Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin?

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“I’m Christian, Unless You’re Gay.” If you are someone who believes that you should ‘love the sinner but hate the sin,’ you really must read this. I am thrilled to share this original article by Dan Pearce. Absolutely brilliant. Thank you, Dan.

Today I want to write about something that has bothered me for the better part of a decade. I’ve carved out no fewer than a dozen drafts of this post, all strangely unalike, all ultimately failing to accomplish the job I’ve set out to do. Truth is, I’ve been trying to write it off and on for more than a year now, and the right words have been seemingly impossible to come by.

In the end, and in order to post it, I guess I had to care more about the message than I do about potential backlash. I’m not being facetious when I say that I hope I can get this message across without offending… well… everybody.

What I really hope is that this post will spark and encourage poignant and worthwhile discussion that will lead to some poignant and worthwhile changes in the lives of at least a few people who are hurting.

That being said, I believe some strong words need to be said today.

“God hates fags.” We’ve all seen the signs being waved high in the air by members of the Westboro Baptist church. On TV. In real life. It’s hard not to take notice.

Over the years, I’ve watched seemingly never-ending disgustingness and hatred spill across the media airwaves from those who belong to the organization. For those who don’t know much about that “church,” they have made a seedy name for themselves by doing drastic things like picketing beneath atrocious signs and hosting flagrant anti-gay protests at military funerals.

Almost every person of nearly every religion has no problem loathing and condemning the Westboro Baptist Church and its members, and perhaps with reason. They take freedom of speech far beyond what our founding fathers intended when they fought to give us that right, and they laugh at the rest of the world while they do.

But today I don’t want to talk about those idiots. I want to talk about you. And me.

And my friend who I’ll call Jacob.

Jacob is 27  years old, and guess what… he’s gay.

Not a lot of people know. He lives in a community where being gay is still very “frowned upon.”

I was talking to him on the phone a few weeks ago, telling him about my failed attempts to write this post. He was trying to hold his emotions in, but he eventually became tearful as we deliberated the very problem that this post attempts to discuss.

Before I go on, I feel I must say something one time. Today’s post is not about homosexuality. It’s not about Christians. It’s not about religion. It’s not about politics. It’s about something else altogether. Something greater. Something simpler.

It’s about love.

It’s about kindness.

It’s about friendship

And love, kindness, and friendship are three things that Jacob hasn’t felt in a long time.

I’m thankful he gave me permission to share our conversation with you. It went something like this.

“Jacob, I honestly don’t know how to write it,” I said. “I know what I want to get across, but I can never find the right words.”

“Dan, you need to write it. Don’t give up. I’m telling you, it needs to be said.”

I paused. “You don’t understand. It’s too heated a subject. It’s something people are very emotional and touchy about. I’d be lynched.”

My friend hesitated. “Dan, you are the only friend I have that knows I’m gay. The only freaking one,” he said.

“What do you mean? I know you’ve told other friends.”

That’s when his voice cracked. He began crying.

“Every single person I’ve told has ditched me. They just disappear. They stop calling. They remove me on Facebook. They’re just gone,” he said. “They can’t handle knowing and being friends with a gay person.”

I didn’t know what to say. So I didn’t say anything.

“You don’t know what it’s like, man. You don’t know what it’s like to live here and be gay. You don’t know what it’s like to have freaking nobody. You don’t know what it’s like to have your own parents hate you and try and cover up your existence. I didn’t choose this. I didn’t want this. And I’m so tired of people hating me for it. I can’t take it anymore. I just can’t.”

How do you respond to that?

I wanted to tell him it was all in his head. I knew it wasn’t. I wanted to tell him it would get better and easier. The words would have been hollow and without conviction, and I knew it.

You see, I live in this community too. And I’ve heard the hate. I’ve heard the disgust. I’ve heard the disdain. I’ve heard the gossip. I’ve heard the distrust. I’ve heard the anger. I’ve heard it all, and I’ve heard it tucked and disguised neatly beneath a wrapper of self-righteousness and a blanket of “caring” or “religious” words. I’ve heard it more times than I care to number.

About gay people.

About people who dress differently.

About people who act differently.

About fat people.

About people with drug addictions.

About people who smoke.

About people with addictions to alcohol.

About people with eating disorders.

About people who fall away from their faiths.

About people who aren’t members of the dominant local religion.

About people who have non-traditional piercings.

About people who just look at you or me the wrong way.

I’ve heard it, and I’ve heard it over, and over, and over again.

Hell, in the past (and to some degree in the present) I participated in it. I propagated it. I smugly took part in it. I’ll admit that.

And I did so under the blanketing term “Christian.” I did so believing that my actions were somehow justified because of my beliefs at the time. I did so, actually believing that such appointments were done out of… love.

This isn’t just a Utah phenomenon. I’ve lived outside of this place. I’ve worked outside of this place. It was just as bad in Denver. It was just as bad in California. I see it on blogs. I hear it on television shows and radio programs. I hear it around my own family’s dinner table from time to time. Usually said so passively, so sneakily, and so “righteously.”

From Christians.

From Buddhists.

From Hindus.

From Muslims.

From Jews.

“God hates fags.” “God hates addicts.” “God hates people who shop at Salvation Army.” “God hates people that aren’t just like me.”

People may not be holding up picket signs and marching around in front of television cameras but… come on. Why is it that so many incredible people who have certain struggles, problems, or their own beliefs of what is right and wrong feel so hated? Why do they feel so judged? Why do they feel so… loathed? What undeniable truth must we all eventually admit to ourselves when such is the case?

Now, I’m not religious. I’m also not gay. But I’ll tell you right now that I’ve sought out religion. I’ve looked for what I believe truth to be. For years I studied, trying to find “it”. Every major religion had good selling points. Every major religion, if I rewound far enough, had some pretty incredible base teachings from some pretty incredible individuals.

Check this out, and feel free to correct me if I get this wrong…

According to Christians, Jesus taught a couple of interesting things. First, “love one another.” Second, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” (“Her” being a woman who cheated on her man.)

According to Buddhists, Buddha taught a couple of thought-provoking things. First, “Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule.” Second, “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”

According to Hindus, a couple of fascinating teachings come to mind. First, “Do not get angry or harm any living creature, but be compassionate and gentle; show good will to all.” (Krishna) Second, “Love means giving selflessly, excluding none and including all.” (Rama)

According to Muslims, Muhammad taught a couple interesting things as well. First, “A true Muslim is the one who does not defame or abuse others; but the truly righteous becomes a refuge for humankind, their lives and their properties.” Second, “Do you love your creator? Love your fellow-beings first.”

According to Judaism, their scriptures teach a couple remarkable things. First, “Love your neighbor like yourself.” Second, “Examine the contents, not the bottle.”

The greatest spiritual leaders in history have all preached love for others as the basis for all happiness, and never did they accompany such mandates with a list of unlovable actions or deeds. They never said, love everybody except for the gays. Love everybody except for the homeless. Love everybody except for the drug users. Love everybody except for the gang members, or those covered in ink, or the spouse abusers. They didn’t tell us it was okay to love everybody with the exception of the “trailer trash,” those living in poverty, or the illegal immigrants. They didn’t tell us it was okay to love everybody except for our ex-lovers, our lovers’ ex lovers, or our ex-lovers’ lovers. The mandate was pretty damn clear, wasn’t it?

Love others.

Period.

So if this is the founding directive of all the major religions… why is it that sometimes the most “Christlike” people are they who have no religion at all?

Let me repeat that.

Why is it that sometimes the most Christlike people are they who have no religion at all?

I have known a lot of people in my life, and I can tell you this… Some of the ones who understood love better than anyone else were those who the rest of the world had long before measured as lost or gone. Some of the people who were able to look at the dirtiest, the poorest, the gays, the straights, the drug users, those in recovery, the basest of sinners, and those who were just… plain… different…

They were able to look at them all and only see strength. Beauty. Potential. Hope.

And if we boil it down, isn’t that what love actually is?

Don’t get me wrong. I know a lot of incredible Christians, too. I know some incredible Buddhists and Muslims and Hindus and Jews.  I know a lot of amazing people, devout in their various religions, who truly love the people around them.

I also know some atheist, agnostic, or religionless people who are absolutely hateful of believers. They loathe their religious counterparts. They love only those who believe (or don’t believe) the same things they do.

In truth, having a religion doesn’t make a person love or not love others. It doesn’t make a person accept or not accept others. It doesn’t make a person befriend or not befriend others.

Being without a religion doesn’t make somebody do or be any of that either.

No, what makes somebody love, accept, and befriend their fellow man is letting go of a need to be better than others.

Nothing else.

I know there are many here who believe that living a homosexual life is a sin.

Okay.

But, what does that have to do with love?

I repeat… what does that have to do with love?

Come on. Don’t we understand? Don’t we get it? To put our arm around someone who is gay, someone who has an addiction, somebody who lives a different lifestyle, someone who is not what we think they should be… doing that has nothing to do with enabling them or accepting what they do as okay by us. It has nothing to do with encouraging them in their practice of what you or I might feel or believe is wrong vs right.

It has everything to do with being a good human being. A good person. A good friend.

That’s all.

To put our arm around somebody who is different. Why is that so hard?

I’m not here to say homosexuality is a sin or isn’t a sin. To be honest, I don’t give a rip. I don’t care. I’m not here to debate whether or not it’s natural or genetic. Again, I… don’t… care. Those debates hold no encumbrance for me.

What I care about is the need so many of us have to shun and loathe others. The need so many of us have to feel better or superior to others. The need some of us have to declare ourselves right and “perfect” all the freaking time and any chance we have.

And for some of us, these are very real needs.

But I will tell you this. All it really is… All any of it really is… is bullying.

Sneaky, hurtful, duplicitous, bullying.

Well, guess what.

There are things we all do or believe that other people consider “sinful.” There are things we all do or believe that other people consider “wrong.” There are things we all do or believe that other people would be disgusted or angered by.

“Yes, but I have the truth!” most people will adamantly declare.

Okay.

Whether you do or not…

I promise you it doesn’t matter what you believe, how strongly you live your beliefs, or how true your beliefs are. Somebody else, somewhere, thinks you are in the wrong. Somebody else, somewhere, thinks your beliefs are senseless or illogical. Somebody else, somewhere, thinks you have it all wrong. In fact, there are a lot of people in this world who do.

We each understand that. We already know that. It’s the world we live in and we’re not naïve. We’re not stupid. We get it.

Yet, we expect and want love anyway. We expect and want understanding. We expect and want tolerance. We expect and want humanity. We expect and want respect for our beliefs, even from those who don’t believe the same things we do. Even from those who think we’re wrong, unwise, or incorrect.

We expect all of that from the people who disagree with us and who disagree with our lifestyles and beliefs because, let’s be honest, nothing we do is actually bad enough to be worthy of disgust, anger, hatred, or cold-shouldering. Right? None of the ways in which we live our lives would warrant such behavior. Right? None of our beliefs are worthy of ugly disdain from others.

Right?

No, we’re all… perfect. Freaking, amazingly, impossibly… perfect.

But the gays… well, shoot.

[sigh]

You know what I think?

Let this sink in for a minute…

I think it doesn’t matter if you or I or anybody else thinks homosexuality is a sin. It doesn’t matter if you or I think anything is a sin. It doesn’t matter if homosexuality is a sin or not. In fact, it doesn’t matter if anything anybody else does is a sin or not.

Because sin is a very personal thing! It always has been and it always will be!

And it has nothing to do with love.

Absolutely nothing.

Disparity and difference have nothing to do with love.

We shouldn’t choose who we will love and who we won’t.

“I’m Christian, unless you’re gay.”

That’s the message we’re sending, you know.

“I’m Christian, unless I’m hotter than you.”

“I’m Christian, unless I’m uglier than you.”

“I’m Christian, unless I found out you cheated on your income taxes.”

“I’m Christian, unless you cut me off in traffic.”

“I’m Christian, unless you fall in love with the person I once fell in love with.”

“I’m Christian, unless you’re that guy who smells like crap on the subway.”

“I’m Christian, unless you’re of a different religion.”

“Oh, but you’re not gay? You’re clean, and well dressed, and you have a job? You look the way I think you should look? You act the way I think you should act? You believe the things I think you should believe? Then I’m definitely a Christian. To you, today, I’m a Christian. You’ve earned it.”

I bet you’ve heard that message coming from others. Maybe you’ve given that message to others.

Either way, I hope we all can agree that we mustn’t live that message. We just shouldn’t.

But many of us do.

And we do it all the time.

For some of us, it might as well be tattooed across our necks and foreheads.

Maybe not in those words, but the message is clear to those who hear and are listening. It’s clear to those who are watching and seeing.

The message has been very clear to my friend Jacob.

“Every single person I’ve told has ditched me. They just disappear. They stop calling. They remove me on Facebook. They’re just gone. They can’t handle knowing and being friends with a gay person.”

“You don’t know what it’s like, man. You don’t know what it’s like to live here and be gay. You don’t know what it’s like to have freaking nobody. You don’t know what it’s like to have your own parents hate you and try and cover up your existence. I didn’t choose this. I didn’t want this. And I’m so tired of people hating me for it. I can’t take it anymore. I just can’t.”

Jacob is a dear friend. He’s my brother. He’s a damn good human being. He’s absolutely incredible.

He’s also gay.

But why does that make any difference at all?

It doesn’t. Not to me.

And I wish with everything inside of me that it didn’t make any difference to others. I wish we didn’t all have to find ways that we’re better than others or more holy and saintly than others in order to feel better about our own messy selves. I wish people wouldn’t cluster entire groups of people together and declare the whole lot unworthy of any love and respect.

But that is the point of such thinking and action, isn’t it? I mean, it’s simpler that way. It makes it easier for us to justify our thoughts, words, and prejudices that way.

All these people become clumped together. And in the process, they all somehow become less than human.

They become unworthy of our love.

And what a great thing it is when that happens, right? I mean, it helps us to free ourselves from the very directives that have been passed down for millennia from the greatest teachers and philosophers in history. It makes our rationalization for hatred, bigotry, and abhorrence so easily justifiable; so maskable.

So right.

It gives us the golden chance to look at ourselves and not be disgusted by what the glass reflects back at us.

Then, sadly and ultimately, it pushes us to that point where we no longer have any sort of arm to put around others at all. We no longer have a hand to offer our fellow human beings. We no longer have a need to.

And why would we?

Why the hell should we?

Unless, of course, we actually want to live what we all so often claim that we “believe.”

My dear friends…

This has to stop. We have to put our ugly picket signs down. We have to be the examples that help make it happen in our own lives and in the lives of the people that surround us.

We have to be that voice. We each must be that voice.

We must tell others that we will not accept or listen to such hurtful and hateful sentiments.

We must show love where love right now doesn’t exist.

Will you please join me?

My request today is simple. Today. Tomorrow. Next week. Find somebody, anybody, that’s different than you. Somebody that has made you feel ill-will or even [gulp...] hateful. Somebody whose life decisions have made you uncomfortable. Somebody who practices a different religion than you do. Somebody who has been lost to addiction. Somebody with a criminal past. Somebody who dresses “below” you. Somebody with disabilities. Somebody who lives an alternative lifestyle. Somebody without a home.

Somebody that you, until now, would always avoid, always look down on, and always be disgusted by.

Reach your arm out and put it around them.

And then, tell them they’re all right. Tell them they have a friend. Tell them you love them.

If you or I wanna make a change in this world, that’s where we’re gonna be able to do it. That’s where we’ll start.

Every. Single. Time.

Because what you’ll find, and I promise you this, is that the more you put your arm around those that you might naturally look down on, the more you will love yourself. And the more you love yourself, the less need you’ll ever have to find fault or be better than others.  And the less we all find fault or have a need to be better than others, the quicker this world becomes a far better place to live.

And don’t we all want to live in a better world? Don’t we all want our kids to grow up in a better, less hateful, more beautiful world?

I know I do.

So let’s be that voice. Let’s offer that arm to others. Because, the honest truth is… there’s gonna come a day when you or I are going to need that same courtesy. There’s going to come a day that we are desperate for that same arm to be put around us. We’ll be desperate for that same friendship. We’ll be desperate for that same love.

Life will make sure of it. For you. For me. For everyone.

It always does because… as it turns out… there’s not a damn person on earth who’s perfect.

- Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing

PS. I would love your comments and thoughts today. More than anything, I’d really like to hear people’s individual struggles. I’d like to hear your struggles. I believe that everybody will benefit as we all share that which hurts us and haunts us.

When have you seen or experienced this? What effects has it had in your life or the lives of others that are close to you? Have you ever seen positive results as people become more loving toward those who are different? How have you felt along the way?

There are those who have struggled because they have been on the receiving end of it. And there are those who have struggled as they work to overcome it. I’ve grappled on both sides.

This message is so important to me; among the most important that this faulted blogger has ever written and because of that I have no hesitation asking you to share it. If it’s important to you, too, please share it. If you believe its message needs to be spread, please share it. Use your voice for that which it was meant.

Use your voice to embolden the world. Use your voice to say, “enough is enough.” Use your voice to stand up and declare that there is no other way besides love.

With all my heart. Please.

Click here to read A Brave Teen’s Response. It is a must read.

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About Susan Cottrell

Susan Cottrell is a national speaker, teacher, and counselor with years of Biblical study and discipleship experience. Her books include: "Mom, I'm Gay" - Loving Your LGBTQ Child Without Sacrificing Your Faith, as well as How Not To Lose Your Teen and The Marriage Renovation. Through her nonprofit organization - FreedHearts.org - Susan champions the LGBTQ community and families with her characteristic tender-heartedness, and she zealously challenges Christians who reject them with her wise insistence that "loving God and loving others" are the foundation of the rest of the scripture, just as Jesus said. She is the Vice President of PFLAG Austin, and her "Mom, I'm Gay" book has been endorsed by The Human Rights Campaign and others. She and her husband have been married more than 27 years and have five children - two of whom are in the LGBTQ community. She lives in Austin, Texas.

  • http://freedhearts.wordpress.com Susan Cottrell, FreedHearts

    Dear Gina, I so appreciate your commitment to love well. I challenge you to seek Jesus personally and ask him how to love this community. I do not read anywhere that Jesus tells us to correct others’ behavior. Paul’s letters to specific people over specific issues are not the new Leviticus, nor can they supersede Jesus’ great command to love and his absence of instruction to correct. Your friends may withdraw because they feel convicted, or maybe because they feel judged. Perhaps they can tell you if you ask them. Thank you so much for commenting, and I wish you the best in this journey of discovery.

  • http://freedhearts.wordpress.com Susan Cottrell, FreedHearts

    Jeanne, that’s was beautiful. Every word is so true. I do believe that when we are pompous (me included), God does have a way of letting us stumble over ourselves to see how off we’ve been. It’s painful but freeing! Thank you for sharing your journey too.

  • Shirley Peek

    Dan, Your message is clear, compelling, and reminds us that we are all capable of the same type of behaviors that we condemn in those that we seek to protect our gay family members from. I have been fortunate enough to be a nurse for the past 25 years and in that capacity interact with so many people that I otherwise would not have associated with. I am no longer surprised when I find that I have really enjoyed having the meth-addict as a patient yet the corporate executive lacked both common courtesy and manners. People are so much more than their packaging. I am reading this on the heels of one of the stars of the “Duck Dynasty” show being escorted out of his hotel for being a transient. A multimillionaire in town to be on a talk show, who just happened to fit the hotel employees idea of a homeless bum. We are so quick to judge without stopping to know. Thank you so much for taking the time to write and I do hope things get better for your friend. There are loving people out there. There are other parents of gays who I know would gladly be “surrogate” parents for him. It is not the same but it can help.

  • http://freedhearts.wordpress.com Susan Cottrell, FreedHearts

    You’re welcome!! Thx so much for sharing too. Much love!

  • http://freedhearts.wordpress.com Susan Cottrell, FreedHearts

    I have heard from many people about nonacceptance of bisexuals. What a tragic and difficult situation. I am so thankful he has found a place and people with whom he feels at home. Thank you so much for sharing that.

  • http://freedhearts.wordpress.com Susan Cottrell, FreedHearts

    Thank you for your good questions. Matthew 18:15-17 says, “If anyone sins against you,” go alone to them to reconcile it, and if that doesn’t work, bring one or two others. The interest is to legitimately reconcile broken relationships, which is quite necessary within community. It is not a license to go seek and stamp out sin, and some seem to believe when they ask this. If someone is in sexual sin of any sort, unless it’s with me (or my family), then it’s not a sin against me. That verse is followed by Peter’s question about the need to forgive, which underscores maintaining healed relationships in community. 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 includes this: “…not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother or sister who is sexually immoral or greedy, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber. Do not even eat with such a one.” First of all, this was in answer to a specific situation (5:1), of a man sleeping with his father’s wife (not his mother). That has multiple layers of implications of power and defying his father, in addition to sexual immorality. But even taking it as is, I hope no one would use this to say that we seriously have no dealings with anyone with any sexual immorality, greed, idolatry, reviling, drunkenness or robbing. Have you THOUGHT of sex with someone you’re not married to? Have you been greedy? Revile means to harshly criticize — done that? In other words, we cannot take this as permission (much less a requirement) to remove everyone with any of these sins. Someone told me recently their church welcomes LGBTQ, but not in leadership. Do they really have no one in leadership with any of these issues? No one who is remarried? No one struggling with porn? No one who harshly criticizes? No one who is greedy? I mean, really. This passage cannot possibly mean that we remove every bit of this. The result of such an attempt is the legalism Jesus and Paul both soundly condemn. (Matthew 23 and all of Galatians.) We have to remember Paul wrote letters to specific people on specific issues; it is not the new Leviticus.


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