It seems to be the question on everyone’s minds. How can those who proclaim a loving, forgiving God demonstrate such hatred and bigotry? Unfortunately, many self-proclaimed Christians have made this a legitimate question to ask, displaying undeniable cruelty to those God, in some sense at least, loves.
But if a handful of Christians have made the question necessary, some on the other side of the debate have asked it without challenging the presuppositions behind it. I would suggest that before we ask why Christians hate gays, we must first ask if Christians hate gays. After all, the Westboro Baptist sorts seem to be in the hate-mongering minority even among fundamentalist and evangelical Christians. I belong to the latter category and I find the assumption that Christians hate gays to be intellectually (if not morally) offensive. So I will challenge it by first asking the related and seemingly never asked question.
Do Christians love gays?
I propose that they do—at least those of them humbly seeking to live faithful Christian lives by the grace of God.
Consider what it means to love someone. As far as definitions go, I have always preferred C.S. Lewis’: “Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it may be obtained.” Love has little, if anything, to do with bare emotion, and rather more to do with spending ourselves wholly to see our beloved experiencing the very best. For this reason parents sacrifice time and energy to put their children through school so that they can follow their vocational dreams. For this reason patriots have given their very lives so that their families and loved ones back home can live lives free from terror and oppression. We may quibble whether these choices were wise; we may challenge whether the results were in fact the “ultimate good” the loved ones could experience. But we cannot challenge the loving intent of the actions.
Now, for Christians the definition of love remains the same, except that we would more narrowly define what anyone’s ultimate good is. Christians believe, as they always have, that God himself is the ultimate good, the very best that anyone can experience. It was for this reason, according to the Bible, that Jesus Christ came into the world and died his sacrificial death on the cross: that anyone who trusts in this work of Jesus might live the fullness of life, might experience perfect peace and complete joy through a relationship with God himself.
You may not agree that this is the ultimate good, but you cannot disagree that this is a central tenet of the Christian faith, and one to which Christians are entitled to cling.
According to this understanding of love, colored in distinctly Christian terms, do Christians love gays or not? Surely they do (or at least the bulk of them from my experiences in mainstream evangelicalism). If, as Christians believe, the ultimate good we could wish on anyone we love is God himself; and if, as the Bible states clearly throughout the Old and New Testaments, homosexuality—like all sexual activity outside of a heterosexual, monogamous marriage—is a sinful practice that separates the person from God; then the most loving action a Christian could take is to call the beloved homosexual out of life-destroying sin and into life-giving fellowship with God.
To the gay community, this approach is anathema. It is a violation of human rights, unjust discrimination, narrow-minded bigotry and hatred. Christians, we are told, should mind their own business, stay out of other people’s bedrooms, and quietly delude themselves with their pretended spirituality.
That may all be true. But note the sleight of hand that takes place in such a maneuver. The gay community and those who advocate it have asked us to adopt their standard of love, their definition of “ultimate good,” now given an individual, humanistic tinct. In addition, they have asked Christians to abandon outright the historic heart of Christianity—in essence, to cease to be Christian—by insisting that we no longer proclaim that message publicly.
In other words, the gay-rights movement has proven itself to be just as publicly vocal (evangelistic?), intolerant, and narrow-minded as the Christians they denounce. Both sides, in order to continue being what forms the core of their identity, must persist in trying to convert the other side: from homosexuality to celibate same-sex attraction on the one hand, and from evangelist to relativist on the other. But so far, only one group has acknowledged its proselytizing instinct.
Three conclusions follow. First, despite our entrenched positions, we need not give in to vituperative hatred, as the worst advocates on both sides have regrettably embraced. Second, this does not mean that Christians hate gays any more than it means gays hate Christians. Individuals on both sides may lapse into this lamentable stance, but the movements will necessarily forego them: Christians because they are called to love, and gays because they espouse individual freedom, including freedom of religious belief.
Third, and finally, the debate will continue. If love wins, it has to. For Christians will continue proclaiming their ultimate good, the fullness of life found only in Christ; and gay-rights advocates will continue proclaiming theirs, the autonomy of the individual to choose their own happiness.
I can only ask, as a Christian tired of being dismissed as a hate-filled homophobe because I believe in the authority of the Bible, that the debate continue honestly, not with the stunted reasoning of a meme-generation. Christians cannot preach love and then practice hate, as most of culture has vociferously reminded us; but neither can the gay-rights community preach individual freedom and practice cultural hegemony and vitriolic jeremiads against those who choose another way of life. To do so would be hypocrisy.
 “Answers to Questions on Christianity,” in God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994): 49.