Ex-NBA journeyman John Amaechi recently announced he is homosexual. The media was quick to pick up the story, fishing for those who agree with Amaechi and ferreting out those who oppose homosexuality. As we all know, it’s pretty much a minefield if someone tries to put forth reasonable arguments against homosexuality. They are immediately deemed intolerant and denounced as “homophobic.” Yet character assassination – and that’s what labeling someone “homophobic” usually is – means we’re approaching a dead end in the road. If we’re going to further our historic understanding of “civilization,” we need to reframe a more respectful conversation between opposing views. Many who oppose homosexuality are better described as “homodesageer.” Here’s why.
For a long time, the medical and scientific community defined “homosexuality” as a psychiatric disorder. In the last several decades, however, it has been removed from the diagnostic manual of disorders and research has shifted to the study of the negative, sometimes pathological, reactions to homosexuals by heterosexuals. No doubt about it, some people hate homosexuals and that’s ugly and indefensible. Since the early 1980s, however, “homophobia” has gained currency as a one-word summary of everyone who opposes homosexuality.
This label exposes our moral divide and distance from our cultural roots. It is true that Americans and Europeans share many common “values,” but we also, as Michael Novak prefers to say, share “many common arguments.” Resolving those arguments used to mean referring to our shared cultural roots, roots quite different from those of other civilizations.
Western civilization was shaped by the Judeo-Christian tradition. It viewed civilization, as Thomas Aquinas once wrote, as constituted by conversation; that is, by argument. Civilized people, treating each other as reasonable, argue with one another. Barbarians club one another, as if values are mere “preferences,” and reason has nothing to do with them. For barbarians, nothing matters but power.1 Labeling someone “homophobic” is a barbaric form of character assassination. It’s what brutes do – not civilized people. (It’s not even diplomatic. “Diplomacy,” wrote Will Rogers, “is the art of saying nice doggie until you can find a rock.”)
“Phobic” come from the Greek phobia – fear. Hundreds of millions of heterosexual women and men do not fear homosexuals. They are, however, homodesageer. The French word desageer, which first appeared in 1473, is where we get our word “disagree.” Good men and women can disagree. Respectfully. A homodesageer simply, and perhaps profoundly, disagrees with the homosexual perspective. Yet that doesn’t mean they’re hateful nor do they merit being clubbed. A homodesageer is not, I repeat not, someone like Tim Hardaway. There is no place for the kind of toxic filth that spewed from his foul mouth. Homodesageers never defend the indefensible.
The early church opposed homosexuality, yet was never castigated as “homophobic.” They respectfully disagreed because homosexual or bisexual unions fundamentally misrepresent the “four-chapter” gospel. The early church understood marriage as a heterosexual union, as Paul wrote: “And this is why a man leaves father and mother and cherishes his wife. No longer two, they become one flesh."2
Unfortunately, many of today’s churches have forgotten that marriage was designed to reflect the “four-chapter” gospel. Or they have forgotten the “four-chapter” gospel altogether. With this came the loss of a “life script” for sexuality. Nature abhors a vacuum so “personal preferences” came rushing in. The result is that many today imagine God as a big-shot lifeguard blowing his whistle and arbitrarily announcing: “OK, all homosexuals and bisexuals – out of the pool!!!
Civilized people abhor name-calling and ugly slurs. If the shoe were on the other foot, clubbing homosexuals by deriding them as “heterophobic” would not be tolerated. If it’s sauce for the goose, it’s sauce for the gander. Let’s fight fair. Let’s describe those who respectfully oppose homosexuality as “homodesageers.” It’s one way to stop a barbaric practice.
1 These comments are drawn from “North Atlantic Community, European Community: Divergent paths and common values in Old Europe and the United States,” a speech delivered by Michael Novak for the F.A. Hayek Foundation in Bratislava, Slovakia on July 3, 2003.
2 Ephesians 5:31-33 (The Message)