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love the sinner, hateth the sin?

This write-up is a response to the article Homosexual friends: Let’s fight the hypocrisy on YOUTHink, The Straits Times 1st Oct 2007.

I read with much interest your claims of hypocrisy in trying to apply the truism of ‘love the sinner, hate the sin” to the issue of homosexuality.

As someone who has had a close personal college friend of many years gradually ‘come out of the closet’ with regards to his homosexuality right under my nose, I too have experienced the tension between being this person’s continued close friend and remaining faithful to the values of my belief.

Firstly, I note in your writing about how you felt that “…gay people were just like everyone else, and fully capable of holding stable, loving relationships…”

I agree with you completely on that statement. If I can claim to love the sinner, that would first and foremost mean that I regard him as a ‘normal’ person like myself, and I will not presume that being homosexual predisposes one to ‘abnormal’ or abusive relationships.

However, it seems that what you have been taught about why homosexuality is to be considered an abomination rests merely on these supposed consequences of being gay. The verdict is still out with regards to empirical research as to whether gay relationships are more or less fulfilling and lasting, whether children raised in gay families are better or worse, and so on, and after a while we run into social science problems of how we can measure happiness or fulfillment or good upbringing.

But for want of such objective and scientific conclusions as to whether the phenomena of homosexuality is detrimental to society, there are people like myself who hold on to the notion of homosexuality being an ‘abomination’ simply because it is explicitly so defined by my faith, and that being generally unshakable except by the most fringe interpretations currently existing.

Yes, it is true that many conservative groups may try to emphasize on some empirical research data or perpetuate some presumptions about the effects of homosexuality as a plausible reason for condemning homosexuality. But for clearly grounded practitioners of the faith, the teaching stays because it is absolute, and not dependent on its being proven ‘undesirable’ by man.

Secondly, I would like to address your charges of hypocrisy with regards to ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’. Rather than go into the history or the specific Christian context of the teaching, I would simply state that it is still logically possible to have a separation between the ‘sinner’ and ‘sin’.

‘Sinner’ basically refers to every human person, for according to Christian teaching every human in his natural state tends toward the committing of sin. Thus what this means is that we are to show charitable love to all human beings and wish or do no harm to the person, and watch out for them as ourselves. To love in that sense is not necessarily to adhere or acquiesce to their values and beliefs.

I’d like to also add that ‘not accepting them the way they are’ does not mean discriminating against them or persecuting them, which would clearly not be out of charitable love. They are still members of our secular society, and ought to be treated as so.

Separation between the offender and the offence is being done all the time. In school, for example, students get punished for all sorts of offences and in many ways, but it is not right for the teacher to demean or insult the person. Instead they are to direct the disapproval towards the offence.

What you have done in your article is that because you are either unable to separate the agent and the act itself clearly, or that you understand love to mean acceptance of the other’s values, you respond by redefining homosexuality as no longer being a ‘sin’ to you.

My take on this? As long as we are able to separate the person from the action, there will be no hypocrisy involved, and we can continue to be faithful adherers to our value system and yet responsible members of our secular society.

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