“I read about your experience, and I’m praying for you!” – a classmate from my former Baptist college
Thank you, but out of what intention?
“Josh, you are always welcome to come to our church.” – my parents’ Assemblies of God pastors
I was not attending your church before, so why would I start now? Especially now?
“If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” – Pope Francis
Do you need more characters to finish that statement?
After I came out, I knew, of course, to watch out for hostile homophobes, but I was not prepared enough for those, who would try to “win me back to Jesus” or be their little gay piece of celibate hope. Being raised in church and going to multiple Christian schools, I had to deal with quite an audience. My Facebook inbox became swarmed with messages from people saying they were either “praying for me” or “good job!” The “praying for me” messages almost every time used a similar structure of the messenger’s conservative viewpoint, how they “loved me,” and how they were going to be “praying for me,” which even ended variously with smiley faced emoticons. As a newly out gay, it caused me a lot of anxiety as I still asked, “What if he does answer their prayers? What if I’m supposed to marry a woman while escaping my desires for men the rest of my life?”
I came to understand this microaggression of “praying for me” as what I like to call “evangelical homophobia.” This slightly nice yet shaming statement is only a small piece of what evangelical homophobia looks like. Evangelical homophobia can be understood as the use of religious aesthetics to slyly shame or oppress queer people, and/or even convert queer people into a non-affirming, toxic belief system through seemingly light-hearted tactics. Evangelical homophobia does not have to be expressed specifically by evangelicals or even Protestants but any belief system that aims to convert queer people using superficial tactics of acceptance.
Evangelical homophobia is the new homophobia within young Christian social circles. When I was going to my former college, my friends and I were big supporters for LGBT rights like same-sex marriage and adoption, but we also believed engaging in anything gay to be a sin. My friends and I even commended each other at times of how we treated gay people in the surrounding populace unlike our “more conservative” and “more backwards” classmates. We even had intentions of taking one of our gay friends to Bible study, and the Bible study’s leaders thought it was lovely and encouraged it. Evangelical homophobia can express itself by exalting the egos of the religious oppressor while also creating the idea of the “cool sinner” and saving this “cool sinner.” The gay guy or the lesbian have become not only cool in the political arena of topics but also in the ministry to “sinners.” “Saving the gay or lesbian” means making your church cooler and more modern. Your church looks more modern, the sinners are being saved, and the queers are not going to hell (just suffering a lot of internalized homophobia).
Is this why Pope Francis is seeming more accepting to the LGB community? As the pope keeps affirming the theory of evolution and the fact of climate change, why does he not finish his statement on gay Christians? Pope Francis in the summer of 2013 quotes “who is he to judge”, but a year later is seen speaking at conferences for opposite sex marriage and also making statements about the illegitimacy of gay parent adoptions. This is just like my friends’ seeming appearance to having affirming tactics toward the LGBT community, while continuously affirming their Baptist church’s statement of faith that “marriage is between one man and one woman” and that the Bible is “inerrant/infallible.”
Yeah, it was really funny sending back superficial replies to these homophobic messages, but that is not always the case. Evangelical homophobia can express itself in a very sneaky manner. As I said, a lot of my friends and I were for LGBT rights, but we all agreed that engaging in anything gay was a sin. Some evangelical homophobes will go to even pride parades for their LGBT friends or go to events related to queers’ significant others like house warmings and etc. This is what is called relational evangelism in Evangelical Christianity, but it is also a tactic used by evangelical homophobes. Their ignorance usually lies in their own fear of hell and can get twisted to even using it to influence members of the LGBT community. I’ve seen it for myself, and I’ve seen the tactics laid before me.
The best tactic to come back at evangelical homophobia is cutting off the aggressor, unless you really know you’re not going to take their brouhaha. I have a few evangelical homophobes that I have to keep in my life, and I know how to deal with them because I cut it off before I see it possibly starting. How do you know if one is secretly an evangelical homophobe? Sometimes you might have to ask but also their churches’ statements of faith is very accessible through the Internet.
This aggression of evangelical homophobia is very popular in contemporary churches and has become a part of the superstructure of some society. LGBT people need to understand that this form of oppression is not necessary and can be detected with sincere communication (if not, then look it up). The great thing is that even this kind of homophobia is in remission and growing more sparse. LGBT people just need to remember their identity as a contradiction to evangelical homophobia, and that is completely OK.