I think everyone has heard of the phrase, “Hate the sin, love the sinner”. It’s this ridiculous religious saying that is said so much it’s become a cliché. Many Christians use it as a way to dress up hate as compassion and moral superiority. Others honestly don’t understand why it is so wrong. And to be clear – it is.
As a gay man, I have heard this phrase so much that if I had half a cent for every time I did, I would be giving Donald Trump a run for his money. I have heard it from friends, acquaintances, clergy, biological family, neighbors, peers, colleagues, haters, bullies, miscellaneous Christians… and this was all before the time of social media. (I’m 31 and the internet wasn’t that big until I was in high school/college.) Imagine how many times I would hear it if I actually bothered to read articles on Facebook or their comments! It has always bothered me because I feel a lot of Christians use it as an excuse to judge and hate. Calling someone a faggot or voting against them having equal human rights is the same thing. You’re taking an action against them even though you “love them”, because you “hate their sin”. It becomes this line that many cross. Some accidentally and others who simply do not care.
I think the biggest reason this bugs me so much is because it is an unhealthy and faulty statement in and of itself. For example, you’re not supposed to judge others – that’s God’s job. But how can you hate a sin without passing judgment? I mean some things can be argued as obvious sins, such as murder… but what about self defense? Manslaughter? Negligible homicide? How can we judge just how sinful each individual act is without passing judgment? To be clear, I used murder because it’s extreme. It’s one of the commandments and most people feel comfortable saying that murder is generally wrong and bad and sinful. But if that terrible thing can have shades of gray, doesn’t it stand to reason that other things do too? And to be clear, murder is a behavior or event; being gay, which is not a choice (please, let’s not have this argument) is a part of who someone is. Saying that someone is sinning, just by being who they are…. Isn’t that calling God’s grand design into question? I mean, I thought he didn’t make mistakes.
When someone tells me this horrible clichéd phrase, they are passing judgment on me. They are telling me that a part of who I am, who I have always been, is sinful and wrong. It’s like calling each of my freckles an abomination (I’m Irish, so I have quite a few). How exactly does that work?
Perhaps it bothers me so much because I’m a direct person. I don’t beat around the bush, and I don’t like to play games or draw things out. Just say what you have to say. Be honest. Growing up in the middle of the bible belt, and being out since I was very young (I knew who I was since I was five, and was never big on hiding it) I was used to be being harassed and bullied or worse. Being book checked, shoved, called horrible names (faggot and queer were favorites of the time), having kids make up terrible stories about me, stealing my things, putting glue in my hair, telling teachers I did things that I didn’t – this was my normal. Teachers joining in by laughing after someone called me a faggot and making a comment themselves before getting back to the lesson at hand. That was my normal. Teachers telling me I asked for it by being who I was. That was my normal. But you know what? I prefer that, to this whole, “Love the sinner, but hate the sin” bull-crap. Because as horrible as it was – it was honest.
Loving the sinner, and hating the sin can’t be done. If you think you can do it, or have done it, you have some serious soul searching to do. It can’t be done – not really. Many Christians who preach this treat LGBT people horribly. Is that what loving the sinner looks like? And then there are those Christians that do not do anything or say anything harmful to LGBT people (but if you vote to keep them from having equality, this is not you – that is doing something against them) but believe this phrase. And because they are not saying hurtful words or condemning anyone, they think they’re spared. But that just isn’t the case. The judgments attached to this line of thinking are incredibly harmful and unhealthy. This Christian believes they are superior (at least subconsciously) to LGBT people, their sins just don’t matter as much. And if your LGBT friends knew you felt this way? Well, you would likely lose some friends; at the very least, you certainly wouldn’t become any closer with them.
I had a friend, she was my best friend actually, from the time I was a sophomore in high school until I was a senior in college. We were more than best friends – we were family. We talked on the phone every night, hung out, tried to partner up on school projects as much as we could, socialized outside of school, I took her to prom (I was out then, so just as friends), and we were frequent coconspirators in each other’s shenanigans. We didn’t have a single secret from one another. I often stayed over at her house because my parents had problems and having a gay son on top of that – forget it. I was on my own. But she wouldn’t hear of it. Her floor was my bed. For seven years we were there for each other, through our best and worst moments… but that all changed in the spring of 2006 when we were on the subject of marriage equality and she said something that struck me. Sure, she was Christian, but we had been best friends for YEARS. Surely, she couldn’t believe what I suddenly worried she did believe.
“Is that what you think?” I asked. I didn’t want her to answer not honestly. I only wanted one answer to this supposedly simple question. “That I’m going to hell, just because I’m gay.”
“Well I mean not yet. You haven’t done stuff or anything. But if you do, yeah. It doesn’t change how I feel about you, you’re still my best friend and I love you. Love the sinner, hate the sin.”
But that changed everything. I didn’t cut her off, and she didn’t cut me off but after that was out in the open, it was something that neither of us could put back into a box. Our relationship changed and I started getting less patient when she was flaky. And she started getting less personal, wanting to know less and sharing less with me. Within a few months our relationship was dead. We argued because she was flaking on attending my going away party. I was moving to California for graduate school and she had been making excuses about canceling plans for months. I hadn’t seen her in a long time and since I was moving the next day, I wondered if I would ever see her again. I got defensive, and she got angry and hung up on me. I didn’t call her back. Since then both of our numbers have changed who knows how many times. We both have moved just as many times, if not more. She isn’t on social media. I don’t know how she is doing, what she became. It’s been nine years.
She broke my heart when she said what she did, and yet I miss her every day. I think of her every day and I wonder if she ever thinks of me. She was like a sister. And yet I know, not having her in my life when she believes what she does, is probably for the best. Healthier for me and healthier for her. Now that I am happily married (to a man, duh) I can only imagine the disassociation she would have to do on a daily basis. And all because she was fooled into believing something that many Christians believe absolve them from their judgments and their hatred. But it doesn’t. And the statement is soaked in hate.
I don’t pretend to be an expert on Jesus, but I am pretty sure if he witnessed this (here on Earth) he would state firmly to the Christian who just said this line, “That’s not what I meant!” Because Jesus didn’t hate. He welcomed everyone to his table as equals because in the end we are all sinners, no one is without their sin. And yet this phrase has morphed into a saying that seems to only be applied to sexual orientation and gender identity. And we are not a sin at all, but I’m not going to get into any arguments about that in this post.
And here is the thing I think a lot of Christians don’t understand: Jesus never said this or any variation of, “Love the sinner, hate the sin”. In fact, the first time it was written was over four hundred years after Jesus died, in a letter by St. Augustine (the rough translation was, “With love for mankind and hatred of sins”). And it didn’t even become popular until Gandhi had his own version of this concept in his 1929 autobiography, in which he said, “Hate the sin and not the sinner”. And anyone who wants to argue Jesus may not have said it, but he lived it… when in his life did he hate anyone? When did he speak out against anyone? When was he unkind to them? When did he withhold basic human rights from them? Seriously, when?
I’m not religious, but I know my bible and I know my Jesus. Because I was raised in a very religious family and found myself constantly having to defend who I was, the person I was born as, to everyone, including my family. Jesus was not spiteful or vengeful, and anyone who believes that Jesus “lived this way”… wow. I feel incredibly sad for them. Their Jesus is not the Jesus in the bible or the one that ministers preach/should preach about. He was above all of that. So stop using him as a damn excuse!
I feel like this was a combination of rant and telling of my own experiences hearing this term. All of this could be stated in a much more articulate way. Oh wait! This guy does that here. Here is someone that “gets it” and he’s a minister, so perhaps he has more credibility than me.
(But read the comments after the post at your own risk. There are certainly some idiots – not all, but enough – letting this guy have it, for being a true Christian.)