Is Christianity Harmful to LGBT People? (3 of 5)

Welcome to part three of my five-part series that seeks to answer the question “Is Christianity Harmful to LGBT People?” In part one I laid the framework for this series and wrote about why this is an important topic to consider. In part two I shared my understanding of the traditional Christian understanding of LGBT people. In this post, I focus on the harm that some LGBT people have claimed a traditional Christian ethic has caused.

Remember my thesis: Christianity, instead of being harmful to LGBT people, actually leads to joy.

Claims of Harm by LGBT People by a Traditional Christian Ethic


I do not have the knowledge or ability to trace the entire history of how LGBT persons have been mistreated as an outflow of a Christian worldview. That could probably produce volumes of work. But based on a simple google search, two things seem clear to me: (1) historically, many people have been punished severely for LGBT practices and (2) at least some of those punishments were done because of Christian influence in some capacity. Take, for example, a sodomy law from 1931 from the state of Michigan:

“Any person who shall commit the abominable and detestable crime against nature either with mankind or with any animal shall be guilty of a felony, punishable by imprisonment in the state prison not more than 15 years, or if such person was at the time of the said offense a sexually delinquent person, may be punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for an indeterminate term, the minimum of which shall be 1 day and the maximum of which shall be life.”

Michigan Sodomy Law from 1931

This law permitted imprisonment for up to 15 years for anyone who had homosexual sex.

Lest any fellow Christian cry “foul” because I have quoted a law from the State as opposed to something from the Bible, it’s clear that this law was influenced by the Bible. We know this because the words used in the law are taken from Scripture. Readers of the Bible will recognize them. The law describes homosexual sex as “abominable,” “detestable,” and “against nature.” The last phrase is taken directly from Romans 1. “Detestable” is from Leviticus about men having “sexual relations” with men.

Discussing the social benefit of sodomy laws and their influence of curbing that behavior is beyond the scope of my argument. (I do believe LGBT behavior is sinful and harmful for human flourishing, to be clear.) I bring this law up to look at it from the perspective of an LGBT person who would likely see this as an example of harm (jailtime) done in response to Christian influence.


Harm that has occurred more recently, at least in the United States, focuses more on emotional or psychological harm as opposed to physical punishment or jail time. Here’s one account from John Smid, who used to work for a Christian organization that sought to help homosexuals be “transformed to a heterosexual orientation.”

“Everyone wanted so desperately to believe they could be transformed from a homosexual to a heterosexual orientation, and there were people who would talk about their lives as though that had occurred. When I heard those testimonies, I felt hopeless. I thought, I’m the only one.”

Does Jesus Really Love Me? Jeff Chu, 128, John Smid

In this book, John testified of being gay. Upon hearing someone share that they were no longer gay as a result of the program, John felt hopeless because, presumably, he still had homosexual desires. Notice the kind of harm he claimed: “I felt hopeless.”

I’ll just offer a brief comment—how horrible that sounds! As an introvert who feels deeply and holds strong convictions, I can only imagine how hopeless he did feel. It seems he wanted to not be attracted to the same gender, but couldn’t just turn a switch inside of himself to make those feelings stop. That sounds torturous.

In that same account, John Smid shared how he was involved in that program in attempt to help homosexuals. However, after leaving that organization, he shared the following:

“I’ve come to understand how my involvement in the ex-gay movement was not helpful–and in some cases, really harmful.”

Does Jesus Really Love Me? Jeff Chu, 130, John Smid

He doesn’t say how he feels his involvement was “harmful.” I presume it was because he sees it harmful to encourage or enable someone to try to change their sexual orientation.

Clarifying the Position

At this point, I think it helpful to rehash a bit of my last post in order to clarify this claim that Christianity causes harm–specifically psychological harm. The Christian view is that God is involved in making LGBT people in His image, but they are born as broken rebels and therefore may have some desires (the Bible calls these “temptations”) they don’t choose that are sinful. This leads some to believe that since those desires aren’t chosen that God is responsible for them. The question I have heard is, “If God made me and I didn’t choose to be gay/transgender/etc., then why did God make me this way?”

I recognize that I’m the one framing this question, and that this might not be the root of the issue for every LGBT person for why they say Christianity is harmful to them. (This is where I need help from some LGBT people to better understand your worldview.) But to me, that compelling question gets at the heart of the argument for why some claim Christianity is harmful to LGBT people. It seems to lead to the following conclusion: Either God is not responsible for making LGBT people or He is fine with LGBT behavior. Otherwise, He is a moral monster for creating someone to want to do what He condemns.

Reflections and wrapping this one up

I hope you’ll forgive me for not spending a significant amount of time addressing the first type of harm I brought up in this post–physical harm done throughout history. Suffice it to say that while I do think LGBT behavior is a rejection of God’s law and should be rejected by society and especially Christians, I don’t agree with everything that has been done to LGBT people throughout history in the name of Christianity. For that, all I can do is say I’m sorry. My brothers and sisters have not been perfect, and neither have I. (Please, do not put your hope in us.)

As I said earlier, however, most of the harm being done to LGBT people from Christianity today is psychological harm. It is this kind of harm that I will be referring to moving forward. What I hope to show is that Christianity, while condemning LGBT behavior, still results in great joy for LGBT people. It’s to that focus I’ll be turning in my last two posts. Thank you for reading along and offering any input you may have.

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