Give Up Your Stereotypes, Not Your Christian Convictions

Many hurtful stereotypes surround those who identify as gay or lesbian. Giving up stereotypes is good, but that doesn't mean you have to give up your Christian convictions too.

Many years ago I was in a mosque, and I was listening to the testimony of three women who shared how they converted from Christianity to Islam. Something struck me as particularly interesting about all their testimonies. They followed a pattern. They said something like, 

“I grew up in a very conservative Christian home, and I was told that Muslims are very dangerous people, Islam is a dangerous religion, and most Muslims are actually misogynistic, treat women badly, and engage in violence. I was taught Muslims are evil, dangerous, and to stay away from them. Then one day, I met a Muslim. He wasn’t at all what I thought. He was friendly, kind, and respectful to me as a woman. He wasn’t in any way degrading towards me. I realized all my stereotypes were mistaken. Now I hold a more accurate view of what Muslims are like. Frankly, this Muslim was kind of cute. We started dating, ended up getting married, and I became a Muslim.”

What strikes me strange about this whole story is that while it’s great this person has changed their stereotypes and now sees Muslims as kind, respectful, and largely unthreatening (I personally have many Muslim friends and have no concerns about them), these women completely changed their theology. They adopted Islam as true and Christianity as false simply because they changed their attitudes towards Muslims. This seamed bizarre to me. 

The proper way to handle a shift in your attitude towards people is to simply accept them and move on with your life. There’s no need to change your religious convictions in order to treat them like any other person that you respect. That’s why I’m mystified by the trend of some Christians to abandon their Christian theology and adopt pro-gay theology, then go back to the Bible to try and reinterpret the biblical passages to make them sound gay-affirming. This was the same pattern I saw in the Christian-to-Muslim converts. 

Christians adopting a pro-gay theology say something like this, “I grew up in a conservative Christian home. I was told by my parents and by my church that homosexual people are dirty and wicked and engage in acts that the Bible describes as abominations. We shouldn’t trust them. One day, though, I met this gay person at Starbucks who I was working with, and it turns out he was nothing like I thought homosexuals were like.” 

Or a mother might say, “My son came out and said that he was gay, so since I have a gay person in my life, I realize what a gay person is like.” Or maybe a person says, “My sister came out as a lesbian.” So now, this conservative Christian has a lesbian in their life, and they begin to realize that these gay and lesbian people are not the way they had initially conceived them to be. They are not mean, dirty, or wicked. They’re just like every one of us. 

Indeed, a lot of these people have endured a tremendous amount of persecution and discrimination. So as a result, people who have a shift in stereotypes about gays and lesbians and now consider them kind and friendly people like anybody else, now adopt pro-gay theology, go back into the Bible to the passages which allegedly claim that homosexual sex is wrong, and try to reinterpret them to make them gay-affirming. This completely puzzles me. 

I’ve seen this happen with members of my family, my friends, and even Christian biblical scholars. Because of a shift in their attitudes towards homosexuals, they’ve now gone back to try and reinterpret the biblical text. What’s strange about this is that there’s no need to do that. Just because you’ve had a shift in your attitudes towards a certain group of people, it doesn’t mean that all the evidence that was in favor of an orthodox understanding of biblical theology is now false and all of a sudden pro-gay theology is true. There’s no need for such a radical shift. 

The proper thing to do when you realize your stereotypes are mistaken is just to see this group of people as people who are made in the image of God, who are kind, thoughtful, and have hopes and dreams just like everybody else, and treat them with dignity and respect. Yet, this is exactly what I don’t see happening very often. These people are jettisoning their theology. 

You don’t have to abandon your biblical theology, adopt pro-gay theology, and try to reinterpret the biblical text to become gay-affirming simply because you’ve now had a shift in your attitude towards gays and lesbians. Have your shift occur, because those who identify as gay or lesbian are deserving of dignity and respect, and leave it at that. Keep your theology. Don’t give up your Christian convictions.   

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Alan Shlemon

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