“Hate the sin, love the sinner.”
That’s a phrase that is thrown around with ease in many Christian circles. The idea is that you hate the sin because you love the person and you don’t want to see them lead a harmful lifestyle.
I prescribed to this logic for a very long time, actually. It was how I rationalized my viewpoint on gay marriage (that it wasn’t okay because marriage was “sacred”). I wanted people to be very sure that I didn’t hate gay people, I just disapproved of the gay part. Unfortunately, as much as I wanted to believe that I could separate the two, I couldn’t.
This entire mindset is an insidious idea because it is presented as if it were coming from a place of love, rather than hate — despite the fact that hate is the guiding emotion. There is also the added fun of Hell, making it imperative that you hate this sin because if you don’t then this person is going to presumably end up in an eternity of suffering and damnation.
Somewhere along the way hating gayness meant hating the fact that I was gay. Because what do you do when that sin is a part of who you are? There’s a difference between the characteristic that determines the gender of the person I love and the characteristic that causes me to be tardy to every class before 11 a.m.
But this sort of mindset, of hating the sin, does not recognize that these traits are inherently different, which begs the question: how can a person’s sexuality be considered a sin? Because once you believe that homosexuality is a sin, then the individual’s very existence is a sin as well. Which is why so many Christians have to believe that sexuality is a choice, because if it isn’t, then their entire rationale crumbles.
There are a couple of arguments that the Church uses to justify its stance.
One perspective is it’s unnatural because you can’t procreate — but that makes no logical sense, is not entirely true anymore and also begs the question of where heterosexual couples who can’t have kids fall.
Other people like to argue that you can tell homosexuality is wrong because gay people often struggle with things such as depression, suicide or addiction. Of course, any actual gay person could explain that this is the case because society views that lifestyle as depraved, and when you’re constantly told that you’re dirty, well, it kind of fucks with you.
It isn’t easy to decide to accept your sexuality when you’ve grown up in the shadow of the Church, or at the very least it wasn’t easy for me. Because there is a period of time when you have to accept the fact that everything you’ve ever been taught suggests that in accepting this aspect of yourself, you are surrendering to sin.
This problem is even more insidious because as anyone can tell you, coming out is an extremely healing experience, no matter how that coming out manifests. When I consciously decided to accept my sexuality, it was like I was welcoming a whole part of myself that had disgusted me for too long. In other words, it felt good.
But the Church teaches that oftentimes sin is among the most pleasurable of acts. That you feel good when you do things that are ultimately harmful to you. So even the positive, healing aspect of coming to terms with my sexuality was taken from me and used as further proof that I was living a life of sin.
This, is ultimately the reason I take such issue with the church’s refusal to openly support LGBTQ+ individuals and their relationships. Because anything less, anything that attempts to qualify the way in which the Church accepts those people (i.e. we’ll accept them as long as they’re celibate), ultimately manifests as damaging towards the community.
I don’t really care whether people think I’ve succumbed to a life of sin, I know myself and my life, and I know that I’m healthier than I ever was when I was a “good” Christian. But I am one of the fortunate ones in that my friends and family thought similarly to me.
But even with all of that, the weight of the Church’s judgment left me suffocating for years. This issue is bigger than just me or my experience. The Church believes they’re doing the right thing, that they’re on the right side of history, when in reality these teachings damage people deeply.
You can’t hate the sin without hating the sinner, and it’s time that people stop deluding themselves that it’s otherwise.
Danielle writes the Thursday column on finding your home. Contact her at [email protected].