Living Without Religion 
 > Table of Contents 
 > > Repertory 
 > > >  The Strange Universe of the Homosexual Christian   en français 

The Strange Universe of the Homosexual Christian

Rand, David

"Those who would outlaw abortion, contraception and same-sex while extolling the family and breeding are themselves the active agents of the destruction of the species."

— Gore Vidal, The Nation, 1991

Considering Christianity's traditional abhorrence of sexual pleasure, and in particular its condemnation of homosexuality, it may seem surprising that a number of Christian churches and organizations have emerged within the gay and lesbian communities. However, the Christian homosexual organization is largely, although not exclusively, an American phenomenon, and can be explained by the particular socio-political conditions in the United States.
Thanks to Athéo, Dean Austin and Robert Feinstein for their comments and suggestions.

A briefer version of this article was published in Free Inquiry magazine, Volume 24, Number 6, Oct./Nov. 2004.

Excerpts in Italian translation are also available: Lo strano universo del cristiano omosessuale


Christianity's Condemnation of Homosexuality

The unequivocal condemnation of homosexuality is a well known and documented aspect of Christian tradition and history. This tradition is in turn rooted in the Judaism out of which Christianity grew. (See, for example, Lauritsen [1]). The Bible contains several explicit condemnations of homosexuality [2][3]. Although historically Islamic societies sometimes displayed a more tolerant attitude towards homosexuality than did Christians and Jews, nevertheless Islamic doctrine also contains such condemnations [4]. Leaders and spokesmen of the three major monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) have made, and continue to make, pronouncements which leave little room for doubt. A few more liberal churches have begun to soften their attitude and even, in a few cases, to recognize same-sex couples and to endorse gay/lesbian rights; however, they remain in the minority and marginal to the anti-gay Christian mainstream.

Given this history, it is perhaps surprising that over recent decades a certain number of Christian organizations have arisen within the gay and lesbian communities. (Several are listed in the Links section below.) Generally speaking, these groups are American or American-based, with a few exceptions. Most are in English-speaking countries.

The American Connection

The growth of gay Christian groups is largely—but not exclusively—an American phenomenon, and is to a great extent the result of the contradictory nature of the American socio-political climate. The United States is a wealthy developed country, with a relatively high average standard of living (although major differences between rich and poor remain), in which the personal liberty of each individual citizen is considered to be of the highest importance. It is also a country whose founding principles, forged during the 18th century Enlightenment, included strict application of the principle of separation of church and state (although a principle which in recent years has been violated significantly and frequently). On the other hand, religiosity, especially Christianity—including its fundamentalist varieties—is much more widespread than in other developed countries, and religious homophobia remains very strong and dangerous. The puritanism and religious fanaticism of the pilgrims of 17th century New England lives on in modern America.

Gay Religious Groups

The Cloak of "Respectability"

Looking for respect in all the wrong places

When a group of people has been stigmatized, anathematized and treated with the most profound hatred and contempt by practically all elements of society (and in particular by those who claim some authority in matters of morality), as homosexuals have been, it is to be expected that many members of that group will attempt to present a very mainstream, conformist image. This desire to wrap oneself in a cloak of "respectability" is probably the most important factor underlying the foundation and growth of gay/lesbian Christian organizations. Given Christianity's notorious record of anti-homosexual repression, the existence of such religious groups among those who should, theoretically at least, know better is regrettable—but it is understandable.

The establishment of gay-positive Christian organizations could be considered an appropriate slap in the face to homophobic Christian traditionalists—fighting fire with fire so to speak. Such groups may also serve a positive support role for individuals having difficulty dealing with their homosexuality because of the homophobia of their religious heritage. However, that role should be temporary, because in the final analysis the negative implications of gay participation in the Christian community outweigh any positive effects.

Gay religionists will sometimes quote John 8:7—"He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone"—in a feeble attempt to deflect the disapproval of Christian homophobes. But this statement is impotent. It is tantamount to an admission of guilt, arguing that the disapproval is justified but should be moderated because all are guilty. It amounts to saying "Be nice". It is difficult to conceive of a weaker defence.

The question must be asked: why would any gay person act so contrary to their own self-interest as to adopt a religion which has been, and continues to be, responsible for teaching everyone to despise homosexuals, and teaching the homosexual himself or herself to wallow in self-hatred and self-pity? (We need not be duped by the disingenuous "love the sinner, hate the sin" rhetoric which some Christians homophobes use to soft-peddle their bigotry. If they were sincere, they would offer at least some support for gay rights in spite of their moral disapproval.)

Some women freely embrace Islam, that most misogynistic of religions, so should gays be any more immune to this kind of error? On the other hand, what is different about gay Christians is that some have established separate organizations—even completely new churches— in their race to adopt the faith of their oppressors. The most important example being the Metropolitan Community Church. The MCC calls itself "a worldwide fellowship of Christian churches with a special outreach to the world's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities" but we may simply call it a gay church, a rogue church which is attempting to reconstruct Christianity sans homophobia.

But if Christianity (or at least many Christian churches) are wrong about homosexuality, as gay Christians claim, is it not reasonable to ask what else is mistaken about that religion? Instead of trying to cut the rot out of the apple, they should first determine whether any part of the apple is not rotten. Is there anything right about Christianity, anything worth preserving? Gay Christians don't even consider these questions. Other religious but non-Christian gays will grant that organized religion in general and Christian institutions in particular are fundamentally flawed, but insist on the importance of "true faith", whatever that is. However, if one accepts things on faith alone, then how do we know that the Christian homophobes are not right after all? If we reject rational thought in favour of faith, then anything goes, including homophobic bigotry.

Faith and Fetish

The fact is that gays have been, and continue to be, psychologically brutalized by the unrelenting Christian obsession with condemning any sexual behaviour whose goal is not specifically one of reproduction. This, coupled with the underlying assumption—made by all the monotheisms—that religious faith is the sine qua non of morality and goodness, constitutes a powerful emotional assault that has taken its toll on those who do not fit the mould.

The word "faith" has, through massive use and misuse, been fetishized. It has become a synonym for goodness, similar to a certain usage of the word "Christian". "He is a person of deep faith", it is said, or "She is a good Christian." Conversely, the assumption is that a person of no religious faith is a person lacking in morals.

But let us examine just what the word "faith" really means. Generically, it is an approximate synonym of confidence, as in, "I have faith (confidence) that my friend will remember my birthday" or of loyalty, as in, "Keep the faith; don't abandon us." But in a religious context, it becomes faith in some unproven phenomenon or supernatural being (such as the mono-god), which of course rests on the confidence that that thing or being exists in the first place. One dictionary[5] defines faith as "Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence". Can one legitimately assert that it is virtuous to believe something on the basis of no evidence whatsoever? And yet that is the connotation which the word "faith" has acquired in modern English: a supreme virtue, based on groundless belief, without which a person's moral character is in serious doubt. What nonsense.

Pride and Shame

Even the popular expression "Gay Pride" is merely the flip side of the shame, shame, shame which homosexuals are taught by Christianity to feel. The expression is meant to be defiant, "in your face", replacing shame with pride, but it does as much to remind us of the shame as to defy it. In reality, neither emotion—shame or pride—is appropriate to the circumstances. A person's sexual orientation is just one detail of their nature, of which one need be neither proud nor ashamed. An expression such as "gay freedom", for example, would be more appropriate because we all want the freedom to be who we are. Pride has nothing to do with it.

Homosexuality in the Bible

There are some who challenge the observation that Christian tradition is solidly homophobic and claim instead that the historical record is more equivocal. John Boswell for example, in his Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), proposed that the Catholic Church displayed a tolerant attitude towards homosexuals up until the 13th century.

When confronted with scriptural condemnations of homosexuality, gay Christians like to fuss over translations and split hairs in order to claim that the Bible only condemns promiscuous homosexual behaviour, or prostitution, or etc. But ultimately, who cares about such subtleties when the traditional interpretation has always been to condemn homosexuality, period? After all, the Bible is just a book. It would be folly to take it—or any book—for the word of some "God". Why should we attach such extraordinary importance to what the Bible says about homosexuality or about any other question? What interest, other than historical and academic, do we have in its pronouncements?

Snap Quiz: Does the Bible condemn homosexuality?

The Ex and the Ex-ex

If hell exists, it exists surely in the so-called "ex-homosexual" movement, of which the organization Exodus[6] is perhaps the best known representative. While most homosexual Christian organizations attempt to construct a Christianity which accepts and welcomes gays and lesbians, the ex-homosexual movement fully endorses the traditional Christian condemnation of homosexuality. This movement, highly permeated with fundamentalist dogma, claims that homosexuality can be cured, or at least controlled, through the assiduous application of Christian faith. This claim is pseudo-scientific at best, as all attempts to change sexual orientation have consistently failed ever since they were first attempted decades ago.

Exodus and their ilk use the standard Christian jargon of "love" and even "respect" for the homosexual person, but this veneer of niceness is thin indeed. The underlying contempt is obvious.

The "ex-homosexuals" of Exodus and similar groups are a pathetic lot indeed. They occasionally make headlines when they fall off the wagon, so to speak, making them ex-ex-homosexuals. The 1993 documentary film "One Nation Under God"[7] features two men who were leaders of Exodus and left the organization after falling in love with each other.

Homosexuality and the Catholic Church

No discussion of the twin issues of homosexuality and Christianity would be complete without special attention to the situation of the Roman Catholic Church, partly because of its central importance in Christendom, but also because of the nature—in particular, obligatory celibacy—of the Catholic priesthood. The issues of sexual and physical child abuse perpetrated by members of the Catholic clergy and "pedophilia" among priests have been very much in the news recently. As some observers have pointed out, most of the young males involved are adolescents, so a more proper term would be "ephebophilia". But even with that correction most people seem to have missed the essential point: When an entire caste of men—the Catholic clergy—is accorded divine authority but denied a rather basic human need—sexuality—then attempts to fulfill the forbidden need through abuse of that authority become inevitable. What else can one reasonably expect?

A priest is ostensibly God's representative in his parish, and priests regularly use such power in order to manipulate and control their parishioners. It should come as no surprise that some will use it to obtain sexual favours. Combine this with the Christian condemnation of sexual pleasure in general and homosexuality in particular, and the fact that that condemnation is motivated by baseless dogma, and we have an explosive situation which the Catholic hierarchy has, until recently, been able to cover up and control.

Catholic apologists wring their hands and condemn the gay "infiltration" of the clergy, but their protestations are hypocritical. The high proportion of gay men amongst Catholic priests has been an open secret for a very long time. It is a little late now for finger-pointing. Nevertheless, it must be recognized that those priests who have sexual relations, and in particular homosexual relations, are complicit in the Church's hypocrisy. Even the ordinary gay man or lesbian who is simply a member of the Catholic Church needs to start asking himself or herself some serious moral questions—not questions of sexual morality but rather considerations of intellectual honesty and integrity.

As for the association of gay Catholics known as Dignity, the name itself is a bad joke. Roman Catholic authorities remain dogmatically opposed to any open, honest expression of homosexuality: the members of Dignity are thus in a false position, pretending to be Catholic when they are in fact utterly rejected by the Church.

No Excuse

There is a scene from the 1994 British film Priest[8] in which the young, newly recruited, gay priest, who is the film's principal character, and an older, world-weary priest are in conversation, after an evening meal when everyone else has left the table. The older man offers some very pertinent advice to his enthusiastic but troubled young colleague: Don't repeat my mistake, don't squander the opportunity to live a full life. His meaning is clear: he is probably homosexual himself, or at least has lived a life of personal denial because of his choice of profession. When a man of his age was young, societal homophobia in Britain and many other countries was much stronger than today and the priesthood may have appeared to him as an escape from that repressive atmosphere into a safer, all-male milieu, without the pressure to be heterosexual. But today, when the situation for gays has improved considerably (no thanks to Christianity), a young gay man has no such excuse. In the very late 20th century and now early in the 21st, can we have any sympathy for a gay man who would be foolish enough to become a Catholic priest? Can he possibly be unaware of the absurdity of his career choice and the anguish that it can be expected to bring him?


To the naïve who would attempt to reform the Catholic Church—for example by asking that priests be allowed to marry, or even more improbably, that the Church accept homosexuality—we must put the question: Even if that were possible, why bother? What is the point in attempting to reform an institution which is, and always has been fundamentally obscurantist, and whose dogmatic basis is egregious nonsense? The only reasonable response is to abandon the Catholic Church (and other churches) and allow it to wither, just as it withered in its former stronghold, France, when legislation adopted in 1905 imposed the separation of church and state and cut off state funding of priests' salaries.

The Silver Lining

By their desperate quest for respectability, Christian homosexuals have completely missed the major advantage of finding oneself in a marginal position with respect to the rest of society. The alienation and rejection to which gays have typically been subjected has a flip-side, the cloud has a silver lining so to speak: a unique opportunity to observe and criticize more objectively the majority from which we have been excluded; a view from the outside, offering the possibility of rethinking that which most people take for granted.

Forced by personal circumstance to question the sexual norm of obligatory heterosexuality, the homosexual can turn that marginal position to his or her advantage by calling into question other preconceived notions of normalcy, such as the "normalcy" of religious faith, or of patriotism, or of commonly accepted notions in any sphere of activity: political, social, artistic, aesthetic, etc.

Instead, the Christian homosexual squanders this opportunity and rushes headlong in the opposite direction, straight (pun intended) into the arms of banality and conformism. Their obsession with proving that the Bible is not really homophobic serves only to legitimize the biblical fetishism which is a major cause of our problems.

A friend expressed this sentiment in the following words:

This oppressive awareness of my "difference", although the cause of so much suffering, nevertheless permitted me to see the world in a new light, to develop a particular sensibility which has been very useful in my search for a personal philosophy and in my life in general. It has given me the ability to think more independently and critically.

Notes and References

  1. .Religious Roots of the Taboo on Homosexuality —  by John Lauritsen
  2. .From the Old Testament: "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination." Leviticus 18:22, "If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them." Leviticus 20:13, Bible, King James Version
  3. .From the New Testament: "For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet." Romans 1:26-27, Bible, King James Version
  4. .Homophobia in Islam: "Islam considers homosexuality as a sexual deviation leading to a perverted act which goes against the natural order Allah intended for mankind. It is a corruption of the man's sexuality and a crime against the opposite sex. Therefore, the Islamic shari'ah strictly prohibits the practice of this perverted act. This is mentioned in many places in the holy Qur'an." from Islamic Ruling Concerning Homosexuality. The author of this article goes on to explain that the prescribed punishment is one hundred whiplashes for the man who has never married, death by stoning for the married man, and possibly death for both partners, Praise Allah!
  5. .
  6. .Exodus International
  7. .One Nation Under God, a 1993 film directed by T. Maniaci and F.M. Rzeznik
  8. .Priest, film