Thursday, September 18, 2014

Easier Said Than Done: Hating The Sin, Loving The Sinner

(This Throwback first appeared on March 7th of this year under the title "Here we go again . . . ")

     Michael Coren, the conservative Canadian Catholic commentator has taken on a noble, but extremely treacherous, task: he is trying to follow the age-old Christian wisdom, “Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner” [link]. This is never easy to do well, but in choosing to apply the maxim in the currently controverted area of homosexuality and law, he is treading on dangerously unstable ground.  While I admire his moral courage (he is receiving some intense and, often, rather un-Christian backlash from the Christian side of the question), and while I admit that his heart is in the right place, I’m not sure that he isn’t doing more harm than good.
     First, where Coren is right.  Catholic Christians have an undeniable obligation to treat homosexual persons with love and dignity [here].  That rules out name-calling, not to mention more severe forms of persecution.  So yes, we should publicly denounce “gay bashing”, both literal and figurative, and laws such as those in Uganda that mete out harsh punishments to homosexuals. That’s the “Love the Sinner” side of the equation.


     On the other side . . . well . . .  here’s where things get complicated.  It’s always very hard for us to separate the sinner from the sin, and it’s even harder in this case because the “sinners” have made the sin their primary locus of self-identification: “If you hate my sexual preferences, you hate me.”  But it’s even worse than that, because, when it comes to the public controversy over these issues, homosexuals themselves are not really the problem: after all, they make up no more than 3% of the population, far too small a proportion to cause all the ruckus we’ve been experiencing in recent years.  No, the problem is that professional “activists” have seized upon homosexuality as a battering ram to topple the various institutions (most notably, Church and Family) that stand in the way of their project of remaking society according to their designs.  For this reason homosexuals’ rights, whether real (the right to be treated decently) or imagined (the right to have public approbation of their sexual relationships), are only of interest to them insofar as they can be used as a weapon against their targets of choice.  The Leftists who are running the gay rights juggernaut are not interested in coming to a mutually agreeable solution, they want only to steamroll their opposition.
     I spoke in another recent post how the forces of “social change” have set a trap for those of us looking for an honest discussion about gay marriage [here].  So it is in this case, as well: they are perfectly willing to use any conciliatory gestures we make out of compassion for the humanity and the suffering (which can be very real) of people with same sex attraction to undermine our moral position on the acts themselves.  Notice how even the Pope’s statements, which are fairly innocuous on their face, are wrenched out of context and used against Catholic moral teaching.
     I am most emphatically not saying that we should refrain from defending the dignity  and legitimate rights of homosexuals, even when they are public advocates of the gay lifestyle, gay marriage and the rest.  We do need to be very clear, however, that we’re doing so from the perspective of the Gospel, according to Catholic teaching, and in such a way that we do not appear to endorse, even indirectly, the political and social agenda of the gay rights movement.  This is where Coren gets himself into real trouble.   In a recent tweet, for instance, he says: “This is a group resisting the new wave of anti-gay laws in Uganda, Russia, etc. Vital that we all support it”.  With all due respect, no, it’s not vital that we support it.  The group to whom he links is an activist group pushing the entire gay rights agenda.  I’m all for opposing the laws he mentions, which are cruel and abhorrent (or should be) to any Christian’s conscience, but supporting this particular group, or others like it, is the wrong way.  Laws can be repealed, but once you’ve taken apart the institution of the family and denigrated the moral authority of the Gospel, how do you fix that?  How do you restore the damaged lives and wounded souls?