In his book, In Our Time, Eric Hoffer, who was an excellent philosopher, was self-educated, blind for the first fifteen years of his life, and became a migrant worker and then a longshoreman, wrote the following:
In the alchemy of man’s soul almost all noble attributes – courage, honor, love, hope, faith, duty, loyalty – can be transmuted into ruthlessness. Compassion alone stands apart from the continuous traffic between good and evil within us. Compassion is the antitoxin of the soul: Where there is compassion even the most poisonous impulses remain relatively harmless. Thus the survival of the species may well depend on the ability to foster a boundless capacity for compassion.
So many in the United States (and elsewhere) lack that essential emotion, “compassion,” that will help ensure the survival of the species! Indeed, the hostility visited upon LGBT people is a very strong indicator in our time of that deficiency!
All sorts of rationalizations have been trotted out by the ignorant and/or hatefully homophobic to try and justify discrimination against LGBT people, ranging from “maintaining traditional family values” to linking Gay people with pedophiles to causing all sorts of societal calamities. The very irrationality of their arguments in favor of deprivation of civil rights to LGBT people both bespeaks lack of compassion as it bespeaks gullibility and/or lack of compassion of those who take their rhetoric seriously.
In his book, The Passionate State of Mind And Other Aphorism, Hoffer states:
Passions usually have their roots in that which is blemished, crippled, incomplete and insecure within us. The passionate attitude is less a response to stimuli from without than an emanation of an inner dissatisfaction.
A poignant dissatisfaction, whatever be its cause, is at bottom a dissatisfaction with ourselves. It is surprising how much hardship and humiliation a man will endure without bitterness when he has not the least doubt about his worth or when he is so integrated with others that he is not aware of a separate self.
And it is to this phenomenon every person who possesses both a critical intellect and the necessary emotion of “compassion” must turn to help understand why there are some homophobes who make their homophobia something like a career. So many spend an inordinate amount of time condemning God’s LGBT children, and one must understand that their animus ultimately resides, not in the object of their hatred, but in their own psyches that betrays their blemishes, crippled natures, incompleteness, and insecurities.
After all, if someone is emotionally and sexually intact, why would there be a need for their obsessive condemnation of other consenting adults’ emotional/sexual orientations?
How is same-sex marriage, for example, going to adversely affect anyone’s heterosexual marriage? Is there anyone who can give a reasonable answer to that question?
Clearly, there can be no rational answer to that rhetorical question! If anything, same-sex marriage will enhance the institution of marriage!
Indeed, increasing legitimacy will accrue to the institution of marriage the more people partake of its rights, privileges, and responsibilities. So, people who are genuinely concerned with the future of the institution of marriage should be working to minimize divorce and encourage same-sex couples who wish to make a lifetime commitment to each other to marry!
Yet, we have many religious (and secular) people who try and prevent same-sex couples from partaking of the very institution from which they benefit, thereby encouraging fornication as one of their prejudices’ byproducts, and they even have the temerity to claim the right to discriminate in the name of God. So, would they have us believe that God would prefer fornication over marriage among Gay people?
Can they be that clueless that they could reasonably expect that Gay people can, should, and must lead celibate lives while only heterosexuals can and should fulfill one of human beings’ most primal urges?
The irrationality of homophobic rhetoric shows a clear deficiency on the part of homophobes regarding their level of “compassion,” as it does their clear dissatisfaction with their own lot in life! Why else spend such an inordinate amount of time thinking about and condemning the emotional/sexual lives of others?
Emotionally and sexually intact people aren’t particularly concerned with the emotional and sexual lives of other adults! They are likely to have a “live and let live” approach to such matters!
However, when someone has an inordinate fascination with condemning others, that condemnation betrays an emotional deficiency that makes compassion very difficult, if not impossible, to have or sustain.
And if a Christian (or any other decent person) can be characterized by any one characteristic, that characteristic is “compassion!”
Christians are to be agents of God’s grace in this world; we are to preach and live out the Gospel of grace, faith, love, peace, reconciliation, and inclusiveness! And those who condemn others, those who seek to deprive others of civil rights, those who help create a climate of fear and hatred of others, have shown by their words and/or deeds that they are neither Christians nor even decent people!
We are to make no mistake: homophobes are absolutely no different in their mind-set and in their emotional deficiencies than were and are White Supremacists! Both groups partake of the need to discriminate and hate in order for the awareness of their own emotional deficiencies to be overridden by their condemnation of others!
“Condemnation” acts as an imperfect and temporary band-aid to help heal the haters’ own emotional woundedness, a woundedness that they don’t have the courage to bring themselves to face, confront, and overcome! So, they take the coward’s way out and, rather than deal with “the beam in their own eye,” they feel the need to manufacture a beam in a minority group whom they perceive it is safe to persecute.
And when that particular minority group is no longer considered safe to persecute, they will search for another minority group upon which to vent their anger, an anger borne of their own emotional deficiencies that they cloak in religious trappings, so that they can try and stake a claim on “godliness,” “virtue” and “morality” when, in fact, their own rhetoric and actions show them to manifest the greatest form of ungodliness, lack of virtue, and immorality: the sin of pride in their oppression of others!
Jesus never condemned Gay people, but He sure spent quite a bit of time condemning the proud, the haughty, the legalists who condemned and discriminated against others and put yokes of bondage onto others, all the while claiming to impose those yokes in the name of God.
If haters didn’t have an object to hate, they would be forced to confront their own emotional blemishes, crippled natures, incompleteness, insecurities, deficiencies and frailties. And that is the last thing a moral coward feels he/she can afford.
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.