Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Are Evangelicals Fixated on Homosexuality?

That's a question being posed by Tony Campolo. He also believes, "Sigmund Freud would have something to say about the ways in which we evangelicals seem to be fixated on homosexuality." Unless you live under a rock, it would be pretty hard not to notice that fact, and fixation is putting it mildly.

Campolo says he became aware of this fixation during two dozen interviews he recently did on Christian radio to promote his new book Letters to a Young Evangelical. Although his book has 21 chapters, he had to spend at least 80% of his time focusing on the few pages that dealt with homosexuality. Here's an excerpt of how those interviews went:
The primary focus of the questioning during these interviews focused on my assertions, based on my own research and a survey of literature on the subject, that nobody has come up with a conclusive explanation of what causes a homosexual orientation, and that it develops so early in the bio-physical and social development of children that it's practically impossible that it could be something that is deliberately chosen. It seemed to me that the interviewers were not willing to accept what I had to say, and wanted me to commit to one of two other options that I believe to be erroneous. The first was the suggestion that the homosexual orientation is the result of poor socialization. This is the commonly held belief among those evangelicals who head up ministries that propose to “deliver” homosexuals and make them into heterosexuals. The most cited version is that a boy overly identifies with a dominant mother, while his father is either absent from the household or is a somewhat weak personality. This theory puts already upset and confused parents of gays on unnecessary guilt trips.

The other theory often proposed in these interviews was that being homosexual is somehow the result of trauma resulting from the gay person being sexually molested as a child.

The reasons for these beliefs were all too obvious to me. If either of these theories had validity, then it could be said that homosexuals who wanted to change could do so by making the decision to be open to the work of God in their lives and getting some good Christian counseling. When I questioned such conclusions, the interviewers usually came back at me by claiming that if I did not accept what they were saying, then I must be implying that the homosexual orientation was inborn. That, to them, was unthinkable because accordingly, this would lead to the assumption that God created homosexuals the way they are, and that we should accept them as such. Over and over, I would have to repeat that nobody knows definitively what establishes same-sex attraction in persons - and again I would have to assert that what we do know is that it is practically never the result of any conscious decision.
Sadly, as Campolo points out, evangelicals have little to offer in the way of "positive suggestions" for those who are struggling with being homosexual in a homophobic world.

This fixation not only hurts homosexuals and their families, it's also tarnishing organized religion's image. More from Campolo:
In many instances, those in this new generation are even reluctant to accept being called evangelicals. They sense that the label “evangelical” is commonly thought to be synonymous with right-wing politics and suggests a gay-bashing, anti-environmentalist, anti-feminist, and pro-war mindset. Instead, they are increasingly calling themselves Red Letter Christians. This name, of course, associates them with those verses in scripture that record the words that Jesus spoke, which in many Bibles are printed in red. That I affirm this designation and promote this new label in my book often greatly disturbs my interviewers. They quickly remind me that Jesus never mentioned homosexuality. “That’s right!” I respond. “He most likely maintained ancient Jewish laws on the matter, but condemning gays was not on His big-ten hit list, while attacking judgmental religious people was.” [emphasis added]
Jesus did talk about unconditional love, humility, forgiveness, turning the other cheek, and love for one's enemies, but the one thing Jesus talked about more than anything was helping the poor. That tells me it's time for our country to fixate on social concerns and move beyond this absorption we have with homosexuality.

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