Hate The Sin, Hate The Sinner

1600 years ago, a (quite famous) man named Augustine wrote a letter to a community of nuns, giving them some advice on how to deal with grievances among the community.    Apparently some of these ladies were doing some real malice to the other.  He offered some advice to this particular community in how to deal with some of these wrongdoings.  He offers means of discipline, but reminds the leaders to do so with "Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum", which translates  to "With love for mankind and hatred of sins."

Many years later, in his autobiography in 1929, Mohandas Gandhi wrote : "Hate the sin and not the sinner is a precept which, though easy enough to understand, is rarely practiced, and that is why the poison of hatred spreads in the world." In regards to our command to love each other despite the evil things that we do to each other.   It was a statement made in regards to the violence he witnessed against his own people, and despite this violence, he stands against the deeds themselves but intends on loving his enemies, for a reason he explains at another time "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."

Years later still, in a supermarket in Portland, a woman notices a young single mother and her baby shopping for some cereal.   The woman imagines the vile, back-arching, moan-inducing positions that lead this young girl to a fate of early motherhood, the kind of lewd acts that the older woman fantasizes about in the privacy of her own bedroom when her husband is away.   After being lost in these fantasies for a brief moment, and in reaction for the fear that the flushness of her face and secretly dripping sexuality is noticed by her fellow Safeway shoppers, scowls at the thought of the young victim, and believes that her 6-month old "punishment", although unfortunate, is quite deserving, but then remembers that while she herself is not partaking in the wild passions of sexual bliss, she is, after all, a better person than the young mother, so she remembers something her pastor said a few Sundays ago: "love the sinner, hate the sin", and with a pat on her own proverbial back, she sighs, smiles to herself, and whimsically turns the corner into the bread aisle.

Years later still, a young man tells his parents that he is gay.   The deeply anguished and self-blaming couple, after many hours of arguing, blaming, and wrestling, kick their son out of the house, but agree to give him money every so often, and tell him the reason is, because they "love the sinner, but hate the sin."

Such an overused non-biblical phrase (equally taken out of context as anything else in the scriptures), with the utility of separating oneself from another person who is different.  It is a callous gesture from a self-righteous people, who have somehow incorporated the call for true love for an enemy despite their malice, in order to preserve the peace and end the cycle of hatred, into a modus operandum that stratifies and slices the society into the deserving and undeserving, the acceptable and the intolerable.    It has become a phrase that is infused with an undertone, that not only brands the sinner a sinner, but by virtue of using the phrase, separates the speaker from the sin they will tolerate the sinner in spite of.

If you are gay, and you have Christian family or friends, you have heard this quote!  It has been spoken about you, it has been spoken to you.  Every time you hear it, becomes more painful than the last, but somehow loses its potency.  Show of hands, how many of you felt the warmth and passionate love delivered by this phrase, the kind of warmth and passion when a loved one holds you and says "I love you, always and forever."  It doesn't quite have the same mojo, does it?   Another show of hands, does anyone know what "love the sinner, hate the sin" love looks like?

It usually ends up looking something like this:

and unfortunately this:

What is the sin of homosexuality that is hated?  Why is homosexuality compared to murder and theft?  Why is it that, when a more open-minded person repeats how God loves us, and our sin is just like murder and stealing, and they have mistakes too, so we're all people with mistakes, it somehow just does not sit right.     I heard one say once, and it makes so much sense, that sexuality is part of the body.  It's part of the mind and psyche.  Sexuality is not just the state of being physically attracted, but it ties in, inseparably with the desire for love, and the need for companionship.   Such desires and needs are celebrated by society when they are fulfilled, just look at how much money you spent at weddings last year. There is a whole industry that the godly and godless alike partake in, in order to celebrate these aspects of being human.   But when someone reminds us that they see our sexuality as equal to their taste for gossip, either as a petty crime, or a grave abomination, it cuts into our bodies, and our minds.  It is comparing that which is life-giving to us, to what is petty, or harmful to others.   Such a phrase is an attack on the body, on the person, on their mind and heart.  It is a form of great disrespect, a psychological "bitch-slap", if you will.

I have received many such comments and emails from people, and I shudder every single time.   I wanted to know if I was the only one, so asked some people out in the social web, how this phrase hits them, and I got some great answers, I had to share some of the quotes:

"Anyone I have EVER heard make that statement doesn't love "the sinner". I've seen and experienced really evil stuff having been done to people by those who have said those very words. Enough that I believe they are a farce."  
"Those of us on the receiving end of this philosophy rarely experience the love, but we certainly reap the hate." 
"For me, it comes across as shallow and self-righteous. It's supposed to sound benevolent, but has a arrogant ring to it. I think it should be, "Love the sinner and hate your OWN sin".

"The only way I can explain it is to explain how being in a gay relationship is so very different in so many ways, from other things that are called "sin." In the conversation, their defense always ends up being, "Well, then we'd have to say we don't hate child molestation, rape, or murder." It reveals a broken moral compass------unable to tell the difference between a harmful act and a harmless one. It makes me want to report them to child services." 
"It smacks of the "I'm OK but you're not," attitude...And it shows a lack of unconditional love." 
"It is, and has always been a "not so subtle", statement of smug moral superiority."

We have gotten many comments recently, saying how while they don't think homosexuality is wrong, it's OK to be gay, just don't associate the word Coptic or Christian with it.    I won't even get into this, but for a moment consider the statement.

I know the phrase this article is about, will be told to me time and time again, and with each time I tire more and more of hearing it.   But until people can be humbled enough to know that they may not have all the answers and they can see themselves as equals, even with us gay people, this dividing line will continue to be placed.   To go back to the original meaning of the quote, before it became bastardized by the masses, that while there are atrocities, judgements, and pain being inflicted, that we stand strong and do not repay an eye for an eye.   That we can separate this immature and fearful thinking from the scared and unsure human being behind it.  That we don't lose the sense of humanity in those who want to strip our dignity.

If you are one of those people who uses this phrase, think again before using it again.  Find another way of saying that you love your brother or sister. You don't have to remind us that you are against homosexuality, we already know.  But if you love, then just love.  End of story.

Even if His Grace Bishop Youssef tells you otherwise.

And to those who are being put down, remember this:
"See to it that no one takes you captive by nphilosophy and oempty deceit, according to phuman tradition, according to the qelemental spirits1 of the world, and not according to Christ. For rin him the whole fullness of deity dwells sbodily, 10 and tyou have been filled in him, who is uthe head of all rule and authority. "  - Colossians 2:8-11


  1. I just came across this blog and this particular post. You speak with clarity and conviction and you say so many of the things I find myself saying recently to another brand of homophobic Christians, the so-called Biblical Fundamentalists of Bob Jones University, where I grew up. Some friends of mine and I, former students at Bob Jones University, all gay or lesbian, have begun circulating a petition seeking an apology for more than three decades of appalling hate speech from that University's current chancellor, Dr. Bob Jones, III. (Bear in mind that the Revd. Fred Phelps got his start at Bob Jones University). Please like us on Facebook and sign our petition. Thank you so very much.

  2. Dear brother in Christ,

    I would like to first wish you a blessed Nativity and Happy New Year.

    I was introduced to your blog from a recent high school convention where I served . We had a Q/A session for the youth and one person asked about homosexuality. H. G. B. Youssef answered the question in a loving way and said "our stand towards homosexuals is that we love them, we care for them and we are committed to helping them." He made this statement twice and said I want to make it clear since there is a website out there where they are stating the church has turned it's back on us and stoned us and they specifically listed his name.

    He stated that his response was misunderstood and that he wants to make it clear on how the church views homosexuals. He stated that there is a difference between homosexuals and homosexuality.

    I believe Homosexuals are children of God and we should love them and not treat them differently. I also believe the act of homosexuality in its own is a sin as it is clearly mentioned in the bible, just as fornication, stealing, etc..

    I read the link you posted regarding what the bible says and not say about homosexuality and I have to say it is very watered down and completely openionated and misleading. The auther makes a reference how things mentioned in the old testament does not apply to modern sexuality as if we have evolved and the word of the Lord is not the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. The auther makes a statement saying Jesus never talks about homosexuality, but He does when he says "for this reason a man shall leave his parents and be joined to his wife" he did not say a man and a man.

    I agree with your message of love and how we should have a dailogue with each other.

    I pray you receive my words in love and not a judgmental way.

    Please pray for me as I will for you.

  3. I'm not gay (nor particularly religious) but have heard this phrase spoken by others in regards to homosexuality. And yes, it has always irked me! "Hate the sin but love the sinner". How are you demonstrating this love by labelling that particular person 'a sinner'? A judgemental mentality is one that is incapable of loving someone without attaching their *own* (i.e. egocentric) viewpoint of morality.

  4. Thanks for the comments.

    To the first Anonymous, I'm glad to hear that this conversation is happening at the conventions. I will say that the message you are hearing about homosexuality from the church point of view is incomplete. If it was as mentioned above, there would be no youth asked to leave the church. I wrote a blog post in response to the SUSCopts website, and it went point by point. The message on that site is clear and it is contradictory to what Bishop Youssef said in the conference. The fact is that the church does not understand the emotional and psychological nature of homosexuality as an orientation. I fear they will follow the school of Nicholosi, whose treatments and therapy methods have only ever done more harm than good. Let the church seek to provide options for her gay and lesbian children and stop sweeping us under the rug.

  5. Dear Brother I hope you had a happy new year.

    Thank you for responding back. From your respond it is clear you been treated harshly from the church. I am sorry that you had this experience, but i do feel that the church is beginning to make forward steps toward this issue and not just brushing it off.

    The 1st step to solving a problem is to acknowledge the problem. H.G.B Youssef admitted in the convention that the clergy, including himself do not have the proper experience in dealing with this issue. He gave an example if someone comes to them and says i am suffering from high blood pressure, they can incourage them to pray and read the bible but they also need to refer them to an expert such as a medical doctor. He stated that there has been a priest in Egypt who has dedicated his self to learning more about this issue and has been dealing with 30 homosexual individuals and at the end of his sessions all the individuals had positive and successful results. This response was incouraging that H.G.B Youssef decided to fly this priest to attend their next priest meeting to talk to all the clergy about his experiences and educate them.

    Now I know you will properly be pessimistic about what option and education the church is receiving or will be providing, but i think we should all be praying for it and be optimistic of the possibilities.

    I also feel you and others in your community have a lot to offer in helping the church to find and offer ways to help. I incourage you to start a dialog with H.G.B Youssef about this topic and put your hands together.

    Pray for me as I pray for you.

  6. I recently got into a very heated discussion with someone I've been dating after a mutual friend came out to them. We are both religious, growing up with similarly conservative Christian families but I do not agree with a conservative opinion about homosexuality. I support gay marriage and define being a true follower as accepting all people regardless of their sexuality. Unfortunately, this person feels that being gay is a sin, that their friend has somehow chosen to be gay and it is their decision to be a sinner. I'm not used to hearing someone share such a negative and stubborn opinion about being gay, feeling so strongly that being gay means that you are committing a sin. I have family members and friends who are gay and it hurts me to hear someone say they are a sinner because they love someone of the same sex. I want to reach this person in a way that they can begin to open up to the idea of accepting their friend and embracing his decision to be honest about his sexuality instead of pushing him away. Your article is helpful support for a "fact of the matter" focused arguer.

  7. I am a gay Coptic Orthodox male, and it kills me inside to see the lack of tolerance our church has against the gay community. It has come to a point (based on remarks I hear from friends and family) that I will NEVER come out to them because I know they will not accept me for who I am. Their ignorance and closed-mindedness will prevent them from hearing what I have to say. Trying to explain to them that this sexual "preference" is not a preference at all (because if I had it my way, I would be straight) or that changing this preference is not possible, as is asking someone heterosexual to make themselves attracted to the same sex, would result in a failed attempt at opening their eyes to reality. I used to pray to God every night asking him to just make me straight. It would just make my life so much easier if I did'nt have to deal with this. But I'm not straight. I'm gay, and at some point I know that I will have to learn to fully accept myself for who I am. In some ways, I'm grateful for who God has made me to be. It has made me a more understanding person and has opened my own eyes to the world around me. It has made me more merciful and compassionate towards others, something I believe God wants in all of us. But I digress. The Coptic church, in all of its glory and "infallibility", desperately needs change. I hope that one day God will give me the courage along with other gay Coptic Christians to open up to friends and family to open their eyes, hearts and minds to the gay community. Pray that day will come, and pray for me. I really need it.
    - a gay Coptic in pain.

    1. I feel your pain. I was never interested in females until one female caught my attention. I am not bi with any other female but when it comes to her...I love her. I want to marry her so badly. I wish I could bring her to my church but the Coptic society would automatically know that she is lesbian by her appearance of dressing like a male. I just wish that being a homosexual would not be considered a "sin". I keep viewing bishops and priests talking about how it is only a "sexual desire" but when it comes to heterosexuals they also have a sexual desire. It's not only about the sexual desire, it's about actually seeing yourself with the person you love. Yes I used the word love, because that is what it is. I talked to my priest about it and he said it's not allowed in the Coptic church but it is allowed in other churches. I have had anxiety attacks from hiding my secret from my mom and family. It hurts, it hurts so bad. I just keep trying so hard to find reasons that will click in my mind on why it's wrong, but there are no reasons that click in my mind. I keep trying so hard not to be biased and I am not, I keep trying to understand, but the explanations they provide are not allowing me to believe that it is wrong. I don't even look at the person that I love as a female, all I see is a human that I love. HUMAN.

  8. I'm not sure how to address the three different Anonymouses. :)

    I will reach out to HGB Youssef. I think some dialogue is in order.

    To the other two, thanks for posting. To the first, do you share the same spiritual views as the person you're dating? It saddens and hurts me, too, to see such backwards thinking, and ill treatment for our fellow man.

    To the gay copt in pain. thanks for sharing! Definitely send a note to the moderator and share your story. being able to let others know, even anonymously, is part of the path of healing. so many are coming out of the woodworks, my brother. I spent so many years trying to change, as you can probably read from my other articles, it doesn't work. There is grace and freedom in Truth, and where there is Truth, there is God. I truly believe this. That's why I'm a gay christian.

  9. Just A Dude, Thank you for teaching me =). I so badly needed to hear the simple statement of "Love the sinner and Hate your ownnn sinnn". I have a great deal of respect for you for agreeing to have dialogue with His Grace Bishop Youssef; Rabina WILL and CAN and IS using you (like He just did for me) in many ways. LIke the first anonymous said, we must pray sooo sooo hard, and NONE of us should grow comfortable or become complacent, no matter where we are or where we think we are spiritually. We must always seek Him continuously and fervently remembering that acceptance from others will not justify our purpose or existence or give us a ticket to heaven. We were each put on this earth to glorify our incredibly LOVING Father. He teaches us to grow and to learn about Him through everyone we meet...we must seek Truth and find Him in every person we meet, even if they are against what we do and even if they do not believe in our Lord and Saviour; because He speaks through all of His creation and it is up to each of us, to hear Him and grow closer to Him always. Sadly, the devil has tricked all of us to lose sight of Him in each-other, and he (the devil) has trained us to only see what he wants us to see and believe.

    Please pray for me, and may our Lord and Saviour reveal Himself to us, and draw us closer than ever to His loving bosom; and may He speak loudly from within each one of us.

    PS- I pray no one takes any offense to anything I have said, and forgive me if I have upset anyone- I mean no harm...just trying to learn to Love like He did. Thank you again for your honest post- you are lovely.

    1. You are a very kind person. I do not know if you will receive this since you did not leave your email address but I thank you for your kindness.

  10. One thing I do hear in Orthodox talk about LGBTs (and not in other Christian anti-gay rhetoric) is a genuine humility and love. Maybe this is because Orthodoxy has a lot of stuff in its liturgy about recognising one's own sinfulness. I am also aware of people in the Orthodox community who believe that being gay is NOT a sin.

    That said, there is no excuse for equating same-sex love, which is a beautiful gift, with actual sins like despoiling the earth, treating our fellow-beings with disrespect, and so on.

    I hope that LGBT Orthodox and Coptic people can be accepted and celebrated by their churches.

    This is an excellent blogpost and I think you have done a brilliant job of pinpointing why that "love the sinner, hate the sin" line is just rubbish, and as you say, an indicator of a broken moral compass.

    Next time I hear it, I will say to the person, "your moral compass is broken".

    And to the people claiming that so-called "ex-gay" so-called "therapy" works - it does not work, it is harmful and destructive, and should be banned. it is hateful and it destroys lives.

    1. I think it depends which Orthodox circles you move in. Some of the sermons and writings I've read are pretty on-par with Christian anti-gay rhetoric, mainly because many of these preachers and writers are just pulling from what they see in the media without doing the searching on their own. I've even heard some things as far as to say all gay people are pedophiles! And I guess that means all Germans are Nazis, yes?

      I like "your moral compass is broken" Well said, and I will use that myself. Blessings to you!

  11. Hey man, how's it going?

    Why no new posts? it's been a long time since you posted anything new and I know people need to hear your perspective!

    I've got a few new posts on the subject and reviewing what St. John Chrysostom has to say about the passage in Romans, but it's not enough, we need more!


    1. My last post wasn't really spiritual in nature, it was just about a topic that was bugging me. I have read your post and I'm going to read it again. You're a great writer and glad to be back in contact.


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