Yesterday, as I imagine happens at many places, a person came to my university, and for 6 hours or so, talked about "thousands of ex-homosexuals experiencing the love of Jesus Christ" and about how one can not be gay.

It was probably one of the most ugly scenes I have ever seen, with people yelling, screaming (both sides) cursing, etc.

My question is as follows: It is my understanding that an important christian ideal is love (i.e. not hate at minimum) one's fellow man, and that this is ace tenet of the religion.

Making a small assumption, I would assume that many people that were protesting, cursing at, yelling at, etc, the person that came to say his piece were incited to hate the individual that came.

While I am not making light of the way that both the new and old testament speak about homosexuality, at the same time, it prompts the question: Why is causing so many people to hate (something that is a core tenet, and a basic principle found throughout the gospels) worth what is honestly a very slight chance of changing their sexuality (something that is not mentioned in the gospels at all as far as I can tell)?

Am I missing something, or is this behavior not religiously justifiable?

Disclaimer: I don't know very much about Christianity, and therefore might be making false assumptions. Please correct me if that is the case.

  • 3
    From your description the speaker was Christian, so the protesters weren't. Is your question about the behaviour of the protesters? Or are you implying that because some people might decide to protest against a viewpoint, that viewpoint should not be expressed by Christians? Mar 22 '12 at 20:26
  • @DJClayworth actually, that may be an over-simplification; I personally know faithful Christians who have actively protested against such bigotry (and it genuinely is bigotry, please see the word's definition). Christianity is complex; it is not correct to assume that someone who identifies as Christian necessarily agrees with you on these complicated issues.
    – Marc Gravell
    Mar 22 '12 at 21:18
  • @DJClayworth, I believe the protesters were of all religions.
    – soandos
    Mar 22 '12 at 23:47
  • You are right Marc, and I apologize for the assumption. But the questioner seems to be asking why the speaker made their appearance, rather than why there was noisy protest. The answers seem to be explaining reasons for Christian protest rather than for a Christian speaking. Mar 23 '12 at 1:23
  • 1
    Any downvoters care to comment?
    – soandos
    Mar 23 '12 at 18:24

The motivations for protests against homosexuality differ based on the group, and as such the answers must be tailored to the groups. It should also be mentioned that overall (meaning as a percentage) relatively few Christians tend to take part in these protests, for precisely the reason you state.

Furthermore, there are several Christian denominations that actively support homosexuality. The Metropolitan Community Church, for example, is a denomination that is in many ways founded on the idea idea of being gay positive. Other denominations, such as the more liberal parts of the Anglican Communion (i.e. the Episcopal Church in the US) actively support and encourage the lifestyle, although this splits the church.

Because I do not know what group is doing the protest at your school, let me break down the motivations of a few that do.

Hate (e.g. Non-Reflective Christians)

I would argue the largest body of gay-haters are, as you say, Christians who haven't read the Scripture. Remember that for many people, Christianity is a cultural thing, not a spiritual thing. Homosexuals are different (if you'll forgive the pun.) For many people, homosexuality represents a threat to the established order, and if there is one thing many people hate, it is change. For centuries, many "Christians" also "knew" that white people were better than black people. There were even sermons that pointed out how Ham and Caanan (who I guess must have been black) was cursed by God (well, Noah really, but Noah speaking for God, I guess). As such, by reading verses out of context, one could conveniently ignore texts like "In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek,"... etc...

But what such hatred did do is to serve the preservation of the culture. People who don't want to change will naturally seek to preserve it by any means possible. There are "scientific," "cultural," and "historical" arguments. Note: They may even be valid. But the motivation is important, and if it is not done out of a God given spirit, despite the veneer of Christianity, it is not Christian.

It should be said here that Jesus never claimed that "preserving the culture" was his mission. His mother (in Luke 1) exults in the fact that old order will be turned upside down. He himself also says in Luke 12:

49 “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed! 51 Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. 52 From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

Fear (e.g. Westboro Baptist Church)

Fred Phelps is a minister who believes that the judgment of God is being visited on the world because of homosexuals. He and his church are almost universally condemned across the Christian spectrum. Their preferred method of "being faithful to the Gospel" as they see it is to find high profile, sad events, like military funerals or the funerals of well known people, and hold up signs tht say things like "God hates fags." These people protest out of fear - not necessarily of homosexuals per se - but out of fear that a totally just God will visit punishment on the country. They misread texts like Luke 11:31 saying that the USA is worse than Sodom, and that in the final judgement, God will visit destruction upon us all.

Again, it should be made clear that this is not biblical. As 1 John states (ch 4)

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love ... God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

In Ancient Rome, there were laws against atheism for this exact same reason - fear that a vengeful god would destroy the town for gross acts of sacriliege by any who would deny the gods' existence. Initially, because Jews and Christians only believed in one God, they were branded atheists and punished accordingly.

Love (e.g. Exodus International)

Finally, there is a Christian motivation for the sentiment, if not the tactic (sorry, protests don't change minds) of persuading people "not to be gay." From the website of Exodus International:

Many settle for so much less than what God intended. Perhaps you are one of them. But the Good News of the Gospel is we can be restored and reconciled to the MORE we were created to experience. God came to bring us life and life MORE abundantly

First off, please understand that Exodus International is extremely controversial. Many, many Christians would disavow it**, but it is worth looking at a motivation that really is grounded biblically. In their estimation, homosexuality damages the individual - it is an oppression from which an individual can and should be freed. Much like an alcoholic should be freed from the prison of drink, so a homosexual, in their estimation, should be freed from the "stunted growth" of a homosexual lifestyle.

**Update: Recently, Exodus International has disavowed itself of any conversion therapy approaches, meaning that it does not believe that any proclivities will necessarily disappear. They continue to stand with gays, however, in resisting the impulse to act on the desires, and do so with love, compassion, and empathy.

Love, it should be remembered, does that which is in the best interests of its target. It is more than being nice. When I stop my son and my daughter from doing things that hurt them, that is love. That is the motivation out of which Exodus International operates, and I argue, the real reason why people hate it so much - because it actually is trying to be Christian. It isn't borne out of fear or hate, nor is it a caricature of faith - it is people who genuinely want to be Christian. People don't hate counterfeit three dollar bills - they hate the genuine thing.

Finally, a personal note. I was engaged in a homosexual relationship for many months after college. I do not claim to speak on behalf of all gays, and I won't even argue that my experience was typical. I will tell you that for me (and I repeat FOR ME) homosexuality was ultimately a trap. I liked the companionship, and the relationship was actually quite positive. For a young man to be involved in a deep romantic relationship for the first time in my life, it was highly pleasurable.

But I am glad I was not allowed to stay in that relationship. I eventually had a heterosexual relationship and even children. The joy of those relationships is, frankly, far more than I could have imagined when I was "stuck" in that homosexual one. Most people go through a homosexual phase, but continue to grow. I, personally, believe that phase holds many people - or at least held me - back. If I can help a person grow, I will.

Tatically speaking, a protest is not the way to do that. Jesus did command Christians to love everyone, and holding a sign is not love. I do not advocate for laws banning homosexuality (whether or not marriage is state thing or a church thing is not this question in any event). And if you ask me, do I hate homosexuals? I can clearly answer no. But will I do everything in my power to help someone who is, in my estimation, trapped? Love compels me to say, Of Course.

  • 2
    That's why I say the protest is such a bad tactic. 1.) It doesn't hit your intended audience. 2.) You don't change someone by yelling, you do so by forming a relationship. What is NOT helpful is a society that tries to nurture homosexuality as an "equally valid" lifestyle choice. Its not. For one who believes that it is inferior, the "protest" is equivalent to hold up a picture of blackened lung saying, "Smoking Kills!" On the good side, it helps counteract the Marlboro Man image, but on the dark side, it rarely convinces the people who are trapped Mar 22 '12 at 12:28
  • 3
    What is effective is being the person who will quietly come along aside and walk humbly in support. The protests are mostly to counteract the culture that tries to sell it as equally valid. Mar 22 '12 at 12:29
  • 3
    Re your assertion "Its not" (comments), it should IMO be emphasised that this is your VIEW, unlike the smoking/alcoholism examples used for comparison, where there actually is a clear empirical harm. The "harm" in homosexuality is far more subjective and contested, and using them as like-examples is very misleading (a false analogy). That said, I do appreciate the detailed and candid answer.
    – Marc Gravell
    Mar 22 '12 at 12:38
  • 2
    There seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding here. By my reading the question is not describing an ugly protest by Chrstians against a homosexual speaker, but an ugly protest by non-Christians against a speaker who came to express his Christian viewpoint on homosexuality. I'm not sure why this is even a question about Christian attitudes. Mar 22 '12 at 20:28
  • 2
    @AffableGeek, as for your personal experience, it is one on a spectrum. Some can choose to change, some cannot. A friend could not, much as he tried: through a hetero marriage and children, becoming a Christian; he remained gay. So we need to remember there is a continum, and as you say, hate and fear are certainly not appropriate reactions. Mar 22 '12 at 21:54

Jesus says "Blessed (happy, but not in the common sense) are you when they utter all sorts of things falsely because of me. "

If this fellow persisted in when he ardently thought was right, just and beneficial for his fellow man, there is no real reason for him to stop just because he is being jeered at.

However, if his words come not from love of others whose personhood he treasures above all else, then as St. Paul puts it, he is a resounding gong.

Regarding what you said about "not hate" being the minimum of the Christian ideal. Well (and I know I don't speak for all Catholics or Christians) but my Bishop has preached against the false virtue of tolerance and really opened my eyes to the fact that if we tolerate someone whom we ardently believe is hurting themselves or society or blaspheming God (and thereby hurting themselves much more than they could possibly know) that tolerance is just plain old morally impermissible and because of this one must make a resolution to act, according to ones conscience, to do whatever necessary to bring about the Kingdom of God. One must present the Gospel in a way that is not just palatable, but above all true.

  • 2
    Oddly enough, I've never really been able to woo my wife by saying, "I tolerate you, dear." We are called to love, not tolerance. Mar 22 '12 at 12:19
  • Perhaps I was unclear by my question. It seemed to me that there are two competing values. 1) minimize hatred 2) minimize homosexuality. It also seemed to me that the first value is "more important." By preaching this way, he would seem to be violating that. I do not want him to stop because he is getting jeered at. I want him to stop because he is creating an ugly scene. I don't mean for him to tell the gospel in some way that is palatable, but false, but rather in this circumstance, perhaps not say anything at all.
    – soandos
    Mar 22 '12 at 12:20
  • Regarding what your bishop said about tolerance, I would say this case is not analogous. The vast majority of people that were protesting were not gay. They were simply people whose sensibilities were offended. In this case, they are getting "hurt" by the preacher, but would otherwise not be negatively impacted. As such, it is not a question of tolerance, but of values (see previous comment)
    – soandos
    Mar 22 '12 at 12:22
  • @soandos as far as I can tell "Minimize" is not in the Catholic Catechism or the text of the Bible. Love however, is. Hopefully the preacher doesn't make the distinction you do between those who are gay and those who are their "allies". Perhaps the preacher believes he is doing the stones a favor, who would prefer to be sedentary.
    – Peter Turner
    Mar 22 '12 at 13:15

The Basis of Love

This is an interesting question. You are correct in that we as Christians are commanded to love. This was modeled for us by Jesus, who loved the world, forgave those who called for His crucifixion, washed the feet of His disciples, touched the leper, removed people's shame, and set people free.

Homosexuality and Sin

I understand that many people today believe that homosexuality is either genetic or natural and not immoral. That is not the biblical view and not the view of those who follow the teachings of the Bible. It's certainly a modern view in this country, still listed as "abnormal" behavior in psychology books until the last half century when they were pressured by the gay community to change that.

The Bible does classify homosexuality as immoral, along with many other things, including lying, cheating, deceit, envy, jealousy, bitterness, lust, adultery, and murder. The Bible teaches that all of these sins actually hurt not just the victims (when there are such) but also those who commit the sins. As one writer said, "bitterness if the poison I drink hoping it will kill someone else."

We as Christians are not to hate anyone who does any of these things. The reality is that we ourselves are guilty of some or many or all of these sins, at least in our hearts as Jesus taught in the sermon on the mount. (Matthew 5-7)

The Message of Christianity

So, the message of Christianity is that sin destroys. We hurt ourselves when we sin. However, there is healing and restoration and forgiveness and wholeness and joy and peace that Jesus offers.

The testimonies of those who have experienced this is enormous. David Berkowitz, the infamous Son of Sam who murdered and raped women, actually experienced this through Jesus and is now a completely different person who remains repentant over what he did. He would testify that Jesus transformed him and set him free from his sin.

There are definitely thousands of people who have experienced the same thing regarding a homosexual lifestyle. These are real people with real lives who experienced this.

So, the person whom you heard could have had the motive to share with people who felt trapped by homosexuality, who wanted to be free of it, who wanted healing and restoration, but who did not know it was even possible. He likely wanted to let them know that it was available to them.

The Hatred

It is interesting that this person who proclaimed freedom and healing was not exhibiting hate towards anyone (or at least you did indicate that he was--certainly he should not have been), but many other people were exhibiting hatred towards him.

Jesus actually taught that Christians would be hated, so there's not a whole lot we can do about that. It doesn't really matter if we are speaking about what is and is not immoral, that mankind is sinful, that Jesus is the only way to Heaven, that Jesus is God, or many other things. People will hate Christians.

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. John 15:18-19 ESV

Yet, we are also under obligation to go into all the world and bring the message of forgiveness and reconciliation and restoration to all people.

True Love

For those of us who believe that Jesus is God and the Bible is His Word, the most loving thing we could do is to tell people about Jesus. Because if that is true, then we really are all separated from God because of our sin, but there is healing and wholeness and joy and peace and forgiveness and life available to all people through Jesus.

If all the world is infected with a deadly disease, and I have the cure, then to not offer that to anyone would be to demonstrate the must vile hatred possible. The most loving thing would be to offer that to all people free of charge.

People may disagree with the Christian and think he is mistaken, but the heart of the Christian is to offer what is good to those who are hurting--not to just to make people feel guilty.

  • 1
    +1 for pointing out the futility of trying to be "unhated". I think that addresses the crux of the question
    – Eric
    Mar 22 '12 at 16:04
  • @MarcGravell In context, there are obvious sins where victims suffer, like adultery, cheating, lying, etc. The point I was making is that those sins do not merely harm the victims, but also those that commit those sins. And I don't need to pause at all to say that. Of course, you would agree that when someone forces children to engage in such acts that those children are definitely victims, just like they would be for heterosexual acts.
    – Narnian
    Mar 22 '12 at 21:20
  • 1
    @MarcGravell Homosexuality is included with envy and jealousy, neither of which are assaults at all, so that is actually not the case. I would also disagree that two people in a loving relationship don't necessarily have victims. Two people in an adulterous affair definitely has a victim, the offended spouse and the children involved.
    – Narnian
    Mar 22 '12 at 21:22
  • @MarcGravell Please reread my post. I never said there were victims of homosexuality. I mentioned other sins and then stated that the victims of those sins--all of them--are not the only ones hurt. I included envy, bitterness, jealousy and lust--none of which have specific victims. It seemed obvious to me that I was referring to crimes where they are specific victims. It seems that you may be trying diligently to misread or misrepresent what I wrote. It seems clear to me what I was referring to, and I don't see how you can misunderstand that. It actually seems like "deflection".
    – Narnian
    Mar 22 '12 at 21:50
  • @Eric I never said there were victims of homosexuality. It appears that Marc's response has obscured what I wrote.
    – Narnian
    Mar 22 '12 at 21:52

You are nearly right that an important Christian ideal is love, actually it is the ideal:

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Matthew 22:34-40

However, note that this is a command which implies that we have freewill whether or not to follow it (Jesus didn't say, "I hope you all love each other!") So I take issue with your statement that anyone is causing hatred - that is a decision of the listeners (even though they sound provoked - I will come back to that).

But more than this, Jesus even told us to love our enemies and be perfect!

So what has gone wrong here? Answer: someone has chosen to preach one part of Christian teaching while apparently excluding the rest. Jesus had this to say about that attitude:

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Matthew 7:1-5

We've all sinned and, ironically, it appears that while this preacher was pointing out others' sins, he was himself sinning in his attitude.1

So I think you witnessed something not worthy of Jesus, not loving, and I'm so sorry it happened. Sounds like it has done more harm than good.

1 I wasn't there - I'm just going on how you've described it.

  • 1
    With regarding the "causing hatred" perhaps I spoke too strongly. I merely meant that there would most probably be more hatred around because of him.
    – soandos
    Mar 22 '12 at 12:15
  • I don't see any indication that the speaker was doing anything to promote hatred. As I read the question the angry protests came from the people opposing him. Mar 22 '12 at 20:47
  • @DJClayworth: second paragraph, "It was probably one of the most ugly scenes I have ever seen, with people yelling, screaming (both sides) cursing, etc." (my emphasis). Mar 22 '12 at 21:08

As I understand the question, the speaker was a Christian speaking about his (Christian) view of homosexuality, and the protesters were opposed to him and "protesting, cursing at, yelling at, etc." him, and that they "were incited to hate the individual that came" (i.e. the Christian speaker. Your question appears to be "why would the Christian come to say his piece, given that the ugly protest was the result?".

Fundamentally if a group of people descide to make an ugly protest, with yelling, cursing etc that is their decision and their issue. The speaker came to say his piece. I don't find anything in your question to indicate that he incited the protest, or spoke in an inflammatory way, or expressed hatred for homosexuals (if he did, that's a whole different story).

You might argue that if "protest and hatred" are the result, the speaker shouldn't have spoken. I don't think that works either in Christian doctrine, or in the wider world. Jesus frequently said things that upset people, and provoked a violent reaction. Christians who spoke out against slavery and for the Civil Rights movement also sometimes provoked angry and violent protests (as did non-Christians). Are you arguing that they shouldn't have spoken out? If you apply this rule then it becomes really easy to prevent anyone for saying something you disagree with - you just have to get enough people to object loudly enough, and the speaker is 'morally obliged' to stop talking. Freedom of speech could be ended in a moment.

You do also say that the confrontation got ugly on both sides, and I'm not going to try to excuse that. Christians should indeed behave better. But that's really difficult to do when a roomful of people are yelling at you. And it's certainly not a reason to not speak what you believe to be the truth.

  • 1
    See "(both sides)" in the question - the entire scene was the ugly; it was not one-sided in either direction. However, do you genuinely see no incitement, or anything inflammatory, in the speaker? I find that genuinely hard to believe. I'm not homosexual, but I find such speakers deeply objectionable. Ultimately, there is, in such, the message (implicit, or more often, explicit) that they are "wrong". Sorry, but an awful lot of people disagree with that message. It is pretty much the definition of bigotry.
    – Marc Gravell
    Mar 22 '12 at 21:08
  • 1
    Could you provide examples where Jesus said such things to back up your answer? I doubt he ever stood amongst a group of particular sinners and shouted "repent! repent!" The stuff you are probably referring to are his statements that people (jews/pharisees) saw as blasphemy. Mar 22 '12 at 23:03
  • @MarcGravell It may well be true that the speaker was inflammatory, but I didn't see anything in the question to state that he was. I'll allow the questioner to correct me if necessary. Are you claiming that someone stating an opinion that you disagree with is reason enough to yell, curse and threaten them? Mar 23 '12 at 1:29
  • @Shredder You seem to have answered your own question. Jesus said many things that people, especially the religious leaders of his day, found objectionable. Some of them tried to kill him. Some succeeded. Mar 23 '12 at 1:30
  • @DJClayworth no, I did not say that. The question doesn't mention blasphemy (it does mention "cursing", but that is not quite the same thing), so there is no way of commenting on that. But: you don't seem to get: his message is inflammatory, no matter how delivered. It should not be a huge surprise that it escalated. That is not an excuse for anyone, though.
    – Marc Gravell
    Mar 23 '12 at 8:21

Presumably Christians should follow the teachings and example of Jesus Christ. And of course Jesus never said anything to make people angry at him. Everywhere he went everyone liked him and wanted to be his friend ...

Oh wait, that's didn't happen. People hated him so much that they eventually had him tortured and killed.

Indeed, he specifically warned his followers to expect the same. For example, Matthew 24:9-10, "Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another." Or Luke 6:22-23, "Blessed are you when men hate you, And when they exclude you, And revile you, and cast out your name as evil, For the Son of Man’s sake. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven, For in like manner their fathers did to the prophets."

Yes, Jesus said that we should love our enemies. But apparently he didn't mean by this that we should always be sweet and polite to everyone. He called his opponents a bunch of snakes (Matthew 3:7), liars (John 8:44), hypocrites (Matthew 16:3), etc. On at least one occassion he vandalized a building and physically assaulted people. (John 2:13-17)

I don't wish to be rude or snarky, but I think you have this exactly backwards. Anyone who stands up for what is right will be hated by those who want to do wrong. Anyone who preaches the Gospel will be hated by those who reject it.

If a preacher is widely loved and respected by the world, he should carefully examine is message to see what he is doing wrong.

  • +1 for pointing out that telling truth often can't go in pair in being loved or polite Jan 3 '14 at 19:07

Christians that go out and publicly protest/speak out against abortions, homosexuality, "satanic death metal", etc. in the name of Jesus is upsetting. You are right, they aren't acting in love.. John 8:7 - Let him who is without sin cast the first stone. How can they be so merciless, disrespectful, and not understanding, and expect to win people to Christ? Even if they were being nice about it, we are commanded to live quietly and peacefully and to mind our own affairs; one reason being to gain the respect of the outside world:

1 Thess 4:10-12 (Amplified)

10 And indeed you already are [extending and displaying your love] to all the brethren throughout Macedonia. But we beseech and earnestly exhort you, brethren, that you [f]excel [in this matter] more and more,

11 To make it your ambition and definitely endeavor to live quietly and peacefully, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we charged you,

12 So that you may bear yourselves becomingly and be correct and honorable and command the respect of the outside world, being dependent on nobody [self-supporting] and having need of nothing.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.