Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin?

Previously published on my Tumblr page, http://a-woman-apart.tumblr.com/

I know that I ended my last entry abruptly, so I’m going to try and revisit the topics that I discussed in “No Father but God” individually and in greater detail.

I was left feeling a little bit conflicted after I kind of wrote in support of Christians who condemn homosexuality as a sin, but claim to still love gay and lesbian people and want the best for them. My point was that even though the religion as a whole teaches that homosexuality is a sin, doesn’t mean that Christians or Muslims condone the actions of gunmen like Omar Mateen.

Since then, however, I’ve come across a number of posts from people in the LGBTQIA community who came out of Christian or Islamic backgrounds. These posts talked about the psychological burden that repressing their homosexuality placed on them, and the sort of empty well-wishing they received from people who quote the cliche “Love the sinner, hate the sin”. These posts argued against the notion that you could truly love a person while considering their lifestyle “disgusting”. They challenged the Catholic idea that it’s okay to be gay, as long as you don’t act on your feelings. They said that this was tantamount to telling people to love freely, but then forbidding them from expressing that love in any way. They insisted that ultimately, these restrictions and commands fuel a homophobic culture that inevitably results in attacks like those on the Pulse nightclub on Orlando.

So who is right? Can you still say that you “love” LGBTQIA people if you vote against them having the right to marry or create families? Can you say that you have their best interests in mind, but don’t want them to share your churches, classrooms, or restrooms? Can you say that you really support them when you don’t want to see them portrayed on television, but are totally unaffected by depictions of gratuitous violence or extramarital heterosexual affairs?

I still think that the question is a difficult one to answer. If you truly believe that the Bible or Quaran is divinely inspired, and that God in His holiness cannot abide homosexuality, I can see where you would be stuck. You’re left to choose between following the dictates of your God versus being accommodating to another person, and if God trumps all, I can see why you might be having trouble. Or, if you think that homosexuality is a disease that can somehow be “cured” by conversion therapy, I can see why you are aghast that anyone would “choose” to stay that way.

Your situation might be further complicated if you’re gay and you’re Christian, and you’re left to scour the scriptures for evidence that you really can be both, to the chagrin of Fundamentalist Christians and your fellow LGBTQIAs. You may be demonized and told to just “pick a side”. For you, it isn’t that simple. Jesus is your Savior. You still believe He died for your sins, and even though He himself didn’t mention homosexuality, you’re left to wonder if millions of Bible-quoting Christians could be wrong in saying that your very existence is sinful.

I don’t think there’s an easy answer to the argument. On the one hand, I could just come out and say, “Christians, you’re wrong. Science has shown us that homosexuality isn’t a choice. In fact, it’s present in plenty of other mammals. So if it’s something that you’re born with, how can God punish someone for making them in the way that He made them?”

Fundamentalist Christians: “Well God gave each of us the power of choice, and sin entered the world when Adam and Eve took the fruit in the garden of Eden. He doesn’t make us sin and He doesn’t tempt us. James said ‘each of us is tempted by sin when he is taken into his own lusts and enticed’. Jesus came to save people from sin, not encourage them in it.”

Then of course, I could argue that there is no evidence that there ever was a Garden of Eden, lesser evidence still about the existence of Satan, and the idea of what is “sin” varies from culture to culture. Then we’d just have this,

“Well the Bible is God’s word. Everything in it is true.”

That is what we’re up against. So while I cannot support or defend mainstream Christianity’s views of homosexuality, I can almost identify with their stubborn insistence of ignoring “logic” and facts and just insisting on their own way. “God says homosexuality is wrong, so it is, because God is sovereign” and “His ways are higher than our ways” and so on, so forth. It’s pretty much like talking to a brick wall, because no matter how cunning the arguments we bring in favor of acceptance of the LGBTQIA “God’s logic” trumps all.

Sure, there are some good arguments that LGBTQIA people who remain Christian bring up in defense of their lifestyle. One is that the story of Sodom and Gomorrha is misinterpreted. Christian LGBTQIA people often point out that God didn’t destroy the city specifically because of homosexuality, but because of their violence, sexual assault, and greediness. I think they also point out that “Man shall not lie with man; it is an abomination” was a command given to the early Jews under the Law and doesn’t necessarily cross over into Christianity- especially since Jesus never mentioned this passage in all of his ministry. I’m not aware of how they handle the Pauline epistles; Paul basically tells the Romans that God actually inflicts homosexuality on people that disobey Him/refuse to serve Him. (Maybe that was just considered so absurd that it’s considered not to be canon)

Anyway, I am kind of diverging from the point. Can you really “love the sinner, hate the sin?” or is the very idea that homosexuality is inherently immoral toxic enough that we must stamp all residues of it from our society in order to have a healthy future? Do Christians who believe and teach that being LGBTQIA is wrong bear responsibility for the actions of people who carry out physical acts of violence against LGBTQIA people? Are the two interrelated, or can Christians that vote for anti-LGBTQIA laws and cringe at the sight of two men kissing on television wash their hands of any blame for the murder and continued abuse of LGBTQIA people?

Not everyone has a religious justification for being anti-LGBTQIA, just like not everyone has a religious justification for being racist. On the other hand though I do find it alarming that when people are prejudiced against someone based on gender expression or sexuality that they can so easily find a religious justification, and the religious right are sometimes slow to denounce the actions of people who commit overt crimes against the LGBTQIA community. Maybe saying, “I don’t believe it’s okay to be gay, but I don’t think that we should kill gay people” isn’t really enough, when your words and teachings are being used to justify the persecution of LGBTQIA people around the world. Maybe you do bear some responsibility after all.

That being said, it isn’t going to be an easy road going forward. A lot of Christians feel like they’re being marginalized and backed into a corner where they either have to submit to the so-called “gay agenda” and renounce their “rights” as Christians or they have to “stand for truth”. They see this as some kind of a “battle” that they’re fighting and that the LGBTQIA community gaining visibility is just another sign of the “perilous” times we live in.

As happy as I am to no longer be caught up in all of that whirlwind, as I continue to examine those beliefs- which are based very much on fear- the sorrier I feel for everyone who is still involved. Of course, there are many good things that come with having faith, but if your religion is at war with your identity as a person then that can become increasingly difficult. I’m still trying to make sense of it all myself. It’s a little bit easier for me, since I don’t accept the idea of a fallen, sinful world, but some people do and as frustrating as it is we have to recognize that those are their religious beliefs and they are close to their hearts. That being said, it’s never okay to use your religion as an excuse to marginalize and oppress someone else.

Love the sinner, hate the sin? Maybe it’s possible, maybe it’s not. (Please post a comment, if you can.)

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