Loving Hate-speech: Love the sinner, hate the sin

I feel like something needs to be said about hate-speech. I don’t mean Westboro Baptist Church picket signs or the crazed ramblings of TV show hosts trying to blame natural disasters on a small minority of the U.S. population. I’m talking about the polite words, the “loving” phrases that may Christians use that they may not realize are extremely hurtful and cruel to the recipients. I want to talk about all the ugly messages and meanings that are often conveyed through this speech that many probably aren’t even aware of.

Let me be clear that the purpose of writing this is not that I can’t handle hearing anything negative or that I’m trying to avoid getting my feelings hurt. Although I think those are valid reasons to avoid offensive language, this isn’t just about me. I can handle a little rudeness. My real interest is being able to clear the way for a more open dialogue between Christians and members of the LGBT community. This dialogue will not be possible until people on both sides learn how their language is impacting their fellow human beings. I want a conversation that inspires understanding, good-will and trust. Instead, so many conversations breed defensiveness, hurt, and anger. If you are a Christian and you are really interested in being welcoming and accessible to your gay, bi, or trans peers, please listen. This is for you.

Note: in this installment I am focusing on the LGB of LGBT . There will likely be other articles in which I will spend more time addressing more trans-specific issues.

“Love the sinner, hate the sin.” This phrase has long since worn out its welcome in the LGB community, but it is still commonly used by Christians hoping to voice their objections to homosexuality in a loving, non-threatening way. It seems the most popular go-to phrase for religious people to make their convictions known without lumping themselves into the group of hate-mongers. “I cannot betray what I believe, but that does not mean I am unloving about it.” But to someone like me, “love the sinner, hate the sin” is the opposite of loving. If good will and dialogue is to open between LGB folks and Christians, and especially for those that straddle both groups, this phrase needs to be permanently retired. Here’s why.

1) However kindly and respectfully you treat us, I promise you, there is someone else who has used that exact phrasing as a shield behind which to bludgeon us. It is more common than you might think. As a result, it’s hardly surprising that many of us have a reflexive recoil reaction to those words. However, if the sentiment itself were a good one, then a few extremists misusing it shouldn’t be reason enough to abandon it. Unfortunately the sentiment is not good. It is toxic.

2) The word “hate” is loaded with negative meaning. LGB folks are at high risk of hate-crimes, hate-speech, and hate-group fueled harassment. We are told that “God hates fags” and were possible treated with hatred by our families, friends, or communities. And you want to introduce the word “hate” into a conversation about us that is supposed to be loving? It doesn’t matter that your hate is directed at our “sin”. We can all agree to hate evil acts, but remember, many of us may not believe that our orientation is evil. You are targeting an important and meaningful part of our identities and telling us that you hate it. Imagine being told by a supposed friend or colleague “I hate Christianity.” Does it make you feel startled, uncomfortable, defensive, and uneasy? Yeah, we feel the same way when you do that to us. Hate never feels loving.

3) Why don’t you start hating your own sins instead of mine? I know, I know. Every time I bring this up, most Christians will insist that they do hate their own sins and will hurry to assure me that they are an imperfect sinner too, and they have sins that they struggle with. But that’s generally where the conversation ends. They may pay lip-service to the idea of treating all faults equally, but in honestly, they generally have no desire to talk in depth about these alleged sins. Indeed, I generally don’t want to hear about your pet sins because I recognize that it is personal and it is not my place to force you to face whatever private demons you have in your life. I would appreciate the same respect in return. Saying “I’m a sinner too” does not give you free pass to be everyone else’s personal sin police. Instead of focusing on homosexuality as the #1 sin that needs to be hated vocally, why don’t you spend that time hating your own sins in private? Start with the sins of judging and pride (and if those accusations make you feel defensive because you don’t feel you are guilty of them, now you know how it feels when Christians accuse me of sins that I do not believe are wrong.)

4) These words make a major assumption that the LGB person you are talking to is actually engaging in homoerotic activities. This is not necessarily true, and it is insulting and degrading to reduce a person soley to a stereotype of their assumed sexual habits. I had people telling me how they loved me but hated my sin long before I ever engaged in some form of homosexual activity. So that begs the question: is it just being attracted to someone of the same sex that is the sin? Is it loving them? Kissing? Just existing as a gay person? Or do you honestly assume that when I say “I’m gay” I am having sex every night? Regardless, inferring and judging my actions based on my orientation is pretty much as insulting and ignorant as meeting a Hispanic person and asking them which part of Mexico they’re from.

5) We really don’t need to know whether or not you approve of our identity or relationships. It baffles me why people feel the need to comment on some personal part of my life uninvited, even in a “loving” manner. Trust me, I am aware that there are plenty of people who believe that homosexual acts are a sin. I’ve heard it before. Not a single gay person can really get away from it in this country. So why do you feel the need to tell me “I love you, but I really don’t agree with what you are/do?” I do not immediately feel the need to de-convert Christians when I find out they are religious. I don’t make disparaging comments to my friends about their husbands or wives simply because I do not approve. I would never tell someone “well, I think blacks are inferior, but I still like you.” So why has it become socially acceptable for Christians to single us out for disapproval? It is disrespectful and uncalled for. We don’t need your opinions on our lives, we just want your respect. And respect, by the way, is worth a hell of a lot more than passive-aggressive “loving”.

I know that Christians have a need to be a little defensive around the topic of homosexuality since there are many loud voices in the religious community that have sullied Christian beliefs with hate. Many Christians just want a way to state their beliefs while simultaneously distancing themselves from these extremists. But if there is to be healing and unity, LGB people need Christians to back away from the dogma a bit. How about you set the doctrine aside and just focus on love and respect? I promise, it will be a lot more fruitful than “loving the sinner and hating the sin.” And didn’t Jesus say that you will know what is good by their fruits?


7 responses

  1. #4 needs work and/or more fisking

    I think you can lose ‘homoerotic’ and replace with something less quaint, IDK. Also the analogy with the Mexican isn’t too clear to me? Maybe a poor person analogy would work better? Foodstamps or some shit.

    Ok an example. Xian meets GayPerson and dialogs:

    Xian: Good day.
    GayPerson: Same to you. Your bible says gay people like me are abominations.
    Xian: This is true. But “Love the sinner, hate the sin” though.
    GayPerson: Because you hate same-sex acts, right?
    Xian: Oh no. Actually I prefer having my own wife strap on a dildo and pretend she’s a man. I’m only stating it because you actually ARE blessed enough to be an open homosexual.
    GayPerson: OIC, so you too are including yourself as a sinner?
    Xian: Yes, we all are sinners. The bible blames everyone ‘cept Jesus for that.
    GayPerson: I thought ‘GOD HATES FAGS’?
    Xian: Yes or no, it doesn’t matter now. He dumped the whole thing onto Jesus, and the only thing Jesus cares about is if you believe in him.
    GayPerson: Oh, I didn’t know that.
    Xian: Yeah, that’s in the bible too.
    GayPerson: So what with these haters?
    Xian: Haters gotta hate before they read any scripture otherwise.

    –short period of introspective silence–

    GayPerson: So can you suck-a-dick for God?
    Xian: Not really required. You just have to keep the 2 jesus commandments, both of which ANYBODY can do.
    GayPerson: So no orientation particulars?
    Xian: Not according to Jesus Christ. That’s why he got himself killed really.
    GayPerson: Cause he liked dick?
    Xian: I’m not sure, but he was crucified because he superceded the law (e.g. Galatians)
    GayPerson: Oh. I thought the OT laws were very important xian ones.
    Xian: Naw, they aren’t any good for a life with Jesus.
    GayPerson: So why don’t the haters admit this?
    Xian: Because many will come in his name spreading BS (e.g. Olivet Discourse).
    GayPerson: How do I know YOU aren’t BSing me? I’ve been told the 10 commandments are really important!
    Xian: Easy. Bust out a bible and read it, even if you aren’t a believer it doesn’t matter (Acts 11:17)
    GayPerson: And I believed what these haters were saying all the time.
    Xian: Haters gotta hate Jesus because of what the bible says, not that they’ll believe in him at all.
    GayPerson: Kewl, I thought you were hating me because you are a xian.
    Xian: No way. We have enough problems ourselves than to waste time hating on peeps.
    –Jesus butts in: Look! One of the few around here who still gets it!
    –James interjects: He must have read the nice parts of my epistle! (puts down flask)
    –Paul finishes: Kids, have as much sex as you want. Just don’t get circumsized! (squints eyes)


  2. Anna, happy thanksgiving. Sure hope you aren’t dead yet.


    1. Happy day-after-Thanksgiving to you! Nope, I promise I’m not dead, but I’ve been pretty busy lately and haven’t had much time for my blog. Hopefully I’ll be back soonish… maybe! Work, grad-school applications, planning my wedding, and still keeping up with cooking and cleaning sure eats up my time!!

  3. Hello I just quoted your post on my blog 🙂

    Lovely greetings from Europe.

    1. Thank you! I have left a lengthy comment there. =) I think I am incapable of leaving short comments. Oh dear.

  4. hey, this is a great post! you make extremely strong points about showing real love and genuine respect.

    1. Thank you! My hope is that it can help people understand why their behavior is hurtful and how to treat LGBT folks with respect, even if they believe homosexuality to be immoral.

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