Here’s an image I saw recently, when a friend shared it on Facebook. At first glance, it may seem to be intended to convey the simple message that it’s wrong to commit hateful acts towards people because they are homosexual. I would agree with that and I suspect that’s all my friend was trying to say with her Facebook post. However, closer examination reveals more complexity to the ideas presented by this illustration, ideas that result in the whole of the communication being more harmful than helpful.
Let’s begin our closer examination with a look at the Scripture quoted, Romans 13:10. One thing you have to watch out for when Scripture is quoted is that it can be taken out of context, often to support a specific agenda. To put this verse into context, it’s necessary to first remember that the Book of Romans was a letter written by the Apostle Paul to the church in Rome. As with most letters, both then and now, they aren’t written with each verse presenting an individual idea. Rather they are written with a number of verses that knit together to express views on a specific topic. “Love Your Neighbor” is the subheading typically used for what Paul is addressing with this section of his letter. His complete thought here is:
Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. Romans 13:8-10
As you can see, before Paul says, “Love does no harm to a neighbor”, he gives some examples of how you can fail to show love and selfishly do harm to a neighbor. That is, by breaking God’s commandments. In other words, sinning against your neighbor. And, you’ll note that the first of the examples he gives is a sexual sin. But none of that is represented in the illustration. Perhaps that reflects the fact that the Facebook post my friend shared was from The Christian Left via Episcopal Church Memes. Although The Christian Left denies it, they do have a widely held reputation as a group that cherry-picks the Bible. Likewise, The Episcopal Church tends to not recognize the divine inspiration and authority of the Bible. In both cases, this has contributed to their acceptance of homosexual behavior. I don’t think it’s much of jump, then, to come to the conclusion that this is the agenda behind their taking this Scripture out of context.
Regardless of their agenda, as I said earlier, I would agree with the simple message that it’s wrong to commit hateful acts towards people because they are homosexual. However, that doesn’t mean I endorse homosexuality. I don’t. The Bible clearly defines it as sinful behavior. With that in mind, although it requires a completely different illustration, a Scripture-quote that would make the point more appropriately here is:
Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done with love. – Corinthians 16:13-14
Now that we’ve had a closer look at the Scripture used in this illustration, let’s look more closely at other elements of the illustration that I see as adding up to make this communication more harmful than helpful. These are:
1 – Those depicted as angrily doing harm to the person lying on the ground all appear to be white males. Based on the fact that the person lying on the ground is wearing a rainbow top, it seems obvious that this represents a member of the LGBT community. No doubt there are white males who have mistreated LGBTs but it’s outrageous to attribute such mistreatment exclusively to white males.
2 – Each of the white males attacking the LGBT person is using a book with a cross on it – i.e. a Christian Bible – as their weapon. I see this as the most preposterous and harmful element of this image. Surely there are those who call themselves Christian who have committed acts along the lines of what is shown. But these are fringe minorities, like the Westboro Baptists. It’s no more fitting to imply otherwise than it would be to indicate that all homosexuals are pedophiles.
Furthermore, though the behavior depicted here is not to be condoned, it would be easy to come to the conclusion that such acts are the result of Christians being the only faith opposed to homosexuality. That cause and effect just doesn’t make sense and Christians are far from being alone in their disapproval of homosexuality. Islam may be the most harsh in their opposition but there are many faiths that see homosexuality as sin. These include: Judaism, Bahá’í, Hindu, Buddhism, Sikhism and even Zoroastrianism.
3 – The LGBT person lying on the ground in the illustration doesn’t just seem to be harmed. That bloodied person appears to have been killed or, at least, to have sustained life-threatening injuries. This is extreme, to the point of challenging credibility.
MORE HARM THAN GOOD
Christian bashing is no more appropriate than gay bashing. Likewise with white male bashing and since all the white males depicted appear to be middle-aged or older, there appears to be some age bashing going on here too. Sadly, as I said at the outset, what may have been a well-intentioned communication against gay bashing, at least by my friend, ends up doing more harm than good with its extreme mistreatment of so many others. The fact that only 3.8% of Americans (of all sexes) identify themselves as belonging to the LGBT community doesn’t make the anti-gay-bashing message unimportant. But, in the process of delivering that message, there’s no justification for mistreating the 36% of the U.S. population made up of white males or the 76% of the U.S. population who identify themselves as Christians.