A Reader Writes: I’m Not Personally LGBTQ Affirming, But I Recognize That Difference is Good — So Can’t We Coexist Amicably?

Image: Juan Jose Horta, epa.

Dear Chrissy Stroop,

I read one of your articles on your feelings about Christians who are not LGBTQ affirming.

I’m looking for advice. If an individual (Christian or otherwise) has an ideology of a traditional view of sexuality, meaning maintaining sex between the opposite sex within a lifetime relationship like marriage, how does one coexist sensitively and with reflection within a larger community of a variety of views including many other cultures that are different then their own?

That’s where I’m at. I’m larger community affirming [emphasis added], if that is even a phrase. Meaning that recognizing that not every person or organization is going to agree on views around sexuality, religion or ideology. I believe Ideological diversity is good for accountability and maintaining flexibility. History has shown this over and over again.

How does one coexist in a community with constant barrage of divisive messages and beliefs being pro-ported in media and activists portraying anyone who is not pluralistic in their view of sexuality is hate mongers.

How are we to live in community together and work together to remove hate from our greater communities???

Of course your example of anti gay promotion at a pride parade is promoting hate! What wacko would do that? It makes me question if these people are staged because it is so out of my realm of experience, that’s how ridiculous I think that is. It’s almost unbelievable to me.

How do you suppose communities come to an amicable coexistence working together to create strong communities regardless of views? The solution can’t be that we all have the exact same ideology, if not the community will always have something to quarrel about as it will have no tolerance of differences at all.

I appreciate your input and feedback.




Chrissy responds:

Dear Maurica,

Thank you for reaching out to me via Religion Dispatches with questions prompted by my article, “A Note to Churches during Pride: If You’re not LGBTQ-Affirming, Keep Your Water.” Your letter strikes me as one written sincerely and in good faith, so I will try to be as gentle as possible in my reply, without sugarcoating things I cannot in good conscience sugarcoat.

Let me begin by saying that I take your assertion that you are “larger community affirming” to mean that, while you believe that same-sex relationships (and probably also gender transition) are sinful, you do not believe that your understanding of “sin” should be applied universally and given the coercive force of law. I appreciate your denunciation of street preachers who proclaim hate at Pride festivals, though, I assure you, such people are not plants carrying out false flag operations, but committed fundamentalist Christians. You don’t have to take my word for that, either. If you like, you can read my interview with the Syracuse, New York-based street preacher Jim Deferio, whose hate-fueled exploits you can corroborate via a web search for further sources. Be warned, however, that the interview makes for disturbing reading. There is also further documentation of the street preaching phenomenon available on my website.

In any case, if I’ve understood you correctly, then you’re already far better at practicing pluralism and coexistence than most people, at least in the American context, who share what you call “a traditional view of sexuality.” What constitutes a “traditional view,” of course, is context-dependent and arguable—many societies have historically recognized genders beyond the male-female binary, for example—but that’s the extent to which I’ll quibble with the term here.

When Christians today use the term “traditional values,” or some variation thereof, they typically mean that they understand God as commanding them, through the Bible, to define marriage as between one man and one woman, and they usually refuse to recognize transgender experience and identities (while simply trying to sweep the existence of intersex individuals under the rug). You seem concerned that anyone would find this belief in itself to be harmful or objectionable, at least when held by someone like yourself, who is not directly using the belief to engage in activism with the goal of depriving members of the LGBTQ community of rights.

Let me begin to address this by stating that, since you disagree with those who shove their anti-LGBTQ beliefs in others’ faces, it seems to me you will most likely face few if any repercussions for your private beliefs in your day-to-day life. You seem, however, to want more than that. You seem to want to be validated in your holding of these “traditional” beliefs, to be reassured that there is nothing inherently wrong with them. We can indeed coexist, but validating your beliefs is not something I can do for you. To clarify, there is absolutely nothing wrong with you, or anyone, participating in a one-man, one-woman marriage, and if it ends up being a reasonably happy lifelong union, great. No one is trying to take that away from you.

But the belief that my very identity, and/or that queer relationships, are wrong, is still offensive, and views cannot be proclaimed harmless or immune from criticism simply because they are “traditional” or religious. There is no “nice” way to hold views that dehumanize others. Religious bigotry is still bigotry, and, in the United States, we have legal precedent for recognizing it as such, inasmuch as we have long since overturned state bans on interracial marriage and made it clear that racial discrimination on religious grounds is not acceptable in institutions that receive federal funding.

Openness to new information is important if we want to have a humane society, and what we know from medicine and psychology is that repression of one’s sexuality and/or gender identity is unhealthy. We also know that, although they can be fluid, sexual orientation and gender identity are not things that people can simply will themselves to change. In light of those facts, viewing queer folks and our relationships as inferior is harmful, inasmuch as it contributes to stigmatization and self-hatred among those who are involuntarily exposed to the views that you hold. 

I would even go so far as to argue that the Pauline-Augustinian streak of sex obsession in Christianity is itself unhealthy, and even counterproductive to human flourishing, despite many theologians’ claims to the contrary. And as for me and my household, if you’ll pardon the irreverent allusion, we will trust modern medicine over theologians 7 days of the week, and 70 times 7 times on Sundays. 

But let me give you a concrete example of how your views can themselves do harm. Let’s say that you had a daughter who, after being socialized in your Christian community and taught that homosexuality is a sin, eventually came out to you as a lesbian. Your daughter would already be traumatized by what she’d been taught, and she would most likely be afraid of how you would respond. 

And how would you respond? Would you say, “Well, if you don’t remain celibate or somehow reconcile yourself to a straight marriage, I’m afraid you will be going to hell, but I support your right to do so and ask that you validate my opinion”? I rather think that, whatever you would say, you would not be able to bring yourself to say that, let alone anything even harsher, as you seem like a humane person. And yet that is the logic of wanting to hold to non-affirming beliefs without mobilizing those beliefs to fight against the rights of others.

From this example, it should also be clear that even our private beliefs can have an impact on those around us, sometimes far beyond what we are aware of. Queer youth pick up on even the most seemingly “benign” forms of condemnation and stigmatization, and anti-LGBTQ beliefs fuel an epidemic of queer youth suicide in our country. There is simply no humane way to hold anti-LGBTQ views.

Now, to your final question about creating strong community, regardless of views, I must also answer that I think that is a logical impossibility. Could we create a “strong community” of violent white supremacists and African Americans, for example, by taking the concerns of “both sides” seriously? Of course, I agree that we do not want rigid or absolute, and certainly not coercively enforced, ideological uniformity. But that is what authoritarian bigots want—so do you see the problem? This is why many mid-century liberal philosophers who had lived through World War II understood that the absolute tolerance of intolerance is unsustainable, as it will result in the intolerant taking control and dismantling all tolerance of dissent.

To be clear, I am not calling for thought police. I am not calling for views like yours to be legally banned, something that would be highly counterproductive and unenforceable. What I am saying is that having the right to hold certain views is not the same, in a free society, as being immune from the criticism of those views. Nor does it mean that whatever views we may hold are unharmful, or equivalently valid to the opposite views. Ideas, after all, have consequences. Faced with the consequences of your ideas—for example, the devastating impact they can have on queer kids raised in non-affirming environments, as mentioned above—are you willing to continue defending those ideas? 

Yours sincerely,

Chrissy Stroop