The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has been making lots of noise about setting up courses to tackle homophobic bullying. For this, he is absolutely to be applauded. There seems to be a bit of disconnect though, in that he’s doing so whilst simultaneously holding the view that marriage is between a man and a woman only. Discrimination on the basis of sexuality is a base from which homophobic bullying can launch from and indeed breeds from. As Deborah Orr from the Guardian alludes to, being homophobic is more than just saying nasty things.
Words like bigot and homophobe should not be thrown around carelessly, and I know many who don’t like using them because it can shut down conversations very quickly. Sometimes though, these are accurate descriptions of a persons actions. I’m saying actions because I do believe that some peoples objections are not out of fear of the LGBT community, they genuinely believe that people choose to be gay (a little education and actually talking to someone who is gay would go a long way here), and I believe they are not bigoted by nature; but objecting on grounds of sexuality is homophobic and sometimes you just have to call it out as such. Another popular catchphrase within Christian circles is “we love the sinner, but we hate the sin”. Some would argue that this is exactly what the Archbishop is doing, but people like Micah Murray and Richard Beck have done excellent jobs in showing how not only is this not what Jesus taught, but why it’s totally unworkable. Only time will tell with Archbishop Welby can maintain both stances. In this case, it’s hard to see how objecting to same-sex couples getting married is anything other than bigoted and homophobic. If you believe objecting to inter-racial marriage is bigoted, then objecting to same-sex marriage is too. They are both aspects people are born with, and both cannot be changed (despite assertions to the contrary).
There will be people questioning whether I am saying that the Bible, and indeed God, are bigoted and homophobic. If the former does truly say that marriage is just between a man and woman (something which is heavily disputed) and the latter will send gay people to hell for being gay (which is something else that else is heavily disputed), then yes that is what I am saying. I think Desmond Tutu echoed my thoughts when he said “I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place….I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this.” Some people do interpret the Bible in a way that says that marriage is between a man and woman only, but as I alluded to above, this is an interpretation that many would challenge and therefore challenge the assertion that the Bible and God are homophobic.
Picture from David Hayward aka Naked Pastor:
I like Archbishop Welby; I like his campaign against poverty and pay-day lenders and that he’s actually taking action. I like how he’s pushing for women to be able to become bishops, despite the arduous and painful debates in Synods. I even like the fact that even though he opposes same sex marriage, he is still campaigning against homophobic bullying. But I can’t get past the fact that he seems to be trying to solve a problem that he is actually contributing to. The issue of same-sex marriage and the Bible is a complex and nuanced one, and I don’t envy Archbishop Welby’s position of being in the spotlight whilst these discussions rage on. My hope is that this anti-homophobic bullying campaign will help the Archbishop see how much his stance is contributing to the problem. Until then, he remains in this paradox and threatens to undermine his own cause.
And that, would actually be a huge shame.