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.