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Jan 03 2011

Love the sinner, hate this meme

I am officially back from vacation, with a full buffer and a great deal of enthusiasm. I enjoyed my time in Ontario, but I am glad to be back and bringing you the good stuff once again. Happy New Year!

When I was in high school I had a string quartet. We were called The Four Quarters and we played gigs in various places around southern Ontario. Our second violinist was raised in a conservative Christian household, was home-schooled, and was about as fond of religious bottled phrases as I am fond of butter tarts (which is to say a lot). She once shared with me her outrage over some guy who was told he wasn’t allowed to discriminate against gay people at his print shop. I expressed my bafflement that this was a problem for her – wouldn’t the Christian thing to do be to love all people? I still remember her response:

Her: As a Christian, I love the sinner but hate the sin
Me: Um… Jesus wasn’t really into hate.
Her: I don’t hate gay people, I just hate the sin
Me: Still, hate… not exactly very Christlike

It was the first time I heard the whole “love the sinner,  hate the sin” trope. At the time I was still a believer, albeit a much more liberal one than she was. I had never seen anything wrong with being gay, and hadn’t yet read the lovely passages in Leviticus and the letters of Paul that called gay sex an “abomination”. Even then, I knew it was a stupid phrase, because it’s still hate, and hate is not represented anywhere in Christian scripture. The only story we have that even comes close to touching on the subject is the one about Jesus and the adulteress, from which we get the famous line “let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” It’s a nice story, provided you don’t think about it too much, and ignore the fact that it’s not in any of the other gospels, and couldn’t have been from an eyewitness, and probably got snuck in after the gospel of John was written, and probably never actually happened. The relevant point here is that sins should be forgiven. It doesn’t say anything about hating sin.

But back up a second and replay the story from the beginning. Assume Jesus had come to the crowd and instead wrote “Love the sinner, but stone the sin to death”. Who wants to lay odds that that woman would have made it out alive?

The problem lies in the fact that being gay, or doing the things that are a direct result of being gay, are labeled as “sin”. Whereas someone could, conceivably, make the decision not to commit adultery, there is no choice in the matter of being gay. Even if there was, while there is a clear harm from adultery (assuming the spouse isn’t okay with it), there is no clear harm to being gay, or expressing your sexuality as a gay person except insofar as all sexual expression has risks and harms, and the fact that small-minded bigots have made people feel ashamed of being gay.

“But Crommunist,” you say “it’s not me who says that homosexuality is a sin, it’s GOD! The Bible makes it very clear that is it a sin!”

Ah yes, that pesky God. You’d totally have no problem with homosexuality, but it says right there in black and white that homosexuality is an abomination. What can you do? You certainly can’t ignore the stuff it says directly in the Bible, right? I mean, if you could, for the sake of argument, ignore some parts of the Bible that don’t make any sense or are impractical, you would totally do it, right? If the Bible is the only reason that you condemn homosexuality, and you are capable of ignoring certain parts of the Bible that conflict with your personal beliefs, then you’d stop condemning it?

Well, consider it your luck day, because chances are you completely ignore lots of stuff in the Bible. Let’s start with the easy ones: if you have ever had sex for any reason other than procreation, you’re ignoring the story of Onan. Do you own a cross or a crucifix? Maybe a picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus or a statue of the Virgin Mary? Whoops, you just ignored the second commandment. Let’s not even get started on what happens if you catch your neighbour working on a Saturday or a Sunday.

“But that’s all Old Testament stuff,” you say. “The New Testament is where all the real rules are.” Okay, fine, but then you’re no longer allowed to talk about the Ten Commandments. Obviously if stuff in the Old Testament that doesn’t make sense can be ignored, then we can stop talking about the “thou shalt nots” as though they have any real meaning. Also we can throw out Genesis, so that takes care of creationism (and Intelligent Design, it’s hilariously-ironically-named cousin). Just so long as we don’t disregard anything that’s in the New Testament we should be okay to call homosexuality a “sin”.

Do you support school prayer, or prayer in public places, or even group prayer in church? How about take an oath of office? Do you think people should be allowed to fight to defend themselves against violent attack? How about the right of people to save and accumulate money? How about… oh I don’t know… identify someone else as a sinner*? Whoops, you’ve chosen to ignore specific instructions from Jesus himself. What about specific instructions from Jesus about whether it’s okay to fuck another dude or make sweet sweet mouth-sex to another lady? Hmm… he’s oddly silent on that one.

So since you’re cool with ignoring some parts of the Bible when they are either out-dated or don’t seem to make sense, you have no reason to condemn homosexuality as sin, right? Well… unless that condemnation is just you trying to find a lame excuse about “loving the sinner but hating the sin” to justify your a priori hatred of gay people. But you wouldn’t do that, would you?

The fact is that identifying a set of behaviours that have no demonstrable harm to anyone as a “sin” is completely arbitrary, just as if I said that it is a “sin” to hold hands in public with your spouse, or encourage your daughter to play sports. By branding such a thing as a “sin”, you’re passing judgment on people who do it, and asserting (without evidence) that there is some sort of shame in their living their lives as they see fit. In so doing, you put the lie to the completely laughable statement that you are simply “hating the sin” whilst all the while “loving the sinner”.

TL/DR: “Love the sinner, hate the sin” is a false statement, since it is based on the premise that acts can be “sins” even if they harm nobody. People pick and choose which parts of the Bible they follow, so the excuse that God condemns it is also false. Calling someone a “sinner” is already condemnation, which is a direct contravention of the idea of loving them.

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*For the record, Matthew 7:1-5 has always been, and probably will always be, one of my absolute favourite Biblical passages. The idea of someone with a beam in their eye always made me chuckle, but it’s a great message to remember about hypocrisy.

13 comments

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  1. 1
    Autumn

    Jesus does do hate.
    Luke 14:26
    John 12:25

    Though the Christians I know claim it means to ‘love less.’

    Christ also says that he came not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. Matthew 5:17 Many Christians, including the Roman Catholic Church, splits up the OT into categories of sin, some being social issues and traditions (women covering their heads) and some being SIN (women preaching and homosexuality).

    Cor. 6:9–10 states, “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind…”
    Not exactly hatred, perhaps, but a definite “homosexuality is a sin” message.

    Then there is the story of Jesus killing a fig tree because it didn’t bear figs out of season. That seems pretty hateful, in a child’s tantrum sort of way.

    What about the story where Jesus makes the woman beg at his feet in the dust, calling herself worthless and a dog?

    And Jesus, don’t forget, was the one to introduce the concept of Hell. That is not loving. Loving is not beating a child into submission FOREVER for a minor infraction.

  2. 2
    grassrute

    I’m afraid I can’t leave this one alone. I am not overly surprised to hear the statement “hate is not represented anywhere in Christian scripture.” I have heard greater error from those who have read the Bible more. God’s people are commanded to “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” Romans 12 : 9. This is consistently taught in scripture and Jesus doesn’t contradict that teaching, but rather, displays hatred for what is evil while he is on the earth.
    My own children engage in activity that I hate, but I still love them. I hate it when they fight, I hate it when they lie and I hate it when they won’t share. I also hate the fact that my brother, who has already been cured of cancer, smokes. To hate the act of smoking and still love the smoker is not that difficult. I tell my brother to quit because I love him and hate what he is doing.
    Although you suggest that homosexuality doesn’t bring anyone harm, studies have concluded otherwise. Those who practice homosexuality have their life expextancy shortended by at least 20 years. Further, not repenting from sin bars the sinner from everlasting life. This certainly is harmful to the sinner.

    To refute your claim that Christian life contradicts biblical teaching:

    The Bible doesn’t teach sex only for the purpose of procreation; neither does the story of Onan. What displeased God about Onan was his refusal to raise up seed for his brother, something that was commanded for Israelites when their brother died without children.

    Second commandment forbids worshiping God in another manner other than what he has ordained. Making images for the purpose of worshiping them is, therefore, forbidden by the second commandment. However, a cross around ones neck is usually for identification purposes similar to the little fish you find on many cars. Christians aren’t worshiping them. The moment they are used for worship, the second commandment is violated.

    The fourth commandment is necessary because of the tendency of some to become workaholics and/or make their servants/employees work seven days a week. The story you point to in your article is of an individual who is not simply gathering sticks on the Sabbath, but one you is deliberately disobeying God. Moses chose to make an example of him for all the people. This would serve to ensure the people kept the Lord’s Sabbaths. It’s rather easy to see the positive that result from this law, a day of rest from your work. Compare to a statutory holiday today, when it’s illegal for most retail outlets to be open. Is the purpose of such a law to be a burden on business or to prevent businesses from forcing employees to work on a holiday? It’s like Jesus says “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”

    “prayer in public places” This is referring to prayer done in public for the purpose of appearing righteous in the eyes of others. Considering the practices of the Pharasies of that time, it obviously refers to such practices and isn’t intended to restrict prayer for the believing heart to the confines of a closet.

    “take an oath of office” Taking an oath in the name of any created thing is condemned as the texts you link to state clearly. Taking an Oath is only valid when done in the name of the Lord. The Lord doesn’t condemn such an oath, but rather, says they shouldn’t be necessary. A Christian should be able to simply be taken at his/her word and should have a reputation for telling only the truth. Obedience to the governing authorities is commanded, and therefore Oaths required by the Government are to be taken.

    “fight to defend themselves against violent attack?” Really? Is to get slapped on the cheek a violent attack?

    “save and accumulate money?” The Bible teaches responsible wealth management. This doesn’t contradict selling off what you don’t need and giving to the poor. (Do you oppose this teaching despite your strong support of government sanctioned wealth redistribution?)

    “… identify someone else as a sinner” The context here is not even a little difficult. Continue reading and you will find “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” We are simply commanded here to judge ourselves first.

    To be clear, I’m not cool with ignoring any parts of the Bible. In addition, I believe just as strongly in your freedom to reject biblical teaching as my freedom to spread it.

  3. 3
    Brian Lynchehaun

    Although you suggest that homosexuality doesn’t bring anyone harm, studies have concluded otherwise.

    Cite the study.

  4. 4
    grassrute

    Take your pick:

    http://www.corporateresourcecouncil.org/white_papers/Health_Risks.pdf

    http://ije.oxfordjournals.org/content/26/3/657.full.pdf

    http://narth.com/docs/healthrisks.html

    http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=61856

    Although I stated that life expectancy is shortened by over 20 years, most studies appear to state up to 20 years.

  5. 5
    Crommunist

    Hahahahahaha.

    I actually laughed when I clicked on the last link. WORLD NET DAILY? Why not cite something from whale.to?

    The only one of those that actually counts as a study is the IJE one, and that’s about HIV. HIV is not exclusive to the homosexual population, and can therefore not be counted as a risk due to homosexuality. You really need to work on your critical reading skills.

    I’ll get to the rest of your reply when my eyes stop rolling.

  6. 6
    grassrute

    The World Net Daily article contained this link:
    http://hglhc-safety-net.blogspot.com/2010/12/sexually-transmitted-diseases-treatment.html
    which is a report based on page 13 from the centre for disease, control and prevention which can be found here:
    http://www.cdc.gov/std/treatment/2010/STD-Treatment-2010-RR5912.pdf
    The point here is that MSM is a higher risk lifestyle, as is any sexual promiscuity.

    Feel free to provide a study that finds homosexuality or sexual promiscuity to cause no harm. Also, provide a study that finds sex limited to the confines of marriage to cause an increased health risk.

  7. 7
    Brian Lynchehaun

    Is this a joke?

    Do you seriously think that the items you listed:

    A) count as studies in any meaningful sense (excepting, of course, the one real study you have in there from the Oxford Journal which is about AIDS, not homosexuality)?

    B) would be taken seriously by anyone with an education?

    Can you critically evaluate those studies? Can you name (I don’t know) three things wrong with “study” 1, 3 and 4? As in “actually wrong” not “things that I guess hippy liberals won’t like, so I’ll name while rolling my eyes”?

  8. 8
    Crommunist

    No sex at all is safer. By your logic, it is a sin to do anything other than IVF, since it carries the lowest risk.

    But of course you’re not that stupid, so I will just consider the point refuted.

  9. 9
    grassrute

    “By your logic, it is a sin to do anything other than IVF, since it carries the lowest risk.”

    The safety of the activity is not what determines whether or not it’s a sin. I refuted your claim that homosexuality doesn’t harm anyone, but that has no bearing on what scripture teaches about it and has little to do with the rest of my initial comment.

  10. 10
    Crommunist

    You refuted no such thing. All you did was establish that unsafe sex isn’t safe. Congratulations.

  11. 11
    Crommunist

    Hoookay. I’ve had a couple of days, I’m going to try and tackle this monster of a comment.

    You are correct that my statement that hate isn’t in Christian scripture may not be true – I should have specified that I was referring to the teachings of Jesus. While Jesus doesn’t refute anything said in the letters of Paul (at least in the gospels that were voted into the NT), that just might be because the letters were written after Jesus had died. It is also true that Paul doesn’t claim to be transcribing the literal word of God – rather providing his personal commentary, so I give those letters about as much scriptural weight as I do your comments.

    Further, not repenting from sin bars the sinner from everlasting life. This certainly is harmful to the sinner.

    If I was a believer, I’d answer you thusly: Since neither you nor I can comprehend the strange justice of the Lord, who are you to say what sins He will and will not forgive? Your vainglorious pride in your own righteousness is surely a greater sin than failing to repent of what you call “sin” – a flaw that you find in the design of the Lord. Hypocrite! Repent of your own sin before you foolishly claim to be able to judge others!

    Since I’m not a believer, I’ll just say “citation needed”.

    You are either using a bizarrely shifting definition of ‘hate’ or you don’t really ‘hate’ homosexuality, you’re just irritated and annoyed by it. If you hate homosexuality as much as you hate it when your kids don’t share toys, then I don’t really have much of a problem with your personal stance, just your misappropriation of terminology. You will have to accede that many of your Christian brethren (who I’m sure you will take great pains to decry as not ‘really Christian’) use ‘hate’ in a much more accurate way when it applies to gay people.

    Your points about the story of Onan and the second commandment are certainly valid interpretations of those statutes. You must, however, acknowledge that it was established Biblical truth within Christianity that the interpretations that I provided were considered the correct ones for many years. This brings me back to the point that the Bible can be used to condemn or justify pretty much anything, depending on who is doing the interpretation. When I was a believer, I probably would have sided with you on those two particular stories as a way of trying to find reason and morality within the book. You completely step into weirdsville when you talk about the 4th commandment though. You think it is a moral action to stone someone to death for gathering some fucking STICKS? It seems like a pretty arbitrary violation of a vague commandment (there is no rule that says “thou shalt do no work on the sabbath” or anything of that sort) – certainly not one that deserves death.

    As far as prayer in the closet goes, it clearly says right there that prayer should be done in secret. It’s not an ambiguous “well maybe it means this” kind of thing here – it says very clearly that prayer should not be done in public.

    “Taking an Oath is only valid when done in the name of the Lord” – you are just making that one up. While it’s certainly a valid opinion to state, it is not based on the Bible and is in fact in direct contradiction of scripture. It is the same with the ‘slap on the cheek’ bit – it says very clearly that Christians must not resist an evil person, regardless of the offense. As someone who has been slapped on the cheek, yes I would describe it as a violent attack. So would Barney.

    The Bible does not teach anything like “responsible wealth management”. It says sell everything you have. That’s not selling what you don’t need – it’s everything you have.

    “Judge not lest ye be judged” doesn’t even start to mean “judge yourself first, then you can judge others.” It is a Christian principle (by which I mean a principle of Jesus) that no man may judge another. Judgment is reserved for the Father in heaven, who will judge all men in their time. Hypocrisy is the greatest of sins (look to the woes of the Pharisees), which precludes anyone from judging another as a “sinner”. In modern Christian theology, since all men are sinners, none may judge another – he is simply exhorted to “go and sin no more”.

    You are perfectly happy to ignore parts of the Bible, or at least twist the interpretation to fit whatever you think is right and wrong. That’s your right to do, and I would never suggest that you can’t cobble together a value system based on the teachings therein. However, you cannot get away with calling things objectively right and wrong when there is a metric assload of subjectivity in your judgment. Calling something a “sin” is an objective judgment, and when in so doing you condemn an entire group of people, it has measurable consequences and harms for a group of people that have done nothing to you.

  12. 12
    Crommunist

    And to be clear, while I have decided to discuss this on your own territory, you should not mistake my invocation of scripture for any sort of accession on my part that it is anything more than a mistranslated account of a minor historical figure based on hearsay and re-told fables.

  13. 13
    Brian Lynchehaun

    It’s sad that it’s necessary to make such a clarification… :(

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