… and other pleasant myths
There is a webcomic going around Facebook entitled “If you’re gay, I want you to know that I don’t hate you.” Several of my friends posted it. It attempts to counter the accusations that conservative Christians “hate” gay people by explaining that conversion attempts are signs not of hate but of radical love. This comes as no surprise to me, as a former conservative Christian: that’s the rhetoric we used about every group. Regardless of what the sin in question was, calling someone out (but calling them out in love) was just our life. So as a queer former young conservative Christian (more conservative than the author of this webcomic, I’ll bet), I want to address the smooth-sounding, inviting words of “If you’re gay.”
First of all, the author (whom I’m assuming is named Adam Ford due to the title of the website) begins by confirming that yes, he does actually believe everything you think he does. Many people would demonstrate their lack of antipathy by claiming to have been misunderstood, and that they did not actually hold the anti-____ views that they were thought to. Adam, on the other hand, stands right up and professes his faith that (1) the Bible is the Word of God, (2) *any* homosexual practice is sinful, and (3) marriage is only between a man and a woman. What he does is to try to redefine those beliefs as not *actually* anti-gay. I mean, yes they’re anti-gay, but they’re not anti-gay-person. They’re actually pro-gay-person. As he demonstrates throughout the comic, he loves gay people! A lot!! They’re basically the same as straight people (except their lust is more icky) and God can save them! Adam knows this, not because he’s better than you but because his God is better than your God, or whatever it is you believe.
I’m not some “super-perfect Christian guy” over here telling you this: “My way is better than your way.”
I’m a fellow sinner who now knows God for no reason other than His amazing grace, who still screws up all the stinking time, and I’m with you, telling you this: “God’s way is better than our way.”
Except those two things are basically the same: even though Adam is expressing his belief in “God’s way,” he is still saying that his belief is better than your belief. Just like the old grade-school “my dad is better than your dad” argument, this is just a veiled “I am better than you” hidden behind 1 degree of separation. In elementary school, it was fathers. Here, it’s gods.
He then uses this to revisit his original statement of beliefs and tell you that the things you thought were attacks on gay people actually aren’t. They’re signs of how much Adam loves you. As many other articles have said (and as I grew up hearing), true love doesn’t let gay people be gay. If you truly love them, you must pester them until they decide not to be gay anymore. That’s what articles like this mean, when they say that they love gay people: it means that they love them so much that they simply can’t allow them to live out their life unharassed, without being told constantly how much they’re hurting themselves. Because true love looks after their immortal soul.
There’s a term for telling people that the things they are experiencing as attacks aren’t, that they should instead take them as signs of love, and that they should doubt their entire perception of the world. It’s called gaslighting. And it’s mental abuse.
Part of the whole “making you doubt your perceptions” thing that they do is to make you, their target, feel that nobody and nothing except God actually loves you. Adam makes that point strongly in the comic. He says that corporations and politicians, despite changing their logos and facebook profile pictures to rainbow colors, don’t actually love gay people. Which is true. Corporations like money and politicians like voters. This isn’t revolutionary.
He goes one step further, however, and says that if you find a church that is affirming, then nobody in that church loves you. This, again, is gaslighting: intentionally making you doubt your perception of reality, trying to insert a thorn in the back of your mind so that anytime anybody affirms your identity your mind doubts their motives and even their capacity to love you. Make no mistake, the people who use “love” in this way care nothing about the actual lives of gay people. They care so intensely about the afterlife that it doesn’t matter what gay people have to go through in order to get to heaven.
This is why all of the “love” rhetoric that has suddenly become the focus of younger evangelicals is toxic: because it redefines “love” as something that happens on a theoretical level, and not on a real one. They take “love the sinner, hate the sin” and use it as justification to view everything about a gay person as having to do with their sin. Yeah, they love the gay person in theory, but they “hate the sin,” and every tangible aspect of that gay person is a manifestation of that “sin.” So they attack the person while still “loving” their soul.
I sat in the pews in one of those churches. I grew up praying “God, make their lives miserable until they finally come to know You.” And I did it out of “love.” Just like everybody else around me was doing.
We do not hate you.
We love you.
They love the potential that your soul has to go to heaven. They love you in a theoretical way, while hating everything about the actual you. Remember “love the sinner, hate the sin”? Your soul (which exists only on a metaphorical level) is “the sinner.” Everything else is “the sin.”
We do not want you to be unhappy.
We want you to be supremely and eternally happy.
“Eternally happy.” They want you to go to heaven. That’s what that means. They don’t care about what happens to you on earth. And a miserable life might even be preferable: it can be exploited as a tactic to get you to convert.
We do not want to deprive you of rights.
We want you to have every right God so graciously bestows on his children.
Again, Adam shifts the emphasis away from real-life issues that affect queer people across the country — right to be free from discrimination in housing, employment, and commerce, right to access state benefits, the right to not be targeted and killed for who we are, etc. — and on to more “spiritual” affairs. Queer people ask to not be kicked out of their apartments for being queer, and people like Adam respond “I don’t care about that, I care about your ability to participate in The Lord’s Supper. Because I love you.”
We do not want to keep you from fulfillment.
We want you to have the only true fulfillment which is found only in Christ.
More of the same ol’ rhetoric: they know what’s best for you, they know how you can truly be fulfilled, transcendence is the only true fulfillment. More of the same ol’ undermining of your sense of perception: they know what’s actually good for you and you don’t, you can’t trust yourself, you have to trust them.
Don’t believe this kinder-seeming, “love” centered rhetoric of Evangelicals who talk like this. It still hates queerness, and it will hate you if you’re queer at all. Its stance towards you hasn’t changed: it prides itself on not changing. The only thing that has evolved is the language it uses to try to entice you.
About the author: Jonathan Nichols attended an Independent Baptist elementary, junior-high, and high school that used BJU Press curriculum. They were to attend Bob Jones University, but found their plans disrupted when they were expelled two months before their scheduled graduation from high school after telling a friend they thought they might be gay. Jonathan instead now attends a respectable (and accredited) college in New York that is named after a brewer and not an evangelist.
Ed. note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s alone. BJUnity supports people of Christian faith, those who have embraced a different faith tradition, and those who no longer hold to or practice any faith with equal compassion and dignity.