“Love the sinner hate the sin”. Despite its non-Christian origin this little catch phrase has become the battle cry of homophobes and bigots in churches everywhere.
This is the line used by pastors and excitable members in the congregation who are just looking for a biblical excuse to step on anyone who is different to “us”. It’s a cure all, cover all. By this logic if you’re loving the sinner not the sin, then your hatred of a person’s lifestyle isn’t really hate at all. It’s actually love, right? You love them so much that you want to make them feel miserable in their own skin – to the point where their soul will be saved.
If the church “loves the sinner, but not the sin” it can say it isn’t discriminating. When we deny people the right to get married and to share the same legal benefits as heterosexuals, when we give the public an excuse to turn a blind eye to bullying in schools we can still sleep at night, because we’re doing a good job of persecuting “sin”.
When we chase gays out of the church, we aren’t really going against the New Testament’s teachings that those whom we deem to be living “against the Law” may actually be the closest to God among us. No, we are ridding the church of “sin”. It’s unfortunate that we have to put that sin inside of an individual and personify the sin so that we see “sin” rather than a human being. This is what allows this bigotry to persist.
The New Testament is clear in its condemnation of those who would divide people into groups of “clean” and “unclean”. If a sin is to be pointed out it is the hypocricy of churches who try to call others “unclean” ignoring the stench coming from inside their own house. Instead of the teachings of love, we have co-opted the phrase “love the sinner, hate the sinner” as an excuse to turn our bigotry and discrimination into “love”.
This is leads to the kind of thinking that you can smash a boy down and beat a man out him. It’s not abuse by this logic – it’s a form of love: the kind of love that wants to save someone from the flames of hell. To follow this logic through, one needs to pick verses of the bible selectively: let’s ignore prohibitions on eating shellfish as obviously not applying to us, but still hone in on verses about sexuality that differed from the mainstream. Presto, our discrimination is nothing more than a form of tough love.
After all, it’s just a massive co-incidence that our personal God shares the same prejudices as we do. It’s got nothing to do with the fact that we have a fear of others who are different to us, right?