Monday, 28 July 2008

Love the Sinner....

This is a rather delayed response to Gordon and Sharon's posts earlier this month on the theme of gay relationships. I applaud you comment Gordon on your response to letters in 'The Friend' on this theme, particularly the Love the Sinner letter which I've copied below:

'Hating the sin, loving the sinner
Time after time in your letters and articles the overwhelming suggestion is that a homophobe is one who hates homosexual people, and this indeed accords with the dictionary definition. However, it is possible to hate a sin whilst loving the sinner. Sadly we do not yet have a word for this in this context, though it is a condition in which many sincere Friends find themselves, and is in accord with the truest Quaker insights. I pray that homosexual people will accept that true Friends do not hate them personally, but only what they do. If any Friend can coin a word for this condition, I should be glad to hear from him.
Ralph Hill'

I find this notion of hating the sin, loving the sinner, in this context deeply offensive, and nonsensical. I hope that the view expressed in this letter really isn't representative of many Friends in this country.

I do however want to keep the subject open for dialogue as that's the only way to improve our understanding and tolerance. People need to speak there minds, hopefully with their heart and mind open, in an attempt to find a meeting point with those who hold opposing views. Maybe we need to create more spaces within our Meetings for owning our fears and prejudices in the hope of moving towards greater equality and tolerance/ understanding of difference.

It would also be good to get more posts from women on this Blog, where are we all?

3 comments:

Jeremiah said...

I remember hearing the 'hate the sin, love the sinner' expression a lot in the late 1980s, the period of the ‘Section 28’ anti-gay legislation and the homophobic backlash that came in the wake of the Aids epidemic. Sadly, some Christians saw this as a populist bandwagon they could jump on.

The problem with applying it to sexual orientation is that my 'sexuality' does not just refer to certain acts that I perform or refrain from performing. It refers to an important aspect of who I am, my identity, the ‘sinner’ as much as the ‘sin’, if we insist on using such terms. In this respect, being lesbian or gay or heterosexual is very different from being, say, an adulterer or a masturbator.

It would be theoretically possible for someone to be committed to a life of celibacy but to be homosexual in orientation and to consider this a good and valuable aspect of themselves (I suspect some Catholic priests are in this position). They might well, for example, follow the non-celibate bishop Gene Robinson in arguing that their sexuality gives them first-hand experience of being marginalised and oppressed, and therefore helps to make them a more compassionate person.

There does seem something very smug and self-righteous about the saying. Is it ever applied to fields beyond human sexuality? Does anyone encourage us to hate war but love the warrior? Or hate covetousness but love the banker? A spot of googling suggests that the saying comes from Augustine of Hippo’s ‘City of God’, but that it’s often blamed on Gandhi.

Karen said...

I think there's great value in loving the sinner while hating the sin - but I strongly suspect it's a genuinely tough thing to do, and that it's not what's happening when it comes to sexuality. As Jeremiah says, there's a fundamental difference between making a choice to do harm and being queer. I'm against sex that's abusive, or coercive, or dishonest, or unhappy, regardless of the genders and orientations of the people involved - to me, it's harmful. But the idea that my being attracted to some people, some of whom are male and some of whom are female, is a "sin" is something I find really offensive. I struggled for years to come to terms with my orientation, to accept that I am as I was made to be. I don't honestly understand the idea that my love for my husband is good and true, and should be expressed physically - but if he was a woman, the same feelings would be unnatural and abhorrent.

Actually, the only context I've ever heard people using it in is when defending an anti-queer stance as Christian. Funny, really. I wonder how they feel about non-human animals doing what comes unnaturally in non-heterosexual pairings/groups?

I try hard to not let my sense of being threatened trip me up, and to listen to people who come out with these things. I don't understand why we're such a threat.

Anonymous said...

I agree: what is the "sin"? What about not judging the other?