Thursday, January 6, 2011

"Hate The Sin, Love The Sinner"...

Something I posted at Fur Affinity, in its entirely -- somehow failing to note the obvious absurdity of the Biblical absolutist individual I was slaaming against even having an account at a site as unclean FA, but hey, whatever...

I was reading someone else's journal, and in it was a link to an FA member who calls themselves a Christian and wrote a long post explaining why homosexuality is a sin. Their basic argument was, homosexuality is a sin because the Book of Leviticus says so, therefore it must be true, and this was rounded out with some of the usual proof-texting fare this sort of Christian routinely employs to justify their own prejudices -- along with a heavy dose of {*drumroll*} "hate the sin, love the sinner." {*crash*} I'll get to that old-time religion ditty in a minute, once I have two other things out of the way.

One, I'm not going to say who this Christian is or link to the post, because they've already pissed off a swarm of other FA members, and I don't feel like piling on over there and adding to that particular drama. There's a chance you may have read it, and you know who it is, but there's way too much drama around FA. Don't make it worse. Also, I have not read all of the comments to it -- they number in the hundreds now, and I usually start skimming after about forty or fifty -- but from the ones I did read, I know at least one user has reported this individual to the administration. So we'll leave that at that. What I do want to do is try and explain why this Christian's way of thinking inevitably turns destructive, however good their intentions may be. Left unchecked, it may turn self-destructive.

Two, yes, Leviticus does have a couple things to say about what we now call homosexuality -- a word that, by the way, was coined in the late 19th century, and which the ancient Jews who wrote Leviticus apparently had no equivalent of. The first is 18.22: "You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination." The second is 20.13: "If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them." So it's crystal clear that Leviticus considers same-sex relations bad, and even punishable by death. Actually, chapter 20 is a gold mine of injunctions punishable by death: worshipping a god other than the Judeo-Christian one (vs. 2-5), consulting mediums or wizards (v. 6), cursing one or both parents (v. 9), committing adultery (v. 10), sleeping with one's own mother (v. 11) or daughter-in-law (v. 12) or mother-in-law (v. 14), bestiality (vs. 15-16), incest (v. 17), sleeping with a menstruating woman (v. 18), sleeping with one's uncle's wife (v. 20) or brother's wife (v. 21).

In other words, there is one admonition for homosexuals in chapter 20, and (by my count) eight for heterosexuals. That might explain why Christians who are anti-gay and quick to quote the homo-oriented one never say a word about the hetero-oriented eight.

Which brings me to this hate-the-sin-love-the-sinner bullshit. And bullshit is precisely what it is. I may disagree very strongly with a self-described Christian who says homosexuality is a sin, and occasionally, I may get mad as hell over it. But I recently started calling myself a Christian, too. I wrote a brief post about it a couple months back...

So far, I gotta admit, I've sucked at what I would consider being a good Christian. But I did mean everything I said in that post. That, and I came to Christianity in a way that was very different from the way all too many others come to it. Many, if not most, are driven into Christianity by some combination of guilt, despair, anger, frustration, resentment, insecurity, and a sick thirst for revenge and violence -- these are the people who not only believe sincerely in the bizarre and chaotic Revelation tale, they actually want to live it through, believing they'll be the ones who emerge unscathed from the apocalypse. I can't help wondering if the Christian FA user who wrote the homosexuality-is-a-sin post is one of them. They don't seem to be, judging from their main page, but they are saying things like "hate the sin, love the sinner." That's a bad sign.

Four reasons why. First of all, they start with the premise that homosexuality is a sin; therefore, homosexuals are sinners by definition. This implies that there's at least a subset of non-homosexuals that are not sinners. If you believe that (and more than a few do), then you're ignorant at best, and indulging in sheer hubris at worse. If you're human, you're a sinner, no exceptions. I came to Christianity in large part because while I do not consider the Bible a history book, do not believe Jesus performed any of the miracles ascribed to him, and definitely do not believe in talking serpents, talking donkeys, talking burning bushes, or the value of pi being equal to 3, I nonetheless became convinced that sin was undeniably real -- or, as Saint paul put it, that I do what I choose not to do, and do not do what I choose to do, in a number of areas in my own life. I came to view Jesus not as the one who would save me from my sins, but as a guide who just might help me do what I choose to do, and not do what I choose not to do. I wasn't driven to this through fear, despair, hatred, frustration, or any negative reasons. I just wanted to try and live my life better than I've been living it -- and Christianity just happened to have the framework for better living that I was the most acquainted with.

Second of all, the Christian absolutist says you can't pick and choose -- you either embrace the whole enchilada, or you avoid it completely. That's is simply impossible, not to mention indefensible. One way to illustrate this is by saying that Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Christian leader and a civil rights activist in the 50s and 60s. During the same time, the Reverend Jerry Falwell was a Christian leader railing against the civil rights movement, those who thought blacks and whites should be allowed to attend church together, and even what he call the evils of the black race. Is it possible to embrace allof the ideas both of these Christian men were voicing? Or were people in those days picking and choosing who to believe?

Because third of all, picking and choosing one's way through this life is what everyone, Christian or otherwise, does, whether they realize it or not -- and we do it based on what we think is the best evidence we have at our disposal at the time. And the best evidence the ancient Jews who wrote Leviticus had at that time led them to declare that a man lying with another man as with a woman was an abomination -- or a sin, if you prefer. Fine, let's call it that for the sake of this post. What these ancient people didn't know, however, was that homosexuality is also a sexual orientation, right along with heterosexuality. And one's sexual orientation is just of of many fundamental aspects that make up any given person, right along with one's skin color or hair color. So to say that being gay is a sin is moot -- we're already human, and sinners by definition, so what's the point of anti-gay people bashing gays?

Reason number four: because it's not about gay people at all -- it's about the anti-gay people trying to rationalize their feelings about gay people, feelings which make them rather uncomfortable on some levels. And the more they try to rationalize these feelings away, the more prone to destruction they get. You can hate the "sin" of homosexuality, or you can love the sinner who happens to be gay. But you cannot do both -- this time, it's either one or the other for real. Those who don't address the inherent fatal flaw in their reasoning will eventually "hate the sinner" -- something anti-gay Christians have long been extremely loathe to admit, but their victims know very well, and have some sixteen centuries of history to draw from to support their case.

This hate-the-sin-love-the-sinner Christian insists in their journal, over and over again, that the solution to overcoming one's homosexual tendencies is to sacrifice them on the cross and be redeemed -- and even says in the comments that that's how they overcame their own homosexual tendencies. That's right. They basically gave the game, and their desperate side-agenda, away. But that's not the issue here. The issue is, the solution they're championing is... well, death, of a kind. Death of one's homosexual tendencies, to be precise. And that's why I call this hate-the-sin-love-the-sinner business bullshit -- what is ultimately called for is not love, but self-destruction.

But there's an astonishingly simple solution to this problem. Let's say you're an anti-gay Christian who nonetheless tries to live your life in a way Jesus would approve of. Obviously, your best bet is to read the Gospels in earnest and try to come up with a game plan of your own that best exemplifies what Jesus had to say about anything and everything -- you know, What Would Jesus Do?

Well, why don't you read the Gospels and find out what Jesus had to say about homosexuality, then? Whatever he says about it, you go by it.

And when you find out what he has to say about it, drop me a line. Because I've read the Gospels, and near as I can tell, he never said one word about homosexuality -- and unless you can show me otherwise, maybe you should shut the fuck up whenever you feel like railing against homosexuality

You want to fall back on Leviticus instead? Go ahead -- I got eight bullets to your one...


I get this way at times. You know this...

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