Saturday, December 11, 2010

Homophobia and Hope

It's disheartening to hear Religious Right figures promoting homophobia in the name of God. Fortunately, more and more people of faith are recognizing that homophobia is wrong and that LGBT people are human beings. Recently, I came across three accounts of people who abandoned the homophobia of their prior religious upbringing, opting instead to become advocates for inclusion and justice. If these people can transcend religious homophobia, there's hope for many more.

The first story centers around Symon Hill, a Christian writer and associate director of the UK think tank Ekklesia. According to an article in Pink News, Hill plans to walk from Birmingham to London in 2011 to repent for his past homophobia. Along the way, he will speak at various churches to encourage LGBT inclusion among Christians. Several pro-LGBT organizations have endorsed his walk, including Inclusive ChurchCourage UK, the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, and Ekklesia.

Hill told Pink News that homophobia is sinful and that Christians are called to support justice.

“I have struggled for years with issues of sexuality – through prayer, reflection, personal experience and reading the Bible. These struggles have led me to the conclusion that it is not homosexuality, but homophobia, that is sinful and contrary to the message of Christ . . . Many churches continue to reject loving same-sex relationships and to oppose equality. Others have failed to speak out due to a misplaced desire for unity. Given the hurt and abuse involved, minor changes are not enough. As Christians, we are called to take a stand against injustice.”
The second story involves story involves Bishop Richard Davis, pastor of the Orlando-based Church of Healing and Prosperity. In a December 4th article in the Orlando Sentinel, Davis discusses his prior homophobia and the epiphany he had about the LGBT community. Raised in a black Pentecostal church that believed gay people would suffer eternal damnation, Davis retained that homophobia when he entered the ministry as an adult. A lesbian friend opened his eyes to the importance of LGBT inclusion, which he now fosters in the black religious community through interfaith discussion forums.

The final story comes from the blog of Christy Frink, who has rejected the homophobia she absorbed from her Southern Baptist upbringing. LGBT friends and exposure to new ideas led her to accept homosexuality as a natural variant of human sexuality, a stark contrast to her earlier beliefs. The controversy surrounding Lisa Howe at Belmont University has galvanized Christy into confronting homophobic discrimination.

These stories give me hope. Religious homophobia need not poison people forever, so long as their empathy allows them to recognize LGBT people as fellow human beings. If these three people, raised in homophobic religious environments, can abandon intolerance and embrace justice, perhaps other people of faith can do the same.

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