In the play Inherit the Wind, there’s a line that goes something like this: “God created man in His own image, and man, being a gentleman, returned the compliment.” I was an evangelical Christian when I first heard this little snark, but surprisingly it did not offend me even then. Whether or not you believe in God, it’s only too easy to find other Gods who clearly have been shaped to suit the preferences and personality of their followers.
What makes these man-made gods so easy to recognize is that their creators invariably project their own prejudices, preferences, and biases onto the gods they create. Sexists imagine a God Who is male and insists on male supremacy and the subordination of women. Racists imagine a God Who treasures “racial purity,” promotes white supremacy, and looks on mixed-race marriage as immoral and sinful. Homophobes create a God Who hates gays and insists on restricting marriage to heterosexual couples only. Lustful men invent a God Who blesses His sons with multiple wives, and defines marriage as the union of one man and one or more women. And so on.
It is somewhat ironic, then, that modern day Christians preach so loudly that their own God is one of the obviously man-made Gods we just listed. In “defending” what they see as the sacred institution of marriage, they are inadvertently exposing one of the great weaknesses of their faith: that their God is merely a very human set of prejudices and superstitions, enshrined as deity in order to lend believers a false weight of authority.
“That’s not true!” the believer will object. “God’s hatred of homosexuality isn’t just human prejudice. Homosexuality really is wrong, and God’s just standing up for sound moral principles.”
No He isn’t. Think about it: what is homosexuality really? What is the core, the essence, that makes homosexuality “homosexual”? What is the essential difference between homosexuality and heterosexuality? Just this: homosexuals fall in love differently than heterosexuals do.
There are many things that homosexuals and heterosexuals have in common. Both fall in love. Neither has any choice over who appeals to them sexually. Both have a deep, emotional desire to form a lasting bond of commitment and intimacy with the person they love. Both instinctively crave a certain level of physical and sexual intimacy as a part of this bond. Both are liable to fall into promiscuity, despite the risks of STD’s and other negative consequences, if they are not allowed to form such a bond. Both are free to focus on being productive members of society once their search for a mate is over. And indeed, for both groups, such a covenant relationship constitutes a large part of the “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” that Jefferson declared were the “inalienable rights” of every person.
The only real difference between homosexuals and heterosexuals is simply that homosexuals fall in love differently than heterosexuals. That’s it. Everything else–the desire to love and be loved, the desire for union, the desire to be a couple in a committed relationship–is what heterosexuals want with their lovers too. And just like heterosexuals, homosexuals don’t get to pick who appeals to them sexually. The difference between homosexuals and heterosexuals is not a voluntary difference, just like heterosexual believers don’t get to choose whether or not they will be tempted by pornography or adultery. (Think about it: why would a believer ever suffer from sexual temptations if you had to decide first that you want to be tempted, before the temptation can have any attractiveness for you?)
There is nothing wrong, ethically, morally, or socially, with being attracted to someone else. It’s not a sin. It’s not evil. It’s not wrong. In fact, it’s a great good, and a great blessing. Our society would fall apart if people were forbidden to fall in love. It would destroy our families and our culture. What’s more, falling love does no harm. Granted, jealousy sometimes does harm, if two people fall in love with the same person, and push things too far. But that’s harm that comes from jealousy and a lack of restraint. It does not make love itself an evil or corrupt thing.
If two people fall in love with each other, and want to marry each other, that is a situation that does no harm to anyone else. It does not kill you. It does not injure your body or steal your possessions or break up your marriage or kidnap your children. It does not overthrow the government, it does not raise taxes to unsupportable levels, it does not sell addictive drugs to street gangs, or anything of the kind. It is neither evil, nor immoral, nor corrupt, nor harmful, for two people to fall in love with each other. Even if some people fall in love differently than you do, falling in love is not wrong.
Homophobia–hating people and wanting to make them suffer just because they fall in love differently–is an irrational and pointless prejudice. It does no good to hate something that does no harm. Homophobia, and not homosexuality, is what is corrupt, evil, and harmful. Homophobia is what drives people to intrude into the lives of others and to try and actively deprive them of at least “liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” if not life itself. And it’s totally irrational. Ask a homophobe to explain why it ought to be wrong to fall in love differently, and all his arguments will boil down to “different is wrong because it’s wrong to be different.” That’s the only argument that can be made, because falling in love, even if you fall in love differently, is neither harmful nor evil.
A real God would have neither the need nor the justification for hating homosexuals. In fact, it would be a sin for God to be a homophobe and to persecute minorities unjustly just because they can’t help being what they are. Those who invent a God who hates gays are only proving that their God is merely the product of their own irrational and prejudiced fantasies. And yes, I know that the Bible does preach a God Who hates gays and wants them dead. That’s true, it certainly does. But in doing so, it does not praise Him. It merely exposes the superstitious bigotry of the men who invented Him.