The One Main Reason “Christians Hate Gays” Even Though We Don’t

Across the Worldview Divide

There’s an awful lot of bafflement these days over why, supposedly, Christians hate gays, that is. It goes both ways. Christians are bewildered over the charge that we’re haters, and gays and gay-affirming people have trouble understanding how it isn’t obvious that we are. The problem isn’t just what’s communicated. It isn’t just perception. It’s the way we view reality. It’s a worldview problem.

Christians Are Haters, Right?

Consider the logical sequence here:

Gay is wrong. It’s a sin, an abomination to the Lord.

John is gay.

Therefore John is wrong, an abomination to the Lord, sin personified.

That sounds pretty hateful to me. I can see why you think that’s our attitude. There’s a huge difference, though, between the way Christians view “John is gay” and the way most others view it. And it makes all the difference.

Three Disclaimers

Let me make a couple of disclaimers to start with. First, everything I’m saying here about “gay” and “gayness” could be said just the same for “lesbian” and “lesbianism,” or transgenderism, or any other sexual orientation or identification. The reason I’m not specifying each one each time is just because it would take too long to write and too long to read.

Second, what I’m saying about the Christian viewpoint is the way things ought to be. I think a lot of us practice it most of the time. I know we all fall short some of the time, and a few who call themselves Christian are just plain hateful and there’s no covering over it. Whether they themselves are Christian or not, I’m in no position to say; that part of what they do isn’t.

Third, I’m addressing most of this blog post to gay and gay-affirming persons. Christians, you can learn from it, too. I’ll come back to you at the end.

Different Views On “John Is Gay”

So what are the differences between a Christian view of “John is gay” and the way most others view it?

First, Christians distinguish between “is gay” and “practices same-sex physical intimacy.” Being same-sex attracted isn’t sin. It isn’t an abomination to the Lord. It’s wrong in the sense of being aimed in a wrong direction, not in the sense of being morally wrong. An arrow’s being inadvertently/unintentionally pointed in the wrong direction matters little, except to the extent that it might be released in that direction. Ultimately it’s the release that’s the problem, not the aiming.

So where the phrase “is gay” refers to the idea, “same-sex attracted,” we say, “that’s not sin and it isn’t sinful.” Where it means, “practices same-sex physical intimacy,” we say, “that sexual practice is wrong.”

That’s important, but so far it probably doesn’t help a lot. We have more ground to cover. Most gay men practice gay sex, and this doesn’t do anything to relieve of the charge that we hate those men. The answer to that goes a whole lot deeper and it requires a lot harder work of putting yourself in another’s shoes. Gays ask Christians to empathize with them; now I’m going to ask gays to try to think along with us.

Gay Is What I Am/Who I am…

For many if not most same-sex attracted persons, gay is who they they are and what they are. There’s an inescapable identity connection there: if they weren’t gay, they wouldn’t be who they are, they’d be someone else instead. Their gayness is part of their identity. It’s impossible to separate the orientation from the practice. Commonly they’ll say that being straight is part of a straight person’s identity, too, it just doesn’t come to the surface because straights aren’t in a minority situation. Everyone’s sexuality is a major part of what defines them, and it cannot be extracted from anyone’s identity.

On that view it makes sense to think that Christians are hateful when we call homosexuality a sin. Here’s where I’m going to ask LGBT persons to try to understand us, though, as I have also tried to understand you. It’s going to require of you the effort it takes to step into another person’s shoes.

… Or, The You That You Are Goes Down Deeper Than That

Here’s how Christians actually understand the situation to be.

If you say John is gay, you take that to be a statement regarding his fundamental identity. We don’t. We recognize it as part of his identity, but based on our worldview there’s a truer, more fundamental part of his identity, a person John whom God loves and we can love, regardless of his sexual orientation.

The difference between your worldview and ours, you see, is that your picture of where humans come from, and who we are, results in a mindset of, “what you get is what you get,” or, “what you are is what you are.” Whether you’re born same-sex attracted or you grew up that way, either way that’s who and what you are. There’s no other “you” beneath the surface to make you anything but that.

We see humans coming from a different source. God created us as loved persons in his eyes. He created us with free will, the ability to make morally significant choices, and the opportunity to relate to him and to each other in genuine love. This means we have incredible worth: we stand at the pinnacle of creation (Psalm 8). This is our most fundamental identity: we’re specially created and full of worth in God’s eyes.

He created us originally in perfect relationship with him, but we messed that up (Genesis 3). That had all kinds of negative effects: alienated relationships and a whole host of human failings and imperfections. What it didn’t do, however, was change our fundamental identity as individuals specially created, full of worth in God’s eyes.

God sees the person and the person’s failings. He regards the former (the person) with the same love and the same sense of worth as always, even as he regards the latter (the failings, the sin) with grief and horror. Yes, horror: because in his nature he is purely good, and whatever isn’t purely good is a stain on pure goodness; and also because whatever isn’t purely good isn’t good for us, the creatures he loves. I’m talking about every sin committed by every person. But God is bringing us back around to becoming the fully human persons he intended us to be — every person who says yes to him in that process.

We See You as the You That You Are Down Deep

Christians are steeped in this view of humanity. It’s the way we view you. Whether John is gay, straight, or whatever, John is worthy of love in God’s eyes and in our eyes, because John is one of God’s most special creations, a fellow human. John is a person loved in God’s eyes; that’s John’s fundamental identity. Being gay is more of a surface attribute. John could be John with or without his same-sex attractedness. He’d be in different relationships with other persons, but he’d still be the same person in relation to himself and to God.

So we can love the gay man as the man he is deep inside: the place where he is the man loved by God.

The One Main Reason Christians “Hate Gays” Even Though We Don’t

There’s a worldview divide here. There’s hardly anything harder than seeing the world the way someone different from you sees it. It’s the reason we’re not understanding each other — the one main reason, I’m convinced.

I’ve tried to express what I understand to be your side of the picture. You can let me know if I’ve gotten it right or wrong. I’m here to listen to you on that.

If you believe in empathy, respect, and treating us as human beings — which I think you do — then I think it’s fair to ask you to give a go at understanding us, too. You might think we’re lying, hiding, being hypocritical or whatever when we say we’re not haters. We’re actually living in accord with what we believe, and we’re trying to regard you in the same way our loving God regards you.

A Final Disclaimer

I’m trying to represent a worldview divide here. There’s a pretty high likelihood I got some of it wrong. I ask you to treat my attempt with respect, which includes telling me where I could have done better, but does not include snarls of contempt (which I have too often heard when writing on this subject).

That includes fellow Christians, by the way. You’re not as prone to snarl, for which I thank you. I hope you’ll take the time to walk in other people’s shoes here, too. It might help you and me both be more patient with the bafflment over whether Christians hate gays.

Image Credit(s): BihnX.

Tom Gilson

Vice President for Strategic Services, Ratio Christi Lead Blogger at Thinking Christian Editor, True Reason BreakPoint Columnist

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25 Responses

  1. I think the one main problem is politics. If Christians wouldn’t try to pass laws limiting what gay people can do, and if there weren’t all these court cases, then gay people would probably not think you hate them, even though you clearly disagree with them. It’s all about the politics and lawsuits.

  2. Tom Gilson says:

    Oh. I see.

    There were all these laws on the books FOR CENTURIES allowing gays to marry and tg people to go in any bathroom they wanted, and boom! we nasty Christians swooped down on them and CHANGED EVERYTHING!

    We’re so bad! Bad, bad bad. BAD!

    No, John, there’s a lot I’m willing to empathize with in the LGBT story but that part of the narrative is upside down, backwards, and completely confused as to who the aggressors are.

    Gimme a break, in other words. You’ve gotta be smarter than that.

  3. Tom Gilson says:

    And John, really, they’d still think we hate them as long as we disagreed with them. If we laid down and died in front of them, they’d only despise us all the more for it. They’re trying to get us to stop preaching about our beliefs in our churches. You’ve got to read some of their literature. Don’t be naive.

    Think: who’s forcing an agenda on whom these days, anyway? It isn’t difficult to figure that out.

  4. Matt says:

    I think the one main problem is politics. If Christians wouldn’t try to pass laws limiting what gay people can do, and if there weren’t all these court cases, then gay people would probably not think you hate them, even though you clearly disagree with them. It’s all about the politics and lawsuits.

    You mean laws like this one:

    Telling Christian colleges what standards they can and cant assume and abide by for example.

  5. Tom Gilson says:

    I wrote at the top of this blog that people on both sides of this issue are often bewildered about the other sides’ views on hate. I’m going to have to write another post about how bewildering it is that people can think Christians are the great cultural aggressors here. It’s as historically blind as blind can be, and I’m not talking about deep history, either. For most adults today it’s in our lifetimes. The power of the gay narrative on this is nothing short of astonishing.

    And John, don’t throw Prop 8 at me without looking at the history that preceded it, okay?

  6. It’s true that gay people have gotten new laws passed giving them freedoms they never had. What I don’t understand is why some Christians feel threatened by those new freedoms for gay people.

    I know you’ve written a whole lot about this issue, but still it seems obvious to me that your Christian marriage isn’t threatened by this new phenomenon of gay “marriage.” Just because both use the same word “marriage” doesn’t mean they’re the same exact thing. They may the the same thing in legal or political terms, but that’s my whole point – Christianity isn’t about politics or lawsuits. It’s a whole different spiritual realm.

    You point out that these freedoms for gay people are unprecedented, but that’s no reason not to give gay people their freedoms. Surely Christianity isn’t opposed to change.

    And yes, there are some tough cases in the courts these days like the California bill Matt referred to. On the other hand, there are some pretty easy cases too such as the whole circus with Kim Davis in Kentucky. If Christians would disown hypocrites like Kim Davis, then a majority of liberals would probably support exceptionalism for faith-based colleges.

    But again, Christians need to get out of politics for your own good. Christ ate with tax collectors and associated with fallen women, but you guys can’t bake a cake for a gay wedding? Come on.

  7. Rob says:

    John wrote: “It’s true that gay people have gotten new laws passed giving them freedoms they never had. What I don’t understand is why some Christians feel threatened by those new freedoms for gay people.”

    If you **really** are wondering, read this post:

    America’s new state religion: California bill threatens existence of Christian higher ed

    Quoting from the article (from Biola University’s president:

    “The bill seeks to eliminate the current religious exemption in California that fully protects the freedom of Biola University along with dozens of other California faith-based universities to operate in a manner consistent with our religious mission and faith tenets. The provisions of the proposed bill,” he writes, “represent a dramatic narrowing of religious freedom in California. It would mean schools like Biola would no longer be able to determine for themselves the scope of the religious convictions as applied in student conduct policies, housing and restroom locker facilities, and in other matters of religious expression, and practical campus life. Though the free exercise of religion,” he writes, “is guaranteed by both the US and California constitutions, Senate Bill 1146 would make religious institutions like Biola vulnerable to antidiscrimination lawsuits and unprecedented government policing. The bill,” he concluded, “if it became law, would diminish religious liberty in California higher education. It would unfairly harm faith-based institutions and it would weaken the rich educational diversity of our state.”

  8. Once someone came to me and basically said, “You’re a terrible person for these reasons…” and then went on to make a very long list of all the ways that I act like an introvert rather than an extrovert.

    I do act like an introvert rather than an extrovert. That is because I am one. That is almost certainly based on physical facts about the brain which I cannot possibly change. And that very much did feel like an attack on who I am as a person.

    I don’t think that the ways that introverts behave compared to the ways that extroverts behave is morally wrong, and if someone else comes to me and says that it is, that will probably always feel to me like a personal attack. That doesn’t mean it is — right or wrong, someone may believe that for reasons that have nothing to do with hating me or anyone else. The same kind of thing is likely to be true about gays. Of course there is a difference because a gay person can in fact refrain from gay sex, while I cannot possibly refrain from acting like an introvert, even if I can moderate that behavior. Nonetheless, saying, “The way you feel like acting is intrinsically disordered,” when they cannot stop themselves from feeling like acting that way, probably will always feel like a personal attack.

    I think it is the responsibility of Christians to recognize that unless they share their beliefs, gays are almost inevitably going to feel that way. But it is likewise the responsibility of the gays to realize that many Christians hold their belief because of the teaching of Scripture, or because of natural law reasoning, without that having anything to do with hating anyone.

  9. Tom Gilson says:

    The California bill isn’t in the courts. It’s in the Assembly. It’s not something waiting to be adjudicated, it’s an assault on Christian colleges by outside insurgents holding power over them despite being outsiders.

  10. Tom Gilson says:

    John, first, our view of marriage isn’t a Christian or religious view of marriage. Sure, it’s in agreement with a Christian view, but man-woman marriage has never been unique to Christian-influenced lands.

    Second, since you know I’ve written a lot about this, if you think I’m wrong about that, just go find where I’ve written on it over and over again.

    Third, since we’re not just worried about “Christian marriage,” you can conclude (correctly) that we’re concerned about marriage, period. We’re concerned about it for the sake of couples, kids, and communities. Gay marriage degrades (or more properly is an endorsement of what was already degrading) marriage as a strong, permanent union of two people who come together for themselves and for the children who will be born to them.

    Have I not written that before while you were reading here? Honestly, John, I don’t get how you don’t get it.

  11. Steve says:

    Good article, Tom. My thoughts about same-sex attraction being sinful is that it is sin because it’s the result of the Fall and outside of God’s will, but a distinction might be made between this and deliberate, willful sin if it’s the case that some are born with a tendency toward same-sex attraction, though clearly there are those who are not:
    “For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator…..For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions….” (Rom 1:25, 26)
    It may seem to the people we speak with that we’re splitting hairs if we mention this (and maybe we are), so I don’t know if it’s useful to bring it up early in our conversations or to wait until we can get deeper into it.
    If anyone objects, I would tell them that the same thing can be said about a lot of different sins. We’re not just singling out homosexual behavior. Christians also oppose legalizing gambling and prostitution, but isn’t it funny that no one accuses us of hating gamblers and prostitutes?

  12. Travis Wakeman says:

    @ John

    One of the biggest mistakes that I see commonly repeated is the assumption that what happened with Obergefell was an expansion of the definition of marriage rather than a redefinition of the institution of marriage. The old definition had to be thrown out though, along with any understanding of the teleology (purpose) of marriage that went along with them. The new “consent based definition” is really no more than a legally sanctioned friendship which may or may not have a “sexual” component and is not in any way intrinsically ordered towards family life in any way.

    The redefinition of marriage has in that way “cheapened” the whole of marriage for everyone in the same way as if marriages were “redefined” to “automatically expire in 10 years unless re-upped”.

    It’s really just foundational ideas of the sexual revolution being taken to their logical extremes. We’re reaping a culture with unprecedented rates of divorce and unhappiness. Further redefining marriage to make it more only about the personal fulfillment of the adults involved is only going to make marriage culture in the US worse, which means more broken homes, which means more poorly adjusted children, which means a more dysfunctional society.

  13. Tom Gilson says:

    There’s a fine line there, Steve. I don’t think a temptation to sin is sin.

    Yes, being highly susceptible to this temptation is a condition that’s not right. It’s “disordered;” it’s wrong. It’s a result of the Fall, for sure. But I don’t think susceptibility on that level should be equated with decisions persons make to do wrong; in fact, to do right in spite of uniquely challenging personal pressures can be a sign of character.

    Just to re-emphasize what you’ve wisely said, though, this doesn’t apply to just one thing. We’re all in one disordered condition or another. We all need God’s touch of grace.

  14. Karen Gross says:

    This is one of the best definitions of what “Hate the sin but love the sinner” really means to Christians. I am a Christian who writes articles about controversial topics like abortion and same sex marriage, so I have a few atheist “followers” who follow my postings in order to pick them apart and tell me how wrong I am. Your followers use much cleaner language than mine, unless you do a lot of screening.

    I like your description of Christian love as going deeper to an identity more foundational than the surface attributes such as being gay. Most of the people I speak to see sexual orientation as a part of a person’s deepest identity – possibly because they see no discernible difference between a person’s orientation and the sexual activity that goes with that orientation.

  15. BillT says:

    Further to this subject I think it worth noting that there is another distinction that goes along with the discussion of differing wordviews. As Christians we understand we are created beings and as such the moral admonitions in the Bible are what we live by. That’s a choice we make to obey God’s law and try our best to live within its strictures. Also, since we believe everyone is created by God we believe that his morality is what is best for everyone. And we believe that the society will function best under rules that at least resemble his. However, we don’t believe that people who don’t believe in God have any reason to obey his moral code. Why would they? They have to make choices for themselves and though we may think them unwise that’s still their choice.

    As far as the SCOTUS decision the problem with it isn’t just that it redefined marriage it’s that it undefined marriage. under the court’s reasoning (and I use that term loosely) there is no reason why a father can’t marry his daughter, son, grandfather, pet iguana or all of them. This is what you get when you leave the definition of a bedrock social institution to five lawyers. And not just any lawyers, mind you, but five of the most politically indebted lawyers on earth. Gee, what could go wrong with that?

    And as far as “Hate the sin but love the sinner” that’s a terrible phrase that I hope Christians stop using now and forever. Why? Because it makes it sound like it’s all “those” people who are the sinners. What the reality is, is that the people who we know to be the real sinners are us. It is not “those” people that sin . Our sins are every bit as real and every bit as bad as their’s or anyone on earth. In fact worst since we supposedly should know better and should have access to God’s strength in our lives. Saying we “Hate the sin but love the sinner” makes it sound like it’s everyone else that’s the sinner and that’s decidedly not true and plays into the quite undeserved tone of moral superiority Christians have used, and rightly deserve criticism for, many times too often.

  16. Tom Gilson says:

    Good points, all.

    Another problem with “hate the sin, love the dinner” is that there’s every opportunity to be misunderstood, and hardly any likelihood the listener will get what you intended it to mean. That’s a problem with almost any slogan that tries to pack too much controversial, inside information into took small a space.

    The slogan is true if it’s understood correctly. If you want to be understood you have to explain away all the misunderstandings and explain the real truth. Why not just start with the real truth?

  17. Scott Smith says:

    Thanks for the article, Tom. You also may want to delve into the metaphysical assumptions at work in these 2 worldviews on human nature. And, how do they play into one’s identity in at least 2 senses: 1) one’s personal identity (what makes me me – a metaphysical issue); and 2) one’s sense of identity (which seems to be more of a conceptualization)?

  18. Tom Gilson says:

    Thanks, Scott! What resources would you recommend on these topics?

  19. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Tom Gilson:

    Another problem with “hate the sin, love the dinner” is that there’s every opportunity to be misunderstood, and hardly any likelihood the listener will get what you intended it to mean.

    A typo I believe, but a serendipitous one.

  20. Tom Gilson says:

    …. .. …. ..

    (Spoken in a shorthand language with a much nobler heritage than today’s text-speak.)

  21. That Sunday School Girl says:

    your points are valid. from both aspects , i do not like to see others be brutally disruptive to another persons life. it’s not their life! many of us ( christians ) will protest about how the world will allow homosexuals to have marriage privileges. is that a crime ? i believe we all have the ability to love openly , and be in comfort . without having a pack of wolves ( hateful individuals ) PREACH to them of their wrong doing. as christians we are supposed to encourage the word of god and seek understanding from a foundation. we all have to live life as comfortable as we all know how to . the bible does say and i quote ”
    For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. ” ( 2 Corinthians 5:10 ) . i am very open to anyone life and being hateful is not what god ask if his children . i do respect what this post bestowed in every aspect . i hope you continue to be understanding and open to each person and love them unconditionally . god is love . #TSSG

  22. Tom Gilson says:

    Thanks for sharing. Some of it was pretty confusing. (If you’d like to try again, please do so with a device with a shift key. I gather you didn’t read the discussion guidelines.)

    Anyway, I am strongly opposed to gay marriage. You’ll find that in my book and elsewhere on this site. If an attitude of of love showed through here, then you have just observed the reality that opposing gay marriage is not necessarily hateful, as you seem to think it to be. The hate accusation is usually a stereotype, which is just as wrong in this context as it is in any other.

  23. Kristi says:

    Jesus said “if you have lusted after a woman, you have committed adultery in your heart”. Scripture says that there are Sinful desires. Therefore, same sex desire, IS sinful. Corrupted flesh, that we all have, sins whether we choose it or not. Life experience proves it. The choice we have is whether or not to act on it.

  24. Tom Gilson says:

    Hi, Kristi, and thanks for the comment. I agree there are sinful desires. I agree that same-sex lust is a sinful desire. I don’t agree, however, that a same-sex orientation is necessarily same-sex lust. If that were so, then by the same logic an opposite-sex orientation would necessarily also be same-sex lust, which Jesus wasn’t saying at all.

    I think it’s a lot more accurate to say that a same-sex orientation is a disordered condition, a reflection of the Fall, a result of humankind’s overall alienation and rebellion against God, but not necessarily an act of sin unless the person actually commits the act of lust in his or her heart and/or body.

    But that’s technical language. Let me speak it more simply. Consider the same-sex attracted person who chooses to follow Christ with his or her whole heart, who renounces all ungodly passions, and yet knows on the inside that his or her sexual attractedness is still toward the same sex. If that person has a genuine walk with Christ, then he or she has a genuine walk with Christ, period, just as the straight person who renounces all ungodly passions can have.

  25. Dale Little says:

    I think you may have said this in maybe a different way speaking of different world views, but I think that part of the reason non-Christians think we hate those who we strongly disagree with is because that is human nature for them. If someone does something that they hate, they by nature hate that person, so they can’t really comprehend how Christians, or their God can be any different.

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