconate. We will not hire a person who engages in the homosexual choice to work in our office or on the church staff. In addition, we will not receive into membership a person who has made the homosexual choice. To the world’s way of thinking, that is discrimination. And that sort of discrimination is ‘ipso facto’ homophobic by definition.
Is homosexuality different from any other sin? Of all other sins that people engage in, I cannot think of one that is actually used as an identifier. If there is an adulterers lobby in Washington, I am unaware of it. I cannot remember a group of liars circulating a petition, insisting that the church pronounce that lying is no longer a sin. When was the last time you saw murders complaining to the church that they are treated differently because they engage in the activity of murder? The reason the church has a problem with the homosexual groups is not because the groups made the homosexual choice. No, that is not it at all. The reason the church has a problem with homosexual groups is because the homosexual groups want to destroy what is, by definition, the church. As far as I know, this is the only group that unites around a common sin that is attempting to do this. The homosexual groups demand that the Church portend to be God and change that which it cannot: God’s classification of the homosexual choice as deviant sexual sin that demands repentance.
Dr. Mohler remains one of my very favorite preachers and theologians. I think I understand where he was going with his remarks. I just wish he had said it differently.