It’s been far too long since I’ve contributed to our blog. TONS of stuff, some cool and not so cool, have happened since my last post about marriage based on the awesome movie The Princess Bride (I am fighting cancer again and winning and Devon and Felipe finally tied the knot in New York with our kids as witnesses). But that is not what this post is about.
I’m writing this post from a place of pissed-off-ed-ness today. Which I rarely do, so you know you’re in for a REAL treat. The only other one I wrote was the one titled Kiss My Big White Butt and it felt really good. Hold on to your shorts.
Here’s the muse that sparked my rant today, based on a Facebook post from an amazing guy that I have had the pleasure of meeting through the interwebs, Michael Booth.
One year ago today I was in an extremely dark place. I was literally stuck in a creepy closet of a room down in Woodstock, GA begging to call home for someone to come and rescue me. I was told that if I made any attempts of calling anyone I would be kicked out on the street with no vehicle, no phone, and no money 400 miles from home. Any kind of hope I had in my sexual orientation changing had been crushed by those in a $14,000 program claiming change was possible during the recruiting process. In the months following my return home I lost some very important relationships. Most of 2013 was very dark for me, but here I am now in a GREAT place with real, genuine friends who love me and my boyfriend for who we are, nothing more or nothing less. It’s AMAZING to me what God can do in such a short period of time. I’m completely humbled that He loves me so much despite all my mistakes and poor decisions. So not worthy!
First of all, Michael, you are worthy. I mean, we all have fallen short of the glory of God, right? But God sees us as worthy of love because of Jesus. End of story. So stop that stinkin’ thinkin’. (See Romans 5:6-8)
Secondly, this entire thing reminds me of the phrase “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” People, including myself at one time in my life, adhere to this phrase as though it were an actual verse.
It’s not. Never was. Never will be.
I did a little cursory research today. It didn’t take me long to find the origins of the phrase and the original meaning. One of the most helpful sources came from a sermon by a pastor of a United Methodist Church in North Carolina. It was beautifully expressed. Pastor A.J. Thomas has my vote for Cool Pastor of the Year. (I even did a cursory search about him personally and I didn’t see any scandalous stuff on him. Kudos to you, Pastor Thomas.)
You can find a transcript of this at That’s Not In The Bible: Hate The Sin, Love The Sinner. I will quote him in some places and rephrase his words in others. (I didn’t ask your permission first, Pastor Thomas. I hope you don’t mind. Contact me if you do and I will change things if need be.)
To paraphrase Pastor Thomas for the sake of space and long-windedness (which is my specialty), the phrase ultimately came from St. Augustine, and Gandhi was the one who translated it as “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” Gandhi. Hey, Christians who use it all the time, please note that Gandhi was not a Christian.
The original phrase written by St. Augustine was “Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum, which roughly translates as ‘With love for mankind and hatred of sins'” (Pastor Thomas).
And if we look at the context of St. Augustine’s original purpose behind the phrase, it has to do with the REAL meaning of sin, and actually only his OWN sin. Here comes another long quote from Pastor Thomas:
Context is vital to our understanding. Part of the problem for Christians is that we seem to have lost the Biblical meaning of the word “sin.” Sin doesn’t mean “bad” or “bad things.” In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word is chatta’t and it means, “separation.” In the New Testament, the Greek word hamartia, is translated “sin.” It’s a term from archery that literally means “to miss the mark.” It’s when you let the arrow go and it fails to hit the target. So sin is both a condition – one of separation from God, and a missing of the mark – aiming our lives away from God. This Biblical understanding of sin helps us understand St. Augustine’s use of the phase.
Prior to his Christian conversion, Augustine had lived a pretty sensuous life – lots of women, lots of drinking and partying and all sorts of self-indulgent behavior. During that phase of his life, he didn’t hate his sins at all – he was actually enjoying them! And so, when Augustine writes, “with love for mankind and hatred of sins,” he calls to rid ourselves of anything that separates us from God and neighbor. He is actually reframing Jesus’ command to “love God and love neighbor.” And here’s the really fascinating thing: he is referring here to hating our own sin, yet when the phrase is used today, most commonly it is used to refer to the sin of others.
The sins of others. Did you catch that? Let me repeat what was stated above:
“And here’s the really fascinating thing: he is referring here to hating our own sin, yet when the phrase is used today, most commonly it is used to refer to the sin of others.”
This is what has gotten me pissed off today. I can honestly say that I should be pissed off at myself, because (like I stated above) I was the Poster Child of using this phrase while growing up and as an adult married to Devon while we loved Christ’s Church and served faithfully in it. Then, you know the rest of the story. He came out of the closet, yada yada yada. Devon was an Elder and Lay Youth Pastor for Pete’s sake!
(Who is Pete, anyway?)
And trust me when I say this: That phrase is targeted almost exclusively at the LGBT community. I’ve never heard it used otherwise toward anyone else or any other group. Have you?
And let’s talk about judgment. Just so you are well aware, if you aren’t already, Christ never called us to judge. Never. Only love. EVERYONE. No matter what. Period.
And because I cannot possibly reword with any sort of eloquence the words that Pastor Thomas wrote about this, I will simply quote him again. It’s beautiful.
Hating the sin while claiming to love the sinner gives us an opportunity to place more emphasis on the shortcomings of others rather than ourselves. In Matthew 7, Jesus told us to judge not, lest we should be judged. Concerning sin, he told us not to fuss about the speck of sawdust in our brother or sister’s eye when we’re blinded by a 2×4 plank in our own eye. Or, in John 8, a group of people point out to Jesus a woman who had been caught in adultery and remind him that the law teaches she should be stoned to death, and they want his response, and he says, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone” (John 8:7).
In other words, it is quite inappropriate for us to go around pointing out the faults, shortcomings, failures, and weaknesses of others when we still have so many of our own. “Hate the sin; love the sinner” fails to meet this test because it focuses not on our own sin, but on that of someone else. The Scriptures clearly teach that “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:32), but the caution for Christians is to remember that this applies to us on the inside as well as those we perceive to be on the outside, and perhaps we who live in stained-glass houses should think twice before we start throwing stones.
So, you see, the phrase “Love the sinner, hate the sin” a) was NEVER in the Bible, b) was coined by St. Augustine to refer to his OWN sin, and c) used by Christians to justify judgment in the name of God, which He NEVER has called us to do. Ever.
And let’s talk about Gandhi for a second. He was not St. Gandhi. But he is an icon for many reasons. Let’s just place here the entire sentence from which he used the phrase “Hate the sin, love the sinner” with what Pastor Thomas said about it.
Then, understanding this phrase in context, we come back to the phrase which appears in Gandhi’s autobiography; many people assume it’s a worldview he embraced. Not so. Just read the whole sentence he actually wrote: “Hate the sin and not the sinner is a precept which though easy enough to understand is rarely practiced, and that is why the poison of hatred spreads in the world.”
No kidding. When you use the phrase flippantly, like so many do, you are spreading hatred! Like… oh, I don’t know… what Michael Booth experienced, maybe? I guarantee the people and circles he ran with quoted the non-Christian Gandhi all the time. And look where he ended up last year. In a dark closet. Wanting to change but being unable to.
These thoughts are difficult to wrap up, especially when I’m writing from such a place of emotion. But let’s just say this: If I had superpowers, besides my general Wonder Woman attributes, I would wipe this phrase completely from the face of the earth. And if people were dying to say something else to replace it, I’d give them the phrase:
God loves the sinner, I hate my sin. Therefore God loves me. And I will love others and not judge them.
The Maker loves you. You have NO room to judge anyone else in any way, shape or form. And maybe, just maybe, if humans would stop using the phrase “Love the sinner, hate the sin,” people in Churches wouldn’t feel persecuted and attacked by the “gay agenda,” the LGBT community wouldn’t feel hated and judged, and people can have their beliefs without making enemies of people who deserve to feel worthy of God’s love.
So I am going to challenge you. If you have used this phrase (and if you are in any kind of a Christian church, you probably have), stop and think about the slippery slope this kind of thinking can lead to. It’s okay to hate sin… our own. And honestly, we do make judgments everyday. We are human.
But think about what that phrase says to someone who is gay. They cannot change. They just can’t. Believe it if you want to, but be sure to look at the TRUE stats and the reasonings behind ex-gay therapy. It is ugly. So when a gay person hears the phrase “Love the sinner, hate the sin,” they cannot possibly believe that you love them or that God can love them. All of our sexual identities are a part of who we are, whether you are heterosexual or homosexual. So saying you love them, then saying you hate their sexual identity is the same as saying “I hate you.”
I’m telling you, that’s what they hear. And as an extension, they are hearing “God hates you, too.”
So just knock it off. Concentrate on your own sin. And when you say that non-Biblical phrase, you are quoting Gandhi. Which is hysterical to me now.
Michael Booth and ALL of the LGBT community, whether you believe in God or not, you are loved. Period. And you are WORTHY of God’s love. And you are worthy of everyone’s love.
Emily: The Sinner. Who Loves. And is Loved.
P.S. If you would like to read a really great piece that Michael Booth wrote, you can find it here. I think when you read it you will see why I love him so much. It’s creepy how much we have in common: The Barbie and Ken Meltdown