27 October 2010

RANT: "love the sinner, hate the sin"

Oh how I hate this phrase. It is so full of hypocrisy and judgement. Let me explain:

By telling someone that you love them, but that you hate what they do, you are, in effect, passing judgement. You must necessarily put yourself in a position above them to be in a place where you can call out another individual's actions and label them as "sin." The fact is, we are all sinners. Just because someone sins differently than me, doesn't give me the right to make any judgement on their different way of sinning. I do not know the circumstances. I do not know the mind of God. Murdering is a sin, yet God himself commanded it multiple times. "Now Nephi, I love you, but I hate that you are disappointing God by killing another human being (Laban). That is a sin, and I hate it."

If everyone is a sinner (and therefore all men and women commit sin), let's not say "the sinner" and "the sin" as if the person speaking is in someway immune to these things. Why don't we instead adopt the phrase, "love everyone, love God." Sound familiar? These were the two great commandments that Christ taught. If we love God, our personal choices and actions will attest to that ("by their fruits ye shall know them"). Individually, we learn to love obedience to God and hate to disappoint him. But this in no way give us the right to judge and say to another "I love you, but hate that you disappoint God." Who are we to tell someone that God is disappointed with them?

Perhaps the initial use of this phrase was well-intentioned. If this phrase was solely applied to one's self, we are, in effect, saying, "I love myself as a valued son/daughter of God, I hate that sin so easily besets me. I hope to learn to detest sin, for I love God." But the minute we use this same phrase in reference to someone other than ourselves, we enter dangerous ground.

We should love people (all people) for who they are, not in spite of who they are. Christ commanded us to love one another. It is that simple. He didn't say "love your neighbor even though they sin and are disappointed me by their actions. Just be the better person my making sure they know they are sinning. Oh and tell them you love them too." I think it is time we all come down from our pedestals. God is no respecter of persons and we are tasked with working out our own salvation with fear and trembling, not with working out another's. That's Christ's job.


Chris said...

I think a lot about this "love the sinner but not the sin" phrase I hear so much. These are my thoughts...

This phrase is given to members from church leaders as permission to maintain the dual perspective of loving all people (as God commanded) and threatening the rights of a minority group of people who harm absolutely no one (seems shady).

I think the word "love" in this usage means nothing because of inconsistent usage. If you asked an abusive husband- who frequently beats his wife nearly to death-if he loved her, he might very well say that he does. I would actually believe that HE believes that he does but why does no one else care? Because his words do not align with his actions.They are worthless and inconsistent. It doesn't really matter if he genuinely feels that he really loves his wife if all of his actions are destructive towards her. Likewise, homosexuals are not FEELING this love that faithful members have for them.

Love implies acceptance of things as they ARE, not how they were or could be (ex. "I love that tree just as long as it doesn't get big and its roots destroy my sidewalk"). You don't love something on condition that it doesn't become something else. You need no more information from the world in order to commit to the decision to love someone or something right now.

Therefore when someone says "I love homosexuals, but I don't love what they do" they don't love them. How can we love anything with out acceptance? What they are saying is they love homosexuals on condition that they become something other than what they are. That person that they love DOES NOT EXIST. All that stands before them is a human being with a different sexual orientation.

LDS doctrine is currently very hurtful. The history of how our church has handled the dilemma of homosexuality has been hurtful. Not allowing Homosexuals the option of responsibly committing to marriage is hurtful. Refusing to even acknowledge that these impulses are rooted in biology is invalidating and HURTFUL.

How do you get people to continue to back the political stance of the church even though many faithful individuals (like the battered wife) are saying their lives are miserable? You simply state with authority that it is possible to both hurt people AND love them at the same time. No one has to question the inconsistency of this when it is declared by a prophet of God.

"Love the sinner but hate the sin" is meaningless because as you stated we are ALL sinners.

Sorry for such a long comment.

Gay Mormon said...

I agree. I find it hard to reconcile the words "I love you and accept you" with the actions of those same people. Even when those people are ones that I love and respect.

Steven Lester said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steven Lester said...

Now wait.

One of the big unspoken reasons that the Church is really heavy on gay marriage is that if it existed everywhere (not just in three or four states and certain European countries) they would have to declare, in all fairness, that those gay marriages are valid and correct. If a man and woman is married by the state that marriage is considered valid in the Church, and whatever you do to each other sexually is okay. The Law of Chastity is satisfied. It would be completely unfair to not say the same thing about a state-issued marriage between two gay people. The Law is supposed to be applied to everybody, and the Law is completely non-specific about those on whom it focuses.

The phrase "Love the sinner but hate the sin" (which is not originated within the Church, by the way) makes sense when you say that the sin is not the person, or that being imperfect makes sinning inevitable. I am imperfect and, therefore, I can not help but to sin...I am fulfilling my nature. Therefore, Justice (another Absolute) can not condemn us, being perfect itself, because we can not help ourselves but to sin. Take this argument to its ultimate extreme and you will find that the Atonement is unnecessary as well, for the same reason, except to take care of the Original Sin and thusly conquer death itself. Otherwise, why need it when the argument of being imperfect is its own protection? Philosophically, the Atonement requirement is completely flawed, but then, it also gives power to certain people over other people, so it has its uses nonetheless.

It is fun to judge. It comes naturally to us, law-oriented as we are. Why be a spoil-sport and stop the party?

Gay Mormon said...

@Steven- Thanks for your comment! I guess I disagree, however, with some of your statements. First, the church has every right to define the law of chastity. They can still maintain their stance and count homosexual relations as sin. Just because it is legal in all 50 states to smoke and drink doesn't mean that the church has to lay down and say that it isn't a sin to do it.

I don't attribute the phrase "love the sinner, hate the sin" to the church, nevertheless, it is used ALL the time within the church and is therefore built into the culture. I realize that it can make sense in particular ways, but in my experience, the way it is used in this culture is false and hypocritical.

Finally, I don't think that the atonement is unnecessary after satisfying physical death and "original sin." While I don't feel anyone has the right to tell another person that they "need to apply the atonement in their life," I feel that it is there to help us all on an individual basis.

Just because being mortal means imperfection doesn't mean that we don't eventually need to be made perfect to enter whatever heaven it is one might believe in. So there is one way we would need it... to make up for what we lack.

But more importantly, the way it has influenced my life the most is on more of a metaphysical level. I'll try my best to explain:

I always thought that "applying the atonement" meant that I would repent of my gayness and never turn to it again. But going through all that I did to come to terms with my sexuality helped me realize that the atonement doesn't "fix" things. It allows me to look at my trials and weaknesses in a new light. It allows me to see the good in them and to realize how the hard things in life are blessings. And in that way, it heals me.

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