Hate the Sinner?

Recently, a 14-year-old in Iowa confronted Rick Perry on his DADT stance. She asked, quite pointedly, how he could defame gay people in the military who fought and died so that he would have the right to run for president. She revealed in interviews later that she is openly bi-sexual. At 14. In Iowa. This is not only a very smart and articulate young woman, but also an incredibly brave one.

Perry, who is not nearly as smart, articulate, or brave (though there are enough suspicions about whether he and Marcus Bachmann might attend meetings together for self-hating closet cases), fell back on a string of cliches and hid behind his faith.

“Here’s my issue. This is about my faith, and I happen to think, you know, there are a whole hosts of sins. Homosexuality being one of them, and I’m a sinner and so I’m not going to be the first one to throw a stone,” Perry said. “I don’t agree that openly gays [sic] should be serving in the military. ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was working and my position is just like I told a guy yesterday, he said, ‘How would you feel if one of your children was [sic] gay?’ I said I’d feel the same way. I hate the sin, but I love the sinner, but having them openly serve in the military, I happen to think as a commander in chief of some 20,000 plus people in the military is not good public policy, and this president was forced by his base to change that policy and I don’t think it was good policy, and I don’t think people in the military thought it was good policy.”

Alright, so let’s forget for a second that there are 1,477,896 active duty members of the military and 1,458,500 reserve personnel. I mean, he’s technically correct in the same way that he would be correct had he said he would be in charge of “more than a dozen people in the military” or, as Douglas Adams so well put it, “Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.”

Even given the remarkable gift of the Syrup Cuddler for understatement, there are two really worrisome things in this statement. And I think you, my handful of loyal readers, already know what they are.

The first, “This is about my faith…” Alright, stop right there. You’re telling me that if you are elected to the office of the president, your faith gets to trump all available evidence re:national security and military strength? Now, he does go on to say that DADT was working, but like his faith that there’s a God who thinks gay people are choosing to defy His otherwise perfect creation, he’s demonstrably wrong. Even more wrong, in fact, as the nature of God makes proof or disproof impossible and we have actual, tangible evidence that DADT was a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad idea. Mr. Perry’s faith is his to have, and he can believe whatever idiotic thing he wants, but the sad thing here is two-fold: both that he wants to use that belief in defiance of reality and that he’s not entirely wrong in gambling that a whole lot of people will vote for him because of that.

It’s hard to really say if that’s a determining factor since the nature of GOP orthodoxy is such that every candidate is expected to measure themselves against a wall and there is very little daylight between them and the most extreme members of their party, providing a very flat baseline. In other words, if Rick Perry were the only candidate in this race that believed that, we could see if his idiotic beliefs were swaying voters, but since every candidate has to reach a certain quota of insane beliefs and ideals (100% of them, in fact), then there is no control sample. All of the candidates fall over one another to demonstrate how much they understand that God wants them to deny gay people rights, so primary voters don’t actually have to make a choice to still get their dose of homophobia (and magical thinking, Islamophobia, immigrant hatred, family values hypocrisy, etc.) and it throws off analysis of what messages are actually resonating.

The other objectionable part of his rambling dodge (side note: The Rambling Dodge would be a great name for a rock band) was his resurrection of the old “hate the sin, love the sinner” canard.

The question, of course, is “Is this possible?” Short answer: no.

Long Answer:

In order to understand this little bit of theological ju-jitsu, you must first understand that people want to consider themselves good. They also want other people to consider them good. This goes doubly for Christians and infinitely more than that in direct proportion to how loudly they proclaim that faith. So, the average person likes being good, the average Christian has the added inducement to be Christ-like on top of just normal good (pretty high standard, according to the story, I’ll grant), and you go all the way up to Tim Tebow who wants to be good so bad that he’s actually convinced himself that throwing less than half of his passes to completion is awesome and ostentatiously prays between bites at dinner.

The other thing to understand is that being good is hard. It is so much easier to claim to love everybody and continue to hate them to yourself than to actually love everybody. I would argue, in fact, that actually loving everybody is a bad idea, but I’ll get to that in a moment.

So, you have a bunch of Christianists like Perry who believe they must love every person, but also believe that they are squigged out by gays, afraid of Muslims, not happy that they have to study the science thing, and totally convinced that God Loves Them Best. That, my friends, is a recipe for trouble, and thus was born “love the sinner, hate the sin,” a piece of vile dishonesty and rank hypocrisy that allows people to convince themselves that they’re doing what Jesus wants while still doing what makes them comfortable.

In Perry’s (and every other GOP official other than Fred Karger and…there’s at least one more, I think) case, he claims to love the sinner (gays) and hate the sin, but what does that actually mean? We, as humans, experience love. It’s not a measurable thing, so we tend to describe love as a reflection of actions. The same way that we can tell a massive object is in space when we might not be able to see it by seeing the way gravity affects things around it, we can see love in the actions of people toward other people.

So, is it loving to deny rights to people? Categorically not. Unilateral denial of basic human rights afforded to others for no other reason than your particular invisible man said in his confusing and contradictory book that they weren’t in accord with his vision is not an act of love. The question must then be: in what way is the sinner being loved in this scenario?

This is similar to Jules Manson’s claim that he isn’t a racist. Just saying something doesn’t actually make it true, and actions are generally good indicators of emotional realities.

The fact of the matter is, you cannot both love the sinner and hate the sin. Love is something that has to be manifested, expressed, in order for it to have meaning and sincerity. Without that manifestation, it is nothing but potential, an empty promise with an implied, “I’ll do it tomorrow.” It changes love into a salve for those who are too cowardly to admit that there are some things they don’t like for no good reason. They want to be good and, failing that, be thought of as good when the truth is that they irrationally hate various people and don’t want to suffer the social backlash for it.

Moreover, the entire concept is astoundingly condescending. Anybody who “hates the sin but loves the sinner” is basically saying, “I know you don’t know what you’re doing is wrong, but it’s ok, I’m willing to overlook your stupidity.” What sort of self-righteous bullshit is that? You think I’m doing bad things, but you don’t hold them against me because you inexplicably “love” me? If you’re doing terrible things, especially if I don’t know you, I’m not going to love you like some mentally retarded younger cousin who doesn’t know any better. This idea that you somehow know better and barely tolerate my wicked ways severely degrades the very concept of “love,” and that is something up with which I will not put.

So, what’s the solution? The most obvious one is simply, “Don’t be a dick.” You can solve that second problem by attempting to be inclusive, getting over your idiot notions, and weighing things in a way that makes sense.

The issue still comes in with how one can love everybody and still not particularly like certain people or, often, “what they do.” However, the answer to that one is just as easy: stop claiming to love everybody. You can’t do it, you shouldn’t do it. Nobody should feel obligated to love Kim Jong Il, and the world should rejoice in his death. He’s a murderous, oppressive dictator, a monster who starved his people to maintain his bloated army and to glorify himself. We should hate that man. Nobody should feel obligated to love Rick Santorum, or Michelle Bachmann, or Mitt Romney, or Ron Paul, or even Mr. Perry. Especially not Newt Gingrinch. Hell, nobody should feel obligated to love me and while I’m fortunate that many people do, it’s because I give them a reason to.

But please, don’t tell me you love me despite my being queer. Or poly. Or kinky. Or anything else I am that composes the great and gorgeous tapestry that is me. I don’t want your prayers for me to somehow be more in line with your vision of things and I don’t want your condescending tolerance. I want you to be honest that you don’t like things about me, be honest about the reasons, and if there are none, be honest that you have no reasons and accept the consequences that come with disliking somebody irrationally.

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