Homophobia in the Rise of Christianity


  • Today our society is slowly becoming more accepting of homosexuality, recognizing that it is a normal and natural thing
    • But how did the world become homophobic in the first place?
      • Was it always that way?
  • Homophobia is a Judeo-Christian construct that has spread around the world with Christian expansion.


Christian Origins (Background)

  • Christianity formed around the Mediterranean
  • Founded on Judaic beliefs and the fulfillment of  the greatest Jewish prophecy
    • Jesus Christ is the Messiah, God incarnated in human flesh
  • Teaches forgiveness and love as founding principles
    • Based on Jewish texts (10 Commandments) and Jesus’ teachings
  • Also teaches that sex (for purposes besides procreation) is sinful
    • Homosexuality is strictly forbidden by God
  • Emphasizes the responsibility to spread religion and “spread the good news”
    • Missionaries carry out this job by travelling to foreign countries and working with populations to “civilize” and spread Christianity
  • As the church began to organize, the Catholic church developed and remained the only form of Christianity for centuries
  • Soon after its formation, the Christian church was persecuted by the Romans
    • Shortly after that, the Christians took over it


Ancient Rome

  • Homosexuality was totally normal
  • Both gods and mortals were involved in same sex relationships
    • Statues and buildings dedicated to appreciating the body
  • Jesus was infamously crucified by a Roman
  • Emperor Nero persecuted early Christians, earning him the title of “AntiChrist” (666)
  • Shortly afterwards, Christianity began to spread through the Roman empire
  • As Christianity gained traction, more people began to condemn homosexuality
  • 392 AD Christianity became the official religion of the Roman empire (pagan religions were banned)
  • As the Roman empire declined, the stigma grew


  • Europe became intolerant of homosexuality
    • This lasted for centuries
  • The Western world was extremely Christian, and Westerners were the first to expand and colonize multiple continents
  • When Western expansion began to occur, colonizers took their homophobic culture with them
  • Began a transition worldwide to homophobic ideologies


Western Expansion

  • In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue
    • He was a dedicated Catholic & mandated his crew remain devout
  • He reached the Caribbean and was the first to interact with the natives, whom he called “Indians”
    • He and his crew immediately began the process of converting the Native Americans to Christianity
      • This included enforcing their homophobic ideology
  • The voyage of the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria began a centuries long persecution of homosexuality


Early South America

  • Many native South American tribes included same sex relationships in daily life
    • The Moche people left thousands of ceramic pieces depicting same-sex intercourse
  • The Incan Empire considered both homosexuality and premarital sex normal parts of life
  • Spanish conquistadors were horrified by these “immoral” people
    • Francisco de Toledo wrote about the Incan empire so that Christian Europe would know how “uncivilized” it was
  • Conquistadors began to burn homosexuals at the stake
  • Spanish settlers taught the remaining Natives to practice Catholicism


  • Today’s Latin America is primarily Catholic
  • Despite modern laws protecting LGBTQA rights, many people identifying as gay/lesbian/etc face extreme discrimination
    • Physical, verbal, and emotional violence
  • This modern persecution is the legacy of the violent conquistador behaviors, based on a zealous, but typical for the time interpretation of Christianity


The Protestant Reformation

  • In 1517, Martin Luther posted his “95 Theses” on the doors of a church
    • Began the protestant reformation
  • Establishment of the Lutheran, Anglican, and Presbyterian churches, later followed by Methodist, Quaker, and Baptist
    • At the time, all of these denominations still maintained the same view of homosexuality
  • As more Christian denominations formed, Europe faced the struggle of choosing an official religion
  • Many Europeans decided to leave the continent so they could practice their religion freely


Early North America

  • Most Native American tribes were accepting of homosexuality
  • Navajo tribes considered gay marriage a normal union
  • “Common law marriages” applied to everyone
  • “Two spirit” is a common term
    • You are blessed to have the spirit of male and female
      • LGBT tribe members often became religious leaders for that reason
  • Crossdressing and androgyny were both totally acceptable
  • English settlers arrived, bringing their religion with them
  • Depending on what places were colonized, the denomination of Christianity differed (Spain was Catholic, England was Anglican, the pilgrims were protestant)
    • They all held the same stance on homosexuality however
  • The colonizers condemned the two spirit way of life
  • Colonizers tried to teach the Navajos that same sex relationships were sinful


  • Today, being a “two spirit” is not an honorable trait
  • Along with the loss of land, life, and culture came the loss of acceptance of homosexuality as a normal institution
  • All Americans, Native or not, have to fight to be recognized and accepted for their sexuality


PreColonial India

  • India has historically been accepting of homosexuality, despite modern debates on that subject
  • Until it came under British influence, beginning in 1612, homosexuality was a natural part of life
  • Hindu texts depicted transgender gods and same sex relationships
  • The act of kissing (especially in female same sex relationships) was actually supposed to bring people to a higher state of consciousness
  • The British East India Trading Company arrived and began trade with India
    • Brought Protestant Christianity with them
  • The British condemned India’s open attitude towards homosexuality and tortured those found “guilty” of being gay
    • Publically trapped between 2 wooden boards, where people passing by could harass them


  • India has had a difficult time overcoming the stigma of homosexuality
  • In the time since British colonization, India has tried to reject many of its Western influences
  • Hinduism has still remained the most powerful religious force in India, but the Christian influences of the West still remain
  • Some try to claim that homosexuality is a Western construct
    • Despite it being the opposite
  • Starting the conversation has been difficult, as discussing homosexuality has been taboo
    • Result of refusal to explicitly describe homosexual “crimes” to prevent contagion



  • The rise and expansion of Christianity caused the rise in homophobic attitudes all over the world
  • Christian explorers and missionaries carried their ideologies with them to new places, where they claimed the rest of the world was acting “immorally”
  • Ancient civilizations and cultures that had always included homosexual practices were forced to adopt Christian heterosexual lifestyles
  • As time went on, these attitudes became commonplace, and being gay was a trait that was suppressed in millions of people
  • As our world slowly becomes more accepting of homosexuality as a natural trait, it is important to acknowledge that this is not a new idea
    • It’s an ancient one

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