“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
— 2 Timothy 1:7
Perhaps the greatest reason for internalized homophobia, as well as for the homophobia that permeates the Church and secular worlds, stems from the erroneous interpretation of certain Scripture verses taken out of context! Fear is largely borne of the smug, arrogant, ignorant demonizers who, from the pulpit and in the name of God, wittingly or unwittingly create a climate of hate against GLBT people.
To listen to hate-mongers — or anyone else for that matter — to let others, other than God, to define our reality, is idolatry. Many want to be liked, approved, and affirmed by those who are of the world, whether they wear a clerical collar or not.
All of us have a cold-turkey choice to make: believe our God of grace, mercy, compassion, love, and inclusiveness or believe mere human beings, many of whom speak out of ignorance. To allow others to define our reality and give us our cues as to what constitutes being a “Christian” is the sin of idolatry!
When Scripture speaks of spiritual warfare, we may intellectually believe it, but emotionally and spiritually we have a hard time internalizing this truth. Hear the Apostle Paul, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians 6:12)
When GLBT people are discriminated against, attacked, or even killed, it isn’t mere human beings that orchestrate that hate, but the very devil and his minions who put those hateful feelings in people’s hearts. This is undoubtedly one of the reasons that Scripture says, “Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of? (Isaiah 2:22); the Apostle Paul writing, “For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10)
When we allow spiritual warfare and the machinations of mere human beings to hold us hostage, we become afraid. Fear generates withdrawal from the ministry that God wants each of his children to fulfill. The devil has no interest in those whom he has in his pocket; he is after those who are possessed by God!
Throughout all of Scripture, it was God’s people who suffered horribly for their faith in God; those who were of the world (except for the valleys of weeping that are part and parcel of the human condition) had no reason to be demonically attacked. We are to make no mistake: all Christians are involved in spiritual warfare, both in the external world and, most disquietingly, in our internal worlds.
For many GLBT people, there is the unacknowledged fear that the religious hate-mongers might be correct in their twisted views of Scripture! It is not acknowledged that their kind of perverted thinking affirmed slavery, segregation, and the subjugation of women. Things haven’t changed all that much throughout the millennia; only the hot-button issues have changed.
All Christians have a cold-turkey choice to make in this spiritual warfare: trust God or trust mere human beings! If we look to human beings to define our Christian life, or our life in general, we are committing the sin of idolatry, and that sin breeds fear.
I’m not suggesting that there isn’t room for “healthy fear,” that shuns situations that can become dangerous at a moment’s notice. What I am saying is that when we commit the sin of idolatry, we become afraid; that fear forces the choice as to whether we choose God and His Word as our compass point, or the haters and hate-mongers in our midst.
We don’t have to “like” our enemies! Jesus never commands us to “like” anybody! We are to “love” (agapao) them by praying for them and adhere to Paul’s admonition, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” (Galatians 6:9) We are to never tire of doing good, but we are not to mistake doing good to others as necessarily having to “like” them.
Biblical faith requires us to trust God more than we trust anything or anyone else in this world! Faith, or trust, is the only thing God requires of His children! When we exercise that trust in God and in His sovereignty over all things, we become more spiritually mature and cast out the demons of fear that all too frequently rock our worlds.
Particularly over the past several years, there have been many things that have happened in my life that I don’t understand; some of which I have feared. Yet, I must go back to the reality of God, His Word, and His many promises as my compass point. I’m not called upon to understand anything. I’m only called upon by God to trust Him! When we exercise this trust, fear is minimized and, eventually, eradicated from our lives!
Unfortunately, for GLBT people the enemy is not only outside the Church, but also within the Church! Fear is frequently generated by those within the Church, and by those who have credibility and standing within the Church. It becomes all too easy to believe the lies, the ignorance, the demonization, and internalize those ugly messages and live lives of self-loathing and fear.
We must all understand the dynamics of the spiritual warfare in which we are all engaged! We are to make no mistake! Being a Christian is no walk in the park, and it was never meant to be a walk in the park. Our kingdom is not of this world, as we are strangers, aliens, pilgrims, trespassers in a world that belongs to the prince of the power of the air.
It must be acknowledged that when the devil tempted Jesus in the wilderness and promised Him kingdoms, Jesus never contradicted the reality of the devil’s possession of those kingdoms of this world. (Luke 4:5-8) There is God on one side, and the devil on the other, and there is no middle ground! To the degree that we succumb to fear, we are all playing into the devil’s hands.
Satan would like nothing more than for the hate-mongers both outside and, particularly, inside the Church to succeed in creating fear! Such fear prevents speaking out against the grievous injustices that have been perpetrated upon GLBT people in the name of God. And, if we, as Christians, are to act like Christians, we are to speak out against injustices that cry out to God for correction.
We are not to be vengeful, but we are to do good. Doing good is to speak out amidst the spiritual warfare that exists most ferociously for the Christian. We are to speak the truth about love, sex, and our loving Creator who “invented” love and sex, and who gifted us with His grace so that we are justified in His sight.
We are not to be afraid when contending with demonic powers as, “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” (1 John 4:4) From the eternal perspective, the battle for full inclusion of GLBT people in the life of the Church has already been won! God is still on His throne. He is still in charge!
Persecution by others is to be used to generate faith, not fear! When our backs are against the wall, we are forced to cry out to God to deliver us, as we realize that we can’t deliver ourselves from the spiritual warfare in which we are embroiled. We are to recognize that the closer we are to God, the more ferocious will be this spiritual warfare! It has always been this way in this sin-cursed world!
We have been called out from the world, before the worlds were formed (Ephesians 1:4), to enable God to do a work in and through us for His purposes! Replacing “fear” with “trust in God” enables God to use us as He sees fit until that blessed day that He calls us to our real home!
In the meantime, all of us are to adhere to Paul’s counsel to Timothy: “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.” (1 Timothy 6:12) And give up that fear!
Professor Emeritus of Sociology at California State University, Chico, Rev. Dr. Jerry S. Maneker served as an ordained priest in the Congregational Catholic Church, a division of the Independent Catholic Churches International (ICCI). For many years he published a weekly column in the Sacramento Valley Mirror titled “Christianity and Society” where he dealt with a variety of social issues from a biblical and sociological perspective. He also published a blog called A Christian Voice for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Rights and the website Radical Christianity.