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How to Love People But Hate It When They Say “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin”

“Love the sinner, but hate the sin.”

This phrase has been used countless times by some Christians to pretend to offer welcome to LGBT people while condemning the natural consequence of the way God made them. It speaks for a shallow kind of love at most: one that claims to be okay with a person’s same-sex orientation while stigmatizing its fulfillment. This noxious phrase also summarizes the underlying attitude of many people of other religions towards sexual minorities.

It is a phrase whose time has come – and gone. More than ever, it needs to be excised from the vocabulary of faith, once and for all, as it pertains to homosexuality.

What happened in Orlando can be interpreted in many ways and at many levels. One of them surely is as an act of unspeakably violent hatred against gay people, motivated in part by a twisted interpretation of a religion. This horrifying massacre happens against the backdrop of a backlash against increased acceptance of LGBT people in American society: hundreds of anti-LGBT laws have been passed at the state and local level in the last few months. This mass murder and this rash of legalized bigotry remind us that religion continues to be part of the homophobia problem.

Things are changing fast. Young people who have grown up in evangelical churches are increasingly mystified that their pastors still believe homosexual sex to be sinful. Fewer and fewer of these young evangelicals are going with the “culture war” program, as more and more of them maintain friendships with lovely, caring LGBT people who are in obviously healthy same-sex sexual relationships.

And more and more of these young evangelicals, both straight and gay, are getting disgusted with the faux welcome that their pastors and churches offer to LGBT people. There is a category of evangelical churches that take great pains to appear culturally relevant. They look and feel like places that would be LGBT-friendly, and make no mention of homosexuality in their sermons and websites. But eventually both gay and straight folks discover that these churches claim to love the homosexual sinner but hate the sin of homosexual sex. Mosaic Church in Hollywood is an example. You have to probe deep into the internet to discover that this groovy congregation with hipster decor and Hollywood production values is really a Southern Baptist church. Its pastor, Erwin McManus, in an LA Times interview, described homosexuality as a “lifestyle”, which is fundamentalist code language for a “choice” rather than something intrinsic to a person’s very being.

Fake love and empty welcome need to be named for what they are. Let’s save gay people and their straight allies the pain and hassle of going to churches that pretend to be what they aren’t. It’s time to love Christian homophobes while outing them for their homophobia. And it can be a genuine love, because homophobia is not part of who they are. It really is a choice! Abstaining from homophobia deprives them of nothing but delusion for themselves and pain for others.

There’s at least one thing that progressive Christians can do right now to go public with a truly loving form of the faith. A simple thing: posting all-gender signs on our church restrooms. Let’s show America that we have gone beyond the bathroom wars, and that we stand for full LGBT inclusion and affirmation. Through Progressive Christians Uniting, you can order the signs at a deep discount, and get publicity for it at a national level. Click here for details

Website: JIMBURKLO.COM Weblog: MUSINGS Follow me on twitter: @jtburklo
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Associate Dean of Religious Life, University of Southern California

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