Notes from underground

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Archive for the tag “homophobia”

When is bullying acceptable?

A few days ago there was a campaign to get people to wear purple to show their disapproval of bullying of gay people. I agree with the sentiments of my Facebook friend Joseph Slonović when he said Facebook (1) | Joseph Slonović:

I don’t own a single item of purple clothing. And really, I don’t want to. But do take a moment, folks, to reflect on the disgusting bullying and intolerance that has led so many gay teens to resort to suicide — especially lately. It’s terrible, and it should be taken seriously.

But I disagreed with him when he went on to say

And as my friend Lucie pointed out: “can we stop calling it ‘bullying?’ The term seems too benign. Let’s start calling it what is is – bigotry, homophobia, gay-bashing, an epidemic of hate crimes. These aren’t the actions of a few rogue ‘bullies.'”

I disagree about not calling it bullying. Bullying is bad, regardless of who the victims are, or the reason for it. By not calling it bullying you create a perception that certain kinds of bullying are socially acceptable, or at least less socially unacceptable than others.

Is calling it “bigotry” an improvement?

Bigotry is intolerance of any ideas other than ones own, especially about things like religion, race or politics.

I would say it was quite a big and serious step to pass from bigotry to bullying; from rejecting another person’s ideas to actively hurting, persecuting or indimidating them (which is what “bullying” means). In what way can that be described as “benign”?

Calling it “homophobia” rather than bullying singles out one class of victim, and makes it easier to ignore other classes. Can one have a scale of phobias? If bullying is too “benign” for homophobia, is it acceptable for xenophobia? Is it more evil to bully homosexuals than to bully illegal immigrants? Or to bully Somali immigrants just because they are immigrants, regardless of their legal status?

I think bullying is bad, no matter who the victims are. And creating a hierarchy of victims smacks of, well, bigotry.

Are you homophobic?

I came across this quiz about “Are you homophobic?”

“Homophobic” is not a word I like very much, partly because I’m a language pedant, and believe it should mean “fear of the same”, and therefore be partly the opposite of “xenophobic”, which means fearing strangers.

Another reason that I don’t like it is that it is often used as an insult or accusation — it is used by bigots to accuse other people of bigotry.

But I accept that the way the word is generally used nowadays, it means to regard homosexuals with fear and loathing.

So I took the test, partly to see what the result would be, but also partly to see what the test would be. Some of these tests are themselves a manifestation of bigotry, as I mentioned above.

Here’s the result:

And you’re not homophobic in the least 🙂


You Are 18% Homophobic


You’re open minded, tolerant, and accepting.

Before reading any further, I suggest that you take the test — first to see what the test thinks of you, and secondly to see what you think of the test.

I think that the test is fairly accurate, and measures “homophobia” as it is generally defined today, that is, the degree to which people regard homosexual people with fear and loathing.

So what do I mean when I say that the word “homophobic” is sometimes used by bigots to accuse other people of bigotry?

This is also related to being a language pedant, but it is about things that are rather more important than the etymology of “homophobic”.

People sometimes ask “Is homosexuality a sin?”

And my answer is “No”.

Homosexuality is a sexual orientation, as people say nowadays. Sexual orientation means what people find sexually attractive. People are homosexual if they find people of the same sex sexually attractive. From the point of view of Christian morality, finding people sexually attractive, whether they are of the same or the opposite sex, is not a sin. What is a sin is to allow that to develop into lust, and possibly sexual activity with another person. What is sinful is not homosexuality, but fornication and adultery.

And as a Christian, I believe that if I perform such acts, or even dwell on lustful thoughts, whether about people of the opposite sex or the same sex, those are sins that I must confess.

There are lots of people who fornicate or commit adultery, with people of the same sex or the opposite sex. Should I shun such people and avoid them socially? Should I refuse to work with such people because they are sinners? No, because I am a sinner too.

And why should we regard it as necessary to shun someone who commits adultery with someone of the same sex, but not those who commit adultery with someone of the opposite sex?

If I am to shun and avoid anyone for being a sinner, then I must first of all shun and avoid myself. Orthodox Christians pray frequently during Lent, “Yea, O Lord and King! Grant me to see my own transgressions and not to judge my brother.”

We are not to engage in the relatively undemanding activity of confessing other people’s sins. Nor are we to excuse our own sins as minor, and regard those of others as much more serious. Again, as Orthodox Christians we pray before receiving the holy communion, “I believe, O Lord, and I confess that Thou art truly the Christ, the Son of the living God, who camest into the world to save sinners, of whom I am first“.

Jesus did not shun notorious sinners, and was criticised for failing to do so. He met socially with social outcasts like Zacchaeus, and if he, who was sinless, could do that, how can I, who am the first of sinners, refuse to do so on account of my supposed moral superiority?

One of the questions in the quiz concerned same-sex marriage. I believe that such a thing is ontologically impossible, but I won’t go into that here. I’ve dealt with that in some detail in another blog post on the theology of Christian marriage.

But I will say that that concerns same-sex marriage, or homosexual marriage. People often talk loosely of “gay marriage”, but that is not the same thing at all. There is nothing that I know to prevent gay people from marrying, and some have. It might even be possible for two gay people to marry each other. They might need to think about it carefully, and consider the difficulties that there might be in such a relationship. As a limerick puts it:

There was a young queer of Khartoum
who took a lesbian up to his room
they argued all night
over who had the right
to do what, and with what, and to whom.

But marriage is never plain sailing all the time, and even marriages when both parties are heterosexual often end in divorce.

Another question about words and meanings is raised by the term “gay lifestyle” which some people bandy about.

It’s a strange term, because I doubt very much that there is such a thing as a “gay lifestyle” any more than there is such a thing as a “heterosexual lifestyle”. Gay people can have as wide a variety of interests and engage in as wide a range of activities as heterosexual people. Some gay people are promiscious, and some are not, just as some heterosexual people are promiscuous and some are not. Some gay people are celibate and some are not, just as some heterosexual people are celibate and some are not.

There is, however, one exception to this.

There are gay subcultures, and among these subcultures, there is something that could be called a “gay lifestyle”, but it is important to realise that only a small minority of gay people identify with such subcultures or participate in their activities.

There was a time when homosexual activity was illegal in South Africa, as it was in many other countries. And in those days there was a gay subculture, which had the rather romantic aura of a persecuted minority. It had its own argot, and even the word “gay” was not known to people outside the subculture, probably not even to homosexual people outside the subculture. What drew them together was not just the fact of being gay but the fact of being persecuted, and they had that in common with the communist and liberal and black nationalist subcultures of those days.

Some (not all) members of the gay subcultures were actvists, and they wanted the laws against homosexual activity repealed. And under our democratic constitution those laws have been repealed, and it is illegal to discriminate against people on the grounds of sexual orientation, though I’m not sure that that provision of the constitution is as fully observed as it might be, nevertheless, it is there and can be appealed to.

One of the main arguments for the repeal of the laws against homosexual activity was that the law should not concern itself with what was done by consenting adults in the privacy of their bedrooms, and eventually those laws were repealed, as they have been in many other countries.

But some “gay activists” went further.

There was an Anglican bishop of Johannesburg, Timothy Bavin, who after some years left and became Bishop of Portsmouth. He was unmarried, and a group of gay activists decided that he was gay, and began a campaign of actively persecuting him and demanding that he “come out”.

I have no idea whether he was gay or not, but from what I do know of him, he believed that he was called by God to celibacy, and he was abused by a group of “gay activists” who were little more than fascist bullies.

And it seems to be somewhat dishonest to say on the one hand that one’s sexual orientation is one’s own business and that what one does in one’s own bedroom is not the concern of the law and anyone else, and then to go flaunting one’s sexual orientation in “gay pride” parades, and demand that other people flaunt theirs by “coming out”, and persecuting them if they do not. There is homophobic bigotry, and there is gay activist bigotry, but the so-called “gay lifestyle” is characteristic of only a small minority of gay people. It is the bigots and fascist bullies, on both sides, who make the most noise.

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Synchroblog

This post has been linked to the Synchroblog for October 2010: Same-sex marriage synchroblog | Khanya. Click on the link to see the other posts in the synchroblog.

Postscript

After the US Supreme court approved of homosexual marriage, there was another wave of bigoted comments from both those who approved and those who disapproved. Here’s what someone else posted on that For He is Good and Loves Mankind: The Church, the Culture, Tolerance, Repentance and Love. Wisdom! Let us attend.

Weasel words: "homophobic"

Julie Bindel: A Christian group’s campaign to protect the ‘freedom’ to be homophobic is grossly hypocritical:

I am all for freedom of speech, as long as it does not favour one person or group over the other. If it is deemed acceptable for Christians to say that homosexuality is a sin, for example, but not a person interviewing you for a job in a local authority, then that is unfair and hypocritical. So why on earth was a so-called ‘free speech protection’ clause added to the new offence of ‘incitement to homophobic hatred’ last May? It was to pander to Christian and other religious folk, and reads: ‘… the avoidance of doubt, the discussion or criticism of sexual conduct or practices or the urging of persons to refrain from or modify such conduct or practices shall not be taken of itself to be threatening or intended to stir up hatred.’

Julie Bindel’s article shows precisely why such a protection clause is needed, because her article is grossly Christianophobic, and is calculated to stir up hatred against Christians. If it is unfair to favour one group or person over another, why should the law favour Christianophobes?

Christians have generally believed that fornication and adultery are sins, and documents such as the New Testament urge people to abstain from them. Julie Bindel appears to believe that this should be “taken of itself to be threatening or intended to stir up hatred”.

A person interviewing someone for a job in a local authority, however, has no business asking people about their sexual practices or conduct if these are not illegal, even if the interviewer is a Christian or a member of any other group that happens to believe that fornication and adultery are sinful.

This applies whether the fornication or adultery is committed with someone of the same sex or the opposite sex. A person interviewing someone for a job with a local authority should be concerned primarily with the interviewee’s qualifications and ability to do the job. Unless their sexual conduct is likely to interfere with that (such as a record of sexual harassment of fellow-workers, clients or customers), their sexual conduct should not concern the interviewer.

In Christian ethics hating other people is as much a sin as fornication or adultery, as is inciting hatred against other people. That doesn’t prevent Christians from hating other people, any more than it prevents them from committing fornication and adultery. Urging people to refrain from or modify such conduct is not itself an act of hatred or incitement to hatred, no matter how much people like Julie Bindel may misrepresent it. And the very fact that people miosrepresent it as such is itself an incitement to hatred and shows that such protection is needed.

The use of such arguments shows that the word “homophobic” can itself be used to incite hatred, and has become a weasel word that means nothing.

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