One of the sad parts of the whole struggle surrounding homosexuality is the use of labels. People freely throw around words to put others in their place. They label others as “other” in order to minimize their part of the conversation. Disagreements are not worked out, instead people resort to the use of words to bully, shame and intimidate.
You may be nodding your head yes, but I am about to tick some people off. The label I continue to see thrown around, even and especially in the church – “homophobia” and “homophobic”. Are there other labels tossed around from the other side of the debate? Certainly and shame on them. But, while those words have been addressed in numerous times and places, I have yet to see anyone call this one out for its likewise divisive nature.
The homosexuality debate has fallen out on two sides, mostly. Those who believe homosexuality is God-given or at least God-allowed. One United Methodist Church in Ohio, I believe, even put up a billboard declaring the God-giftedness of homosexuality. On the other side are many who empathize with what they see as the struggle with same-sex attraction. however, they believe God calls us to live “biblically” and not engage in prohibited behavior just because we have a tendency toward it. (and yes, biblical interpretations like this can be debated as well, but it is the United Methodist Church stance right now).
Notice the debate is not about fear, it’s about our understanding of how we respond to our tendencies – even our innate tendencies. It’s an issue of how we understand God’s gifts and the human condition. The label of “homophobia” is being used as a weapon to gain victory in the public sector and persuade the fence-sitters in the church. If I label you as afraid then I undercut your argument about holiness and Scripture. If I label you as one who has anxiety about opening some sociological floodgate, then I make you appear unreasonable. Even if the argument for the acknowledgement of homosexuality as valid is the right argument to make, there are better ways to make it. There are more loving ways to make it.
Labels and weaponized terminology make it easier for one to dismiss the other by making them seem small, petty, or disingenuous. Everyone calls for unity and understanding, but our words created division and distrust. Everyone wants unity, but unity is often defined and argued as all persons agreeing with MY belief. Honestly, with those parameters, I don’t know if the Church will ever find unity on this issue. But, this I do know – labels and isolating words won’t get us there.
May we choose our words carefully and with love for our “enemy”.
Holy high-five to you,