Is someone homophobic if they recoil when they see gay couples expressing affection? Someone recently confessed to me that he had done just that. He had encountered a couple unexpectedly and instinctively said, “Ewww.” He said he felt bad that the two apparently had heard him and looked embarrassed. He didn’t intend to hurt anyone’s feelings. But, now he fears he’ll be castigated for his reaction. He’ll be labeled a homophobe.
Of course, this man’s anxiety is founded. Though homophobia literally means fear of homosexuals, many gay rights groups define the term quite broadly. In fact, according to one website, anyone who has negative feelings or attitudes towards non-heterosexual behavior can be classified homophobic.
You see, gay rights proponents believe the only reason people reject homosexuality is because society has conditioned them to do so. They would argue that this gentleman recoiled because he was exposed to only heterosexual couples as a child. Then, a religious institution probably taught him homosexuality is wrong. And now, the man has a full-blown case of homophobia – a dangerous condition that may eventually lead to discrimination or violence.
This view explains why gay groups lobby so hard to include same-sex representation in entertainment and school curriculum. Every year, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, or GLAAD, grades television networks according to how many gay characters they include in their programs. A low grade this year caused CBS to add gay characters to three of its regular shows. You see, gay activists understand that words and images matter. And, they realize that if they can just bombard society with enough images of gay couples, homosexuality eventually will become normalized. It will lose its eww-factor.
But, what if our revulsion at gay behavior isn’t cultural? What if, as Scripture says, we’re made in God’s image – male and female? And, what if, as orthodox Christianity has always taught, heterosexual union reflects Trinitarian love? Well then, revulsion at homosexuality is innate. We recoil because we instinctively know that gay union perverts the image of God we humans were made to reflect. That doesn’t mean our consciences can’t be dulled or reprogrammed. But, it does mean the stakes surrounding gay acceptance are much higher than many would have us believe.
You see, God gives us symbols because He knows that without them, we can’t comprehend transcendent truths. If you’ve ever felt the egg analogy doesn’t adequately explain the Trinity, that’s because it doesn’t. God gave us the symbol of marital union to explain the love and life of the Trinity. But, if we lose this symbol – or it becomes perverted in our imaginations – we’ll lose our ability to rightly apprehend this spiritual reality.
So, though we should strive to treat all people with respect, I don’t believe so-called homophobia poses a great threat to society; gay acceptance, however, does.