I must say from the start that I have a difficult time maintaining objectivity about this, and especially about Courage. I've never been to a meeting, or had more than the most cursory interactions with any members; but its language on its website is so repugnant and hurtful that I can barely contain my conflicting desires to yell at my computer screen or else burst into tears. This is admittedly not a very good place from which to approach anything objectively. But I don't think this series can do without discussing the subject, and so I'm going to try my level best to be as fair-minded and honest as I can. If I fail in that object, I apologize in advance.
I'm sure he's yelling a heartfelt "Mea maxima culpa" at the
blog commenter who finally showed him the error of his ways.
Now, I will say first that the claim that homophobia doesn't exist is a true one, in exactly one sense: the DSM-IV, the standard diagnostic manual used by mental health professionals, doesn't list it. And I will say further that plenty of things are called homophobic by people in the LGBT movement that are, quite simply, moral or philosophical opposition to a particular political idea or set of ideas, and aren't based on hatred or irrationality. I will add that Romaphobia is as real, and as pervasive, as homophobia -- I've experienced more bigotry about my religion than about my sexuality, and I've heard people who wouldn't dream of doing something as relatively harmless as making a tasteless gay joke, say in so many words that they hate Catholics. The double standard of American culture here is an active and unhappy reality, not just Catholic paranoia.
But I am talking predominantly (so I gather) to a Christian audience, and we cannot repent of other people's sins. For that matter, when it comes to being treated with flagrant injustice by the World, the majority of the teaching and examples we are given in the New Testament move us toward a posture of acceptance of such suffering, grateful that we are being conformed to Christ by it. What we can repent of, and should be more concerned with, is our own sins and flaws, both as individuals and as a body, and it is to these that I now turn.
The word homophobia in itself is not, in my opinion, very significant. It's true that the DSM-IV doesn't list it, but so what? It's a colloquial coinage, and besides, insofar as a properly psychological phobia is an irrational, disproportionate fear of something,* there can in principle be such a fear of homosexuality, simply because there can in principle be a phobia of anything. I doubt that the listing in the DSM-IV was meant to be absolutely exhaustive in any case. The point is, such irrational fear and hatred of homosexuality does exist (just ask a queer-identified person from Russia or Uganda or Iran), and the assertion that homophobia is just a conspiracy to silence Christians ignores that grave fact.
This would be bad enough by itself. What complicates it yet further is that, in a culture in which queer issues are among the most discussed ideas of the day, the claim that there is no such thing as homophobia (warning: the linked article contains language which may trigger those who have experienced anti-gay traumas) does not even come across just as petty pedantry: it comes across as an assertion that no kind of vile treatment of gays is actually wrong. When groups like Courage proceed to spend a vast tract of their time** insisting that certain kinds of discrimination are acceptable, that those who even use such terms as "gay" or "lesbian" are doing so in order to introduce politically motivated heresy into the Church, and that all homosexual behavior is predatory and self-marginalizing, it tends to leave an outside observer (one who hasn't closed the browser in disgust) wondering what they would consider an unjust way to treat queer-identified people.
Refusing us tickets to "Wicked"?
Courage spends several paragraphs of multiple articles on ambiguous and disingenuous language. I can't help but feel that it is a bit hypocritical to be (as it seems to be) unwilling, or unable, to realize what other people mean in what they say, and the dissonance between normal Catholic terminology and normal normal terminology.
It is, I suspect, tempting to reply with something along the lines of, "Christians shouldn't have to change our terminology! We're right!"
First of all, no, you're not right. Christianity is right. And you are a Christian. But you are not Christianity. You are a sinner; that's how you got in in the first place.***
Second, yes, Christianity -- and, I would say further, the Catholic Church specifically -- is right. But so what? Being right does nobody any good when it's accompanied by being too stubborn to communicate clearly, and defining your terms is only one side of clear communication; the other side is listening to how the other side defines their terms. Otherwise, all the being right in the world will amount to jack shit when it comes to mutual comprehension. What's more, being right doesn't mean the other side has nothing to offer you: you may well be talking past each other, or have an incomplete picture that they can help you fill out, if you're humble enough to listen. This is nothing new. Learning to speak a new language is one of the chief duties of any apostolate: or, to put it another way, you don't go to China and start preaching in English, and you especially don't then get angry with the Chinese for not speaking English.****
Third, the brute fact is that Christians have frequently treated homosexuals horribly, and still do to this day. The extent of that horrible treatment, and the reasons for it, have been confused, exaggerated, and manipulated, of course. But the horrible treatment was and is there, and requires apologizing and asking forgiveness, and few convincing apologies open with phrases like, "You know, you shouldn't have made such a big deal out of what I did to you, but ..." Asking forgiveness is, by definition, a decision to swallow one's pride, and there's nearly always at least as much ego in any defensive reply as there is simple desire for accuracy.
So what am I saying needs to be changed, or repented of?
I am not saying that the Church's teaching needs to change. I don't believe that. I am, in that way, a walking contradiction to the claim that people like me, who speak the language of the queer movement, are always and necessarily opposed to traditional orthodoxy.
I am saying that homophobic treatment of queer people is wrong and needs to stop. I use the word homophobia in its colloquial, popular sense: an attitude that presumes that gay people are problematic in other ways that that attraction: assuming that they are promiscuous, for instance, or unprincipled, or likely to be pedophiles, or emotionally stunted. This would be wrong and need to stop anyway, for the sake of justice and charity. But it is even more crucial that it stop in our own era, because it has the power to seriously damage the Church's credibility. The Church professes to love gay people, but that love needs to consist in more than telling them about the wrongness of gay sex: it has to consist in actively asserting (not just admitting, with a tone of concession) the dignity of LGBT people, and actively opposing what many of us have experienced: the bullying, the being thrown out of our homes, the outright violence.
Melinda Selmys said recently that "Preaching to gay folks starting with the 'truth about homosexuality' is like proposing to a woman by offering to correct her faults." My thoughts exactly.
**I mean, of their time explaining themselves online. Obviously their actual practice will be different, and I've heard much more positive accounts of that from several authors whom I respect, such as Eve Tushnet, Joshua Gonnerman, and Melinda Selmys. But I am dealing with self-representation here.
***The pastor of my old church said once in a sermon that, in membership interviews, he often said that "One of the requirements to join this church, or any church, is that you have to be a sinner. And sometimes I'll add, maybe under my breath, 'And to join a Presbyterian church, you have to be totally depraved.'"
****Sorry, Bill O'Reilly. ZING!