Over time I regularly hear the old standby line “Hate the Sin, love the sinner” defense to support discriminating against LGBTQ folk. The Catholic Church has used this one for years to support its systematic discrimination against homosexuals. And for years, it has annoyed me. The events of the last week have brought it back with a fervor by evangelicals. A couple thoughts on this — some mine, and some from two very powerful voices.
First, mine. As Christians, we are commanded to love our neighbor. Jesus is not attributed to saying anything about HATE. Indeed, a search of the NIV shows the word “love” appears 205 times in the New Testament, and the word “hate” a mere 15 time, and those are mostly in the context of love your enemies. How about we just stick with the “love.” It certainly is the core element of Christian faith. Love your neighbor. All your neighbors.
But this issue deserves more - and there are other voices are far more powerful than mine that and worth listening to on this issue. This morning I came across Matthew Paul Turner’s blog Five Ways the Church Failed Yesterday. This piece speaks volumes. I will quote one section - but READ THE WHOLE THING.
Trust me, I understand that most people who ate chicken sandwiches at CFA yesterday did not do that as an act of hate. I get that. And that’s cool and all, but did the act of going out of your way to CFA prove that to be true? Do you think that the GLBTQ communities believe you? Would you, if you were gay, believe you?
Now before you answer that, remember that yesterday’s CFA Love Day was just one action in a long line of many. Because let’s face it: Christians go WAY out of their way to “hate the sin”–i.e., by voting against gay marriage, voting against civil unions, voicing their angst about gay people adopting children (just to list a few). Is it possible that Christians lose the ability to truly “love the sinner” because they’re so busy “hating the sin”? Do Christians put anywhere near the energy into “loving the sinner” as they do “hating the sin”?
All I know is that the GLBTQ communities are becoming quite used to feeling unloved by Christians. And with good reason.
How many times do we hear Christians say something like, “I don’t hate gay people. I may not agree with their lifestyle. But I don’t hate them… ”
If you were gay, would you believe that? Think about it. Would you feel loved by somebody if they included rules, context, and/or explanations about your lifestyle every time they spoke about how much they don’t hate you? Only when talking about gay people do Christians feel the need to preface their “love” or “non-hate” with some variation of “I don’t agree with your lifestyle, but…” Christians don’t talk about any other group of people like that–only gay people.
Turner’s post captures the core element. The message is strengthened by the words of the Rev. Mark Sandlin, who writes as The “God Article.” Rev. Sandlin suggests that “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin” is really hate by any other name. He says this in "Clobbering Biblical Gay Bashing." (which should also be required reading):
Hate By Any Other Name
Oh sure, this time around we have “softened” our approach, saying things like “hate the sin, love the sinner,” but we fail to recognize that what we are calling a “sin” and the person we are calling a “sinner” are one and the same. A person whose sexual orientation is homosexual, or bi-sexual, or queer can no more separate themselves from their sexuality than a heterosexual person can. It’s like saying “hate the toppings, love the pizza.” It’s just not the pizza without the toppings. We just aren’t loving the person if we don’t love the whole person.
I suspect the “softening” of the language we use has everything to do with making us feel better and very little with making LGBTQ folk feel better, because it certainly doesn’t make them feel any better. As a matter of fact, the love/hate (emphasis on hate) relationship that the Church continues to push on this group of people only serves to push them into closets and into even darker places, which sometimes leads to suicide. The Church and its approach to this issue are at fault for most of the hurt, anguish, self-doubt, abuse and death associated with being LGBTQ. Not very loving. Not very grace filled. But it certainly leaves us in need of forgiveness.
Many Christians have lost their way in this twisty, turny maze of how to practice our faith. We would much rather reinforce the things we want to believe than believe the sometimes difficult teachings of Jesus. Who, on a side note, never said a word about homosexuality but did tell us to gouge out our lustful eyes. Which seems to me is more likely to leave us all blind than the “eye for and eye” thing.
How about we just stick with the “love” and forget the hate.