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Diagnosing Dissenters: Is Homophobia a Disorder?

  • 2015 Oct 28

This summer, the Supreme Court narrowly redefined marriage and handed the gay-rights movement a major victory: full “equality” and recognition by the government. With that box checked, the gay-rights movement can now focus on its ultimate goal: silencing those who disagree.
One new and troubling strategy has emerged from the scientific community. Instead of vilifying those who believe in natural marriage, suggest some researchers, we should diagnose them.
It’s an ironic reversal. Years ago, homosexuality was listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s manual of disorders. But in 1986 it was removed, followed by a concerted push from Association members to normalize homosexual behavior.
In just thirty years, America went from a country where homosexuality was a diagnosable disorder to one where you can be fined for refusing to bake a gay “wedding” cake. Now things are going a step further. New research published in “The Journal of Sexual Medicine” suggests that homophobia, not homosexuality, is the psychological disorder.
“Live Science” reports that researchers at the University of Rome Tor Vergata asked 560 university students to report their feelings about homosexuality, then gave them a standard psychiatric evaluation.
Participants who exhibited what the researchers called “healthy attachment styles” tended to show less animosity toward homosexuals. They also showed more “mature coping mechanisms” in “scary or unpleasant situations,” and were generally less angry. But those who showed the highest animosity toward homosexuals exhibited a host of warning signs like inability to trust others, passive-aggressive behavior, and denial.
Lead researcher Emmanuele Jannini concluded, “After discussing for centuries if homosexuality is to be considered a disease, for the first time we demonstrated that the real disease to be cured is homophobia.”
Well, this was red meat for progressive websites and news outlets, who gladly trumpeted the results.
I can’t help but think of C. S. Lewis’ chilling and prophetic essay, “The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment.” Lewis believed that persecution in the future would look less like jack-booted thuggery, and more like therapy: “…certain schools of psychology already regard religion as a neurosis,” he wrote. “When this particular neurosis becomes inconvenient to the government, what is to hinder the government from proceeding to ‘cure’ it,” with mandatory re-education or other forms of treatment?
Jannini’s willingness to label homophobia as “the real disease to be cured” shows just how quickly we’re moving down this path. But we can respond: First, there are a lot of problems with how this study is being analyzed, even by its authors. For example, should it surprise us that those who show animosity toward people in general also show animosity toward gay people? Bad psychological traits probably don’t discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.
Secondly, and more importantly, a “phobia” is “an irrational and debilitating fear” of something, and Christians don’t feel this way about those who identify as gay, or they certainly shouldn’t. Ours is a rational stance based on human flourishing and God’s created order, not “irrational animus.” It’s entirely possible to object to sin, refuse to dignify it, and still love those caught up in it. In fact, that’s what Jesus commanded us to do.
So no, we don’t need a checkup from the neck up for believing what Christians have always believed. And no matter how crazy it sounds to some folks, we have got to point out the true disease, and the only cure.


BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at where you can read and search answers to common questions.

Eric Metaxas is a co-host of BreakPoint Radio and a best-selling author whose biographies, children's books, and popular apologetics have been translated into more than a dozen languages.


Publication date: October 28, 2015