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Phil and Alex Discuss “Hate the Sin But Love the Sinner”

Posted on Jun 6, 2013 by Tom Gilson

Remember Phil and Alex? After a long time away they’re back again. By way of reminder, they’re good friends even though they disagree deeply about one very important topic: homosexuality and marriage for gays. They’re at the coffee shop, as usual.

ALEX: You know what I hate, Phil? It’s the way Christians label and patronize gays with “hate the sin but love the sinner.” Frankly I don’t think you can separate them out that way anyway. If you hate my homosexuality, you hate me. It’s who I am.

PHIL: Well, I always appreciate how we can get things out in the open, Alex. I think there are problems with that saying, too. I’ll bet they’re not quite the same problems you see in it, though.

ALEX: Really? Like what?

PHIL: Well, first of all, there’s a pretty serious miscommunication going on most of the time when Christians say it. You see, we know that the word sinner applies to us, too. It’s almost a synonym for human being, because every human being is a sinner. But I’ll bet you don’t hear it that way.

ALEX: I’ll say. You call me a sinner, and you’re labeling me. It’s offensive.

PHIL: It must feel that way, and I don’t blame you for it one bit. The thing is, you and I aren’t living in a time when you could count on everyone knowing that sinner was almost interchangeable with human being. So I shouldn’t assume you hear it that way. I should assume that it comes across as a label, whether I intend it to or not. I really prefer to say hate the sin but love the person instead.

ALEX: Well, fine — you’ve taken away the label. It’s still patronizing, and I still don’t think you separate my sexual orientation from who I am. I don’t think you can hate the sin but love the person.

PHIL: You don’t? Then what are we doing meeting here for coffee like we do?

ALEX: Oh, right. I don’t know. You’re an exception. You’re different. I haven’t seen it anywhere else.

PHIL: It certainly is more rare than it ought to be, I’ll agree with that! But I want to ask whether you realize all that you’re saying. What if I were to re-phrase it this way: Hate the wrong the person does, but love the person. That’s the same thing only with a more contemporary wording. Do you think that’s impossible?

ALEX: It’s pretty judgmental: you’re saying the person is doing wrong. And whatever name you put on it, I don’t know how you separate out the person’s actions from their identity.

PHIL: Then that makes you quite the exception, too, Alex. Here you are sitting enjoying coffee with an unrepentant wrong-doer like me. How do you do it?

ALEX: What? I never judged you. I don’t put my values on you that way!

PHIL: You don’t? Do you remember the first thing you said? “You know what I hate, Phil? It’s when Christians say they ‘hate the sin but love the sinner.'” You’ve just identified something you think Christians do that’s wrong. And you hate it. So you’re hating the wrong you think we do, but you’re getting along with me anyway. You’re hating the wrong you think I do, but loving me as a person. I guess you’re pretty rare yourself!

ALEX: But you know that’s not something gays ever say, Phil! It’s a Christian thing!

PHIL: I wish they would say it. You know how you don’t like being judged and labeled. We get judged and labeled, too.* And look, I can understand the part about people disagreeing with us. There are two sides to this dispute, and each side thinks the other is wrong. Not just factually wrong, but morally wrong. Isn’t that so?

ALEX: I think your morals are wrong, yes; and you think mine are wrong.

PHIL: So we both think the other side is practicing some kind of wrong-doing. As Christians, from our side we have a tradition that says we can love wrong-doers. God did it for us; Jesus died for us when we were wrong-doers. It’s in Romans 5:6-8, if you ever get a chance to take a look at it; but that’s just the clearest single statement; it’s all over the Bible, actually.

ALEX: Well, are you saying you can do it but we can’t? There you go judging again!

PHIL: Me? No, you’re the one who said it’s hard to hate the sin but love the person.

ALEX: Sure, but I don’t think it’s impossible. I certainly don’t think Christians are the only ones who can do it.

PHIL: Right. We’re not the only ones who can do it, though I think you’ll have to agree we’re the only ones whose beliefs are built totally upon this idea of God giving himself up in love for wrong-doers. That makes a real difference, though I don’t think I ought to take time to go into it here.

ALEX: Good; you don’t need to go off on theology with me here. I’m just saying it’s hard to do what Christians say they do, to hate the sin but love the sinner.

PHIL: And I’m saying that if you correct some unfortunate miscommunications in the phrase, and you say hate the wrong-doing but love the person, it amounts to the same thing, and if there’s a problem with it, that problem applies just as much to gays as it does to Christians. So if you think that most Christians hate gays as people because they hate what gays do, what will you do with the fact that gays hate what Christians do?

ALEX: I don’t know, Phil, what do you think I ought to do with it?

PHIL: I think that if you believe that principle, then you have to believe a whole lot of gays are haters. They hate the wrong that Christians do, and if you hate the wrong-doing, it’s really hard not to hate the wrong-doers, the persons doing it. And if you hate the person, you’re a hater, right?

ALEX: Whoa, hang on! Are you calling me a hater?

PHIL: No, I’m saying you and I are both proof that it’s not impossible to love another person you disagree with, or who you think is doing something really wrong. But I’d urge you to remember that it’s possible for people on both sides of this issue to be haters. I could go off on another topic about how the gay PR machine has distorted reality by saying only their opponents are haters, but —

ALEX: — but I think we’d better be moving on.

PHIL: Right. Until next time!

*Judged and labeled? Yes. “History will judge.” “You’re as bad as the slaveholders, full of bigotry and oppression.” “You’re ‘professional homophobes.'” “You’re ‘extremists,’ ‘haters and liars,'” and on and on.

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42 Responses to “ Phil and Alex Discuss “Hate the Sin But Love the Sinner” ”

  1. BillT says:

    Tom,

    You’ve done a great job in showing how “hate the sin but love the sinner.” really should be understood as “hate the wrong-doing but love the person.”. And you’ve shown it both to apply to us all and that it’s a two way street.

    I personally believe that what makes it problematic is more than that. The concept that we are all sinners is an understanding that Christians have with other Christians. It’s an “inside” understanding. Using that kind of understanding when speaking with someone on the “outside” is guaranteed to be misunderstood and we should know that.

    Further, non-Christians don’t have any reason to believe or accept that their behavior is wrong. That’s another “inside” understanding. Why should someone who doesn’t believe in God or ascribe to Christian ethical standards care what our faith says about what they are doing. Unless and until they do our ethical standards are just that our ethical standards not theirs.

    What we can do is try to help them understand why we believe in God and the validity of our Christian faith. If we can do that, then we can have a meaningful conversation our why our ethical standards matter.

  2. CLB says:

    Excellent exchange you’ve written, Tom. I especially like the evangelistic tone of Phil. Taking this kind of tone in a conversation is sure to turn Christian morals into things non-Christians can relate to.

    BillT: On one hand, I agree with you that there’s no reason to expect non-Christians to understand our morals. On the other hand, I think we should cautiously elaborate, as Tom does in this fictional exchange, how Christian morals relate to the non-Christian’s morals. I think of the woman at the well and Jesus’ interaction with her. I also think of when I was living in disobedience how I needed to hear how my “sin” was affecting my relationship with God. The Holy Spirit worked (and continues to work) to convict me and caused (and continue to causes) me to repent. But I needed to hear how my actions were incorrect. I think that Tom does a good job having Phil introduce Romans to Alex. The interaction at that point is really excellent in introducing the gospel message in a way that flows with the conversation.

  3. Ordinaryseeker says:

    I would have liked the conversation to delve into how you separate behavior from identity.

  4. Tom Gilson says:

    Go for it! I assume you believe it’s possible to hate Christians’ beliefs and behavior at times, and yet not globally hate them as persons. How do you separate that out?

  5. Ordinaryseeker says:

    I don’t have time now to write much. I think most gays think of their homosexuality as identity, not behavior, and I wonder if Christians also think of their Christianity as identity rather than behavior?

  6. BillT says:

    CLB,

    A starting point is a starting point. If you can successfully transition a conversation like this into an evangelistic moment, more power to you. However, I think that starting from a point of contention like this is a tough beginning. Confronting someone on their sexuality seems like an poor place from which to introduce the Gospel but maybe that’s just me.

  7. Tom Gilson says:

    It’s a lot more about identity than behavior. Christianity is about gaining a new life; a new set of relationships, adoption into the family of God; a position of what we call “identification with Christ,” such that much of what is true of Christ is made true of us. Behavior flows from who we are, not vice-versa.

  8. Ordinaryseeker says:

    So if I “hate” your behavior as a Christian, can I still “love” who you are?

  9. BillT says:

    OS,

    I’d have to agree with you. My Christianity is certainly central to my identity. When you say “… most gays think of their homosexuality as identity…” do you mean “their identity”? That’s how I’d perceive it from my viewpoint here in NYC.

  10. Tom Gilson says:

    OS @#8: That’s a question I can’t answer for you. From my perspective there’s nothing stopping you. It can certainly be done. Whether you yourself can do it is up to you.

  11. SteveK says:

    The question of identity is a big can of worms, but it’s one that should be discussed in order to completely, fully, explain why Phil or Alex (or any of us) are worthy of being loved to begin with. Alex takes it for granted that humans should love one another – but he has no ability to explain why Phil OUGHT to do that. Phil might ask: “Why shouldn’t we hate anyone, Alex?”. I wonder what he might say? A conversations between Phil and Alex about identity would be interesting.

  12. Tom Gilson says:

    Now the question is, what does it mean to love? If I see someone doing something I’m convinced is deeply harmful to him or herself, what should I do?

    It depends on whether they would welcome my getting involved, for one thing. I don’t recommend giving recommendations to people who don’t want them. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t give it a shot, but if they told me to bug off I’d respect that. If they listened, though, that might lead to a rescue from the dangerous way of living.

    But what if they told me to bug off? If they were saying, “Go away, I don’t want to see your face,” then that would be pretty unloving on their part. But I’d respect it.

    If they simply meant to say, “Look, I’m happy to be your friend, but please don’t talk to me about the Bible or Jesus,” I think I could be happy to be their friend, too.

    That’s the kind of thing I’m talking about. Oversimplified, but an open window on it, at least.

  13. Tom Gilson says:

    I like that idea, SteveK.

  14. John Moore says:

    Tom Gilson wrote @#12 “If they told me to bug off I’d respect that.”

    Does that mean you wouldn’t support laws discriminating against gay people? It’s like the government wants to help those gays have a healthier lifestyle, but the gays are saying “Leave us alone!” So then we say, “OK, forget about that law then.”

  15. Tom Gilson says:

    I wasn’t talking about civil government, John. I don’t want to go off on a tangent.

  16. ordinaryseeker says:

    Tom@12,
    I don’t think I could be their friend. Friendship requires a level of intimacy and acceptance that I believe would necessarily be absent in the circumstances you describe. I could, of course, treat them respectfully, and that maybe a kind of love.

  17. urbanus says:

    History has shown, repeatedly, that to provoke violence it is unnecessary to advocate it directly. The politician, the priest, the radio “shock-jock” or whoever only needs to contribute to the “other-ment” of the group in question: point out their differences, depravity, perversities, uncleanness etc. We “hate the sin but love the sinner” and renounce violence, in the knowledge that there will be no shortage of thugs in the audience to do the head-kicking for us. It’s hypocrisy of the highest order.

    But why do Christians go on about homosexuality so much in the first place? Why do they feel entitled to meddle and provide advice which is so unwelcome? I’d feel much more comfortable if Christians would focus on other more serious institutionalised, government-sponsored, socially-acceptable sins. (If you’re in need of a pointer, why not start by googling “double-tap drone strikes”? Consider that the deliberate murder of rescuers, health workers and civilian bystanders is a war crime. Would that be sinful enough to warrant your attention?)

    However my question above (i.e. why the Christian focus on homosexuality?) is not really rhetorical. I believe there is an answer. Sexual impulses are a powerful driving force for many people — and therefore a rich source of guilt, which can be used for psychological manipulation. Also too the process of singling out a minority group and making them the enemy of the perceived common good. Having a shared enemy binds people together.

    That’s why I detest the “hate the sin but love the sinner” catch-phrase so much. It is a thin veneer of false love over the top of hatred, intended for the cynical manipulation of the sheep at the expense of a smaller, repressed minority group. Christ would be ashamed.

  18. Tom Gilson says:

    urbanus, if you’ll look around you’ll find that Christians are involved in other social issues: human trafficking, drone killings, poverty, education, abortion, economics, health, and much more. Homosexuality occupies a different position in the rhetorical space, where there is much public disagreement within our own culture. It was homosexual activists who put it in that contentious posture, so I don’t think you can blame Christians for that. We’re responding to an aggressive campaign to place homosexuality into public view with high approval. That campaign is what made this discussion so public.

    And if you think that preachers and writers are counting on “no shortage of thugs … to do the head-kicking for us,” you are simply wrong in the vast majority of cases. If you think that of me, you are applying some stereotype to me, for I have never, ever indicated anything of the sort, in fact I have repeatedly urged the opposite. I assume you don’t believe in stereotyping. Is that correct?

    And again, if you think that there is some subtle undercurrent tending toward violence in Christian messages of loving-while-disagreeing, and that it is “covered by a thin veneer,” I would suggest that there is much, much less “veneer” covering your accusations that we are guilt-manufacturing, detestable haters, manipulators, and head-kickers by proxy.Who’s inciting more hatred? Whose language is more oriented toward the emotions that lead to violence?

    Maybe you agree with the OP’s conclusion: that you cannot love someone whom you think does something wrong. I urge you to look again to Jesus Christ, and to re-examine the reality of Christians in the world today. You really are misreading us.

  19. urbanus says:

    @Tom#18: I acknowledge what you say about the homosexuality campaign. However I don’t feel that the church has the moral authority to speak on this issue. Take one particularly evil expression of homosexuality: the rape and sexual abuse of boys by Catholic priests. If the protestant churches threatened to sever ties with the Catholic church until such time as they cease actively aiding paedophile priests, thwarting justice (e.g. by moving people and documents overseas, beyond the reach of local legal jurisdiction), and conducting a legal campaign of harassment against the victims, then I could respect that. This is a matter of sexual abuse that is within the power of the churches — Catholic and Protestant — to address directly, because it concerns themselves. Yet they do not: they persist in evil. Should I then listen to what the churches say about the sin of homosexuality?

    I certainly don’t suggest that you incite violence, and I acknowledge that you have urged the opposite. Nonetheless I feel that well-intentioned people like you need to be called out. Although you can choose what message to preach, you don’t get to choose what people do with it. And when consequences come further down the track, I don’t think it’s as simple as saying, “Well, I wasn’t advocating that.”

    I accept that there are people of sincere intentions on both sides, and that if you genuinely feel that some phenomenon is a social evil then you should have every right to speak out about it. If on the Christian/anti-homosexuality side, there were a deep concern about the well-being of homosexuals, then I could understand the “hate the sin but love the sinner” message. But what I have seen in practice is that at every step in the path towards gay rights, it is Christians who have stood in the way, and this has been very much an anti-homosexual (not just homosexuality) fight. An example from where I live: during the struggle to decriminalise homosexual sex, it was the Christian community that was at the forefront in favour of continued persecution. That’s one example of where the “love the sinner” part rang hollow for me.

  20. SteveK says:

    However I don’t feel that the church has the moral authority to speak on this issue.

    Having the moral authority, or not having it, has nothing to do with anyone’s feelings.

  21. SteveK says:

    Should I then listen to what the churches say about the sin of homosexuality?

    If they are teaching the truth, yes. Otherwise, no. All of this presupposes there is a correct answer to the question of homosexual sin.

  22. Tom Gilson says:

    urbanus, you say,

    Although you can choose what message to preach, you don’t get to choose what people do with it. And when consequences come further down the track, I don’t think it’s as simple as saying, “Well, I wasn’t advocating that.”

    Sure it is. If someone does what I tell them not to do, then they’re responsible, not I.

    Meanwhile it’s time for you to name the error you are committing, which I described without putting a name on it earlier: rank hypocrisy. Your hatred is unvarnished, unmediated with any message of care or love in any form whatsoever. When consequences come further down the track, they will be consistent with the message of hatred you’re putting forth here. You won’t be able to deny responsibility.

    Christians stand in the way of “gay rights” because we do not think they are right. We think they’re harmful for individuals, family, and society, both now and through eternity.

    You disagree. That’s a matter of symmetry: we both disagree with the other side. But we can at least express care while disagreeing. Our concern for persons’ wellbeing, including gays’ is a matter of concern for them on a deep spiritual level. Again, you disagree, but as SteveK pointed out, you have no discernible ground from which to say we’re wrong.

    I don’t know about your local issues with decriminalization. I do not claim that all Christians everywhere have done right. I do say that when we hold to standards of truth in an attitude of grace and love, that is right; and that truth includes what is true about homosexual sin.

    I’m sorry about what we’ve done wrong. The Catholic church’s response to its internal sin bewilders me; I haven’t known what to do about it. There is error on our side.

    But the anger on your side is the kind of thing from which consequences flow, for which there will be real accountability, too.

  23. urbanus says:

    @SteveK#21: Yes, from a purely abstract, logical perspective. But in making judgements on issues of right and wrong — given that I have a choice in whose counsel I keep — it is only sensible for me to wonder about the motives of a person advocating a position.

    And I think you might agree with that to at least some small extent. I mean: would you like homosexuals to listen to you? Would you like them to feel that their community has been dealt with by the Christian community with the utmost honesty, integrity and respect? Or would you consider a strictly logical or right/wrong approach to be sufficient, something along the lines of this: “Although we’ve persecuted you before, we want you to listen to our arguments and judge them purely on their merits”? Good enough?

    @Tom#22: Well, you’ve accused me of “rank hypocrisy” and “hatred… unvarnished”. Although I’m not accountable to you, I would note that your conclusion of my hypocrisy seems to rest on your interpretation of my hatred towards you, which would be hypocritical if I were simultaneously condemning you for hating homosexuals. So I feel that your conclusion is actually based on your own feelings and interpretation of my beliefs.

    In my original message, I did actually make an expression of hatred: it was towards that catch-phrase “hate the sin but love the sinner” — not towards specific people. But I don’t think I worded myself very well. I don’t object to the phrase in theory: I think it’s noble and good to love others, despite what they have done (or are doing). My strong feelings are more towards the way that phrase is frequently misused. I hate the culture that I perceive to surround it: the culture that says, it is okay to act in a way that harms others, as long as we say we love them and never intended it, or that the harm we did them was in a struggle against a larger evil and so justified.

    I’d like to think that under different circumstances I would show more compassion than I see from some Christians towards homosexuals. I would like to imagine that in some alternate reality where I were a homosexual who believed Christianity to be evil, and homosexuals were a dominant, politically powerful group, and Christians were a small, repressed minority, criminalised for their activities, and where young, Christian teens were committing suicide in record numbers, and where families were being torn apart by otherwise well-intentioned gay parents rejecting their Christian children (to send them a message about the evils of Christianity — for their own good, of course), that I could deal with the “problem” of Christianity with the utmost care and sensitivity, without covering my own bigotry with glib phrases. But who am I kidding?

  24. SteveK says:

    But in making judgements on issues of right and wrong — given that I have a choice in whose counsel I keep — it is only sensible for me to wonder about the motives of a person advocating a position.

    It’s sensible to do that. Christian’s are instructed to speak the truth in a loving manner because in doing so, it makes the message of truth more likely to be received. No doubt you can find many Christian churches and many Christians that speak about the sin of homosexuality in a loving manner? I suggest you seek out those sources and listen to them.

  25. Tom Gilson says:

    The hypocrisy I spoke of, urbanus, was not what you just described here. It was your claim that we are head-kickers by proxy when we speak as we do, while you speak terms that are clearly interpretable as hatred, with no moderating influence of care or love.

    You say you did not say you condemn us. But in your first comment, you spoke of the detestable practices of people like me, our use of the guilt motivation, the “thin veneer,” the “false love,” the cynicism. You specifically ascribed “hatred” to us, coupled with intentional, cynical manipulation of “the sheep” against an “oppressed minority group.”

    Tell me, urbanus, if you actually were “condemning someone for hating,” what would you add to that? (Maybe I should ask you to treat that as a rhetorical question. If you have any stronger language to add to what you’ve already said, I don’t think anyone would want you to express it here.)

  26. urbanus says:

    @Tom#25: You’re right: I do condemn all those things! I think those problems are real, and I stand by my remarks! You interpret these as expressions of personal hatred, but regretfully I won’t hold back on criticising things that I see as social evils just because it hurts someone’s feelings.

    I love my Christian friends, but it saddens and hurts me to see how completely they’ve been sucked into this anti-gay culture. It’s simply bizarre to hear them speak of homosexuals with revulsion and disgust in one breath, and in the next to proclaim the virtues of “hate the sin but love the sinner”. They are the finest, kindest, most loving and caring people I know. Yet there’s this partition in their thoughts when it comes to homosexuality.

    The stuff I said before about the church using gays as a hate-target, to bind the group together and exercise control: let’s say I’m wrong about that. But then how do you explain this persistent obsession with homosexuality? I’ve given isolated instances, but it’s more than that: it’s a pattern of behaviour. And it’s not a recent thing: it’s a pattern of behaviour that I’ve seen for decades now.

    What’s it all about then? Can you explain? Why does the church speak up so strongly on homosexuality, yet remain silent on most other issues?

  27. urbanus says:

    @Tom#25: I could say a couple more words about hypocrisy.

    I think it would be hypocritical for me to come on this board and say that I hate Christianity but love Christians; then to criticise the behaviour of Christians while privately engaging in a long campaign of persecution against Christian rights. In that case, you’d be right to accuse me of engaging in the exact behaviours that I am trying to condemn. I would therefore be a hypocrite.

    But I think that scenario is rather rich — like your accusation of hypocrisy against me.

    I don’t want to continue this name-calling, but you should appreciate that you can’t have things both ways. You can’t actively advocate the persecution of a group (e.g. like what’s happening in Africa at present, with Christian groups pushing for the death penalty for homosexuality) and say that’s OK because you love them. If that makes sense, then I’m missing something.

  28. Tom Gilson says:

    urbanus,

    I agree: it would be bizarre for anyone to speak of homosexuals with revulsion and disgust in one breath, and then turn around and speak of “loving the sinner.” That’s wrong.

    What I’m speaking of instead is speaking the truth about the practice of same-sex sexual activity, which is wrong. That’s not a matter of disgust toward the persons, at least for me it never has been, and I know many other Christians who are able to make that distinction successfully.

    I think also there’s some intentional revulsion-provoking being done intentionally by some of the more beyond-flamboyant gays; it’s not sexual practice per se but it’s a public advertisement thereof. Those things are wrong as well. If they see Christians respond with disgust, it’s because they’re trying to provoke that response.

    How do I explain the persistent obsession with homosexuality? I don’t have to. The topic only comes up in limited forums; it’s not something churches talk about often. It only comes up in response to homosexual initiative. I think you’ve got the explaining to do: your side is the one that’s trying to keep the subject on the table.

    We’re trying to defend a better, wiser, saner view of marriage and family and sexual morality. We didn’t start this public discussion. We would be happy for it to go away. Why did the British RAF seem so obsessed with the Luftwaffe over London?

    I have more to say — I think I may have used the wrong word when I said you were hypocritical, for one thing — but I’ll be away for a couple hours.

  29. urbanus says:

    @Tom#28: I read your last message and acknowledge what you’re saying, even if I don’t agree with all of it. I’m happy for most of your points to stand.

    One point I’d like to explore is your claim that, “I think you’ve got the explaining to do: your side is the one that’s trying to keep the subject on the table.” I think homosexuality has become an important point for the church, yet I don’t think this is entirely driven by the homosexual community directly. The situation in Africa (I touched on briefly before) is illustrative.

    There’s a “hearts & minds” contest being waged in Africa for the religious affiliation of the African people by the world’s two largest religions: Christianity and Islam. And homosexuality is a very touchy subject for Africans. Islam definitely has the competitive advantage there: they’re very tough on homosexuality (and gays directly).

    This worries the church. I know that the Anglican church in Africa is strongly against homosexuality, and that they have placed significant pressure on the wider Anglican communion to take a harder line on homosexuality. (The African arm of the Anglican church is one of its largest groups of believers.) Equally strenuous in their beliefs are the the liberal believers who would like to “reform” (I don’t think you would use that word) the church. There are a lot of believers on both sides that have very little respect for the perspective of the other, and would love to see a schism. But what keeps the church together? A mutual love of Christ of course…

    …Joking! Sorry, of course this has nothing to do with Christ, or His word or the gospel or anything like that. It’s about money and power. It’s no secret: the Anglican archbishop in Australia has discussed this directly. The church has vast amounts of assets, and it would be near impossible to split them and share all that wealth in a way that everyone could agree with (especially since each side basically hates the other and would like to see them kicked out with nothing!).

    Into this strange mix you can throw the American evangelical Christians in Uganda, pushing for homosexuality to be made a capital offence. This is a smart move (although repulsive and immoral): it appeals to the base prejudices of some African people, and helps to advance Christianity’s standing in comparison with Islam.

    So where do the beleaguered gays fit in this story? To me, they look like the meat in the sandwich. And if a bit of gay blood needs to be spilt so that wicked men can build their empires on Earth? Oh well.

    Make no mistake, homosexuality is a very, VERY big issue for the church. And I don’t see much of this involving “loving the sinner”.

  30. urbanus says:

    Wow. I didn’t realise how deep this went until I did some further research on the topic.

    According to this story in the Ugandan press, the anti-homosexuality (a.k.a. “kill the gays”) bill had broad, ecumenical support across all Uganda’s churches — Catholic and Protestant.

    And the affirmation for this went right to the top according to this article, with Pope Benedict meeting and blessing the main proponent of the bill!

    Yes, that’s correct: just around the same time the pope was drafting his first tweet, he met with Ugandan parliamentary speaker Rebecca Kadaga, who had earlier promised to level the death penalty for gays as a “Christmas present” to the Ugandan people (minus, one assumes, the Ugandans who will be murdered because of their sexual orientation). She was part of a delegation from Uganda which greeted the Pope during a public audience. Ugandan media sources reported that Kadaga had received the pope’s “blessing”, but this was denied by a Vatican spokesman who insisted the meeting was not a “sign of approval of the actions or proposals of Ms Kadaga”.

    To be fair, I should note that some Christians have reacted with alarm to the extremity of these viewpoints. So not every Christian wants gays dead, which is something for which we should all be thankful, I think.

  31. Tom Gilson says:

    “So not every Christian wants gays dead.”

    You had to look on the web to discover some reactions of alarm to discover that? You “think” we should all be thankful for that?

    Then you know nothing of Christianity, and you have no business criticizing that of which you are ignorant.

  32. Tom Gilson says:

    FWIW.

    Your ignorance of American Christianity stands fully exposed, regardless of whether I had written that or not.

  33. Chris says:

    This is an excellent post discussing how we should treat every man in equality regardless of what he has done. True enough, it is very difficult for a man to treat another man as though he has done nothing, as though he has not sinned towards you or tho any other person close to you. How about treating a person who has sinned to a person but not close to you?

    It is very easy for us to say to actually hate the sin but not the person who committed the sin. If the Bible commands us to love our enemies, then it means loving the sinners, even those who have offended us, one way or another. Is it just right to say that one form of showing how you love a sinner is by teaching him not to commit the same sin or mistake again? Is it fair to say that one way of teaching sinners is by giving them the punishment they deserve?

    The Bible also says that every sin has a corresponding punishment and all sinners deserve their own dose of punishment. You don’t love a person if you continue to tolerate wrong doings.

  34. Tom Gilson says:

    I think there are some good things in what you say, Chris, although I can’t agree with all of it.

    Dan Allender has a way of putting it, although he says it in a different context: “offer the gift of consequences.” There he was speaking of family members who are misusing other family members, but it could apply to anyone. If I am doing wrong in any way, I don’t want to remain there, but chances are I will remain that way as long as I remain comfortable in it. Sometimes the only way to experience the discomfort that leads to change and growth is to discover that there is pain attached to staying as I am.

    I am very wary of the word “punishment,” though. I don’t believe it is my place in any way to punish other people. Punishment has a place with children and in the courts. I have trouble thinking of any other context, even the workplace, where it’s the right idea. I don’t know what you mean by not continuing to tolerate wrong doings, but I do know that in most cases, the most I can do is to state what I think is true about wrongdoings.

    It’s not mine to punish. So I disagree emphatically with that part of what you’ve said, and I really wouldn’t want any reader thinking it represents biblical Christianity in any way.

    What then about consequences? Natural consequences are the only kind that I think make sense. There are a host of them that go along with homosexual sex. I can’t deliver those, either. I can only speak, so that maybe some people will understand what it is that these consequences are trying to teach them.

    There is of course one other place where punishment has its rightful place, and that is in the plan of God. He punished sin in Christ on the cross; Christ took that punishment himself. For those who do not accept his gift of love, their own punishment will fall upon them.

    And this is the part of what you’ve said with which I agree. To share the truth is to offer a rescue from that fate. It is an act of love.

  35. urbanus says:

    FWIW.

    Your ignorance of American Christianity stands fully exposed, regardless of whether I had written that or not.

    I appreciate your denunciation of the Uganda situation at the top. Some of the replies there were a bit odd though, like the one that lumps “homosexuality, necrophilia, alcohol abuse, narcotic abuse, pedophilia, bestiality, and marriage between more than two people” together. If I’m supposed to learn something about American Christianity from that, I’ll have to consider a bit further before making a sensible conclusion.

    Tom, you’ve got links with Rick Warren, right? How about the National Organization for Marriage? I ask because I notice that like them, you’re active in the family first/marriage debate. I read mention of Rick Warren specifically in relation to what’s going on in Uganda.

    I wish I understood the American cultural aspects of this better.

  36. Tom Gilson says:

    I wouldn’t read too much into that other list of sins, nor would I read too little. Homosexual sex is sin. It’s wrong. It should be treated as wrong. There’s no doubt in my mind about that.

    Does that mean it’s equivalent to those other sins? Yes, in the sense that all sin is wrong. It’s also equivalent (in that sense) to heterosexual adultery and robbing banks and extortion and embezzlement. That doesn’t mean that these are all the same sin, or have the same deleterious effects on individuals and society, or the same disgust factor, or anything. Every situation is its own individual situation.

    I don’t have any links with Rick Warren, and my only link with NOM is that I’ve sat with Brian Brown in a most fruitful meeting. I don’t know why you ask.

    If you want to understand the American cultural aspects, I suggest you visit a good evangelical church near you (if you live in America, of course). Come for two, three, four Sundays. Ask the leaders for their opinions. Find out the direct way!

  37. urbanus says:

    @Tom: Oh, it’s nothing. His name came up in some things I’ve been reading about Uganda. He’s very influential there, apparently.

    The situation in Africa is more nuanced than I had thought at first. Even the US pastors who were most directly influential in inspiring the “Kill the Gays” bill reacted with surprise and horror at how far it went. This is how Scott Lively described his mission in Africa, and this is an interview where he reacts after learning about the draconian measures of the bill. And as for the murders, corrective rapes etc. etc. — none of the American pastors were advocating anything like that. Not at all.

    So to be fair, I think I should acknowledge that Uganda was a situation where things spun way out of control very quickly. (However I still can’t understand the reaction of the Ugandan churches in supporting the bill. Or the Pope’s behaviour (my God!). I can only imagine that it was all part of a big, bad situation.)

    I found a much more detailed and (I think) balanced account of the situation in Africa, written by an Anglican priest in Africa, here. It might be of interest to some of your readers.

    In light of more careful consideration, I’d like to modify my previous stance. Sometimes when bigotry flourishes, and innocent people end up hurt or dead, I’d say it’s not necessarily because of evil intentions on one side. Sometimes people get the wrong message, or the wrong people get the message, and it can be twisted out of shape. So I’d suggest that one practical way for both sides to show love to the other would be to not kill each other first (obviously); and beyond that to be careful that mistakes don’t cause things to get out of hand.

    I’d also like to acknowledge those Christians on the anti-homosexuality side who do have genuine care and compassion for others, because I think in my previous messages I was too harsh and didn’t recognise that.

  38. ordinaryseeker says:

    Tom @34,

    What are the host of consequences that go along with homosexual sex?

  39. Tom Gilson says:

    Medical. This is well documented. And it’s huge. Even after the arrival of AIDS treatments.

    Pschological. I’ll wade into controversy here and say that I disbelieve the reports that indicate homosexual angst can be entirely attributed to social stigma. Note that I said “wade.” I’m not planning to swim in that river.

    Relational, esp. in the case of promiscuity. This applies equally to heterosexual promiscuity: sex without the intimacy of a lifelong committed relationship is more relationally damaging, in the long run, than fulfilling. (I’m not going to have time to pull up research on that, sorry, but that’s one of my answers regardless). Male homosexual monogamy is exceedingly rare. Female homosexual “marriages” break up at a rate considerably exceeding male ones.

    Spiritual. This is well documented, too, although controversial since not all agree; but in the long run it’s the biggest one of all: the loss of eternal life with the God of love.

    Those are a few. I do not intend to get involved in a war of empirical research; I have a whole lot of work to do between now and this weekend, and I won’t have time for it.

  40. ordinaryseeker says:

    Ah. This is your OPINION of what the consequences are. No wonder I didn’t know what you were talking about.

    BTW, straight people get AIDS too. And, lesbians have the lowest incidence of contracting HIV.

  41. Tom Gilson says:

    I only said I wasn’t going to take the time to look up the research. Nice try.

  42. Tom Gilson says:

    Further on #39, the negative consequences associated with homosexual behavior.

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