“Love the sinner, hate the sin” (or, the new scarlet letter)

ImageI went to college with someone who is now a rather famous priest in the Catholic Church, famous in the sense that he has popular books for sale in Barnes & Noble and in the sense that he is frequently on TV.  Today, on his official Facebook page, he posted this:

  • I was just asked how to minister to gays: Same as to straights: friendship, love, honesty. Yes, friendship, love, honesty.

A lot of responses to his post were predictable.  I lost count of those who said, “love the sinner, hate the sin.”  Eventually I couldn’t help but chime in and ask such people this: do they apply such a stark demarcation, such a stalwart principle to their own lives and to the lives of their non-gay, sinning friends?

Never have I seen this slogan used more than with regards to homosexuality. It’s as if any Christian HAS to qualify their love: “OK, I’ll love you, but let’s be CLEAR here. I’m only loving YOU, i’m NOT loving your SIN!” It’s as if homosexuality is the leprosy of the Christian/Catholic world.  When someone who uses this inane slogan embraces the alcoholic who has fallen, yet again, and needs support and encouragement to get up and try to get sober, do they say to him, “hey listen, I want to be honest here. I’m loving YOU, not your sin.” Do they insist on using this meaningless slogan to the pregnant teen, who is scared and alone and who is considering abortion? “Hey missy, just so there is NO misunderstanding, I’m only here to love YOU. I can’t be seen as accepting your sin AT ALL.”  If any Christian says these things, first of all, shame on them. Second, how effective do think that witness would be?

How about sins that are considered to be more damaging to the soul, sins like pride and spiritual sloth and judgement?  If a Christian sees one of their friends committing these sins, are they quick to say, “hey pal, whoa, I still love you, but man I hate your spiritual sloth.”  How ludicrous.

Yeah, somehow I doubt it. I could be wrong, but when I was Catholic, I didn’t see that happening. Ever.  Not once.  Now, I *DID* see good, honest people “calling each other on,”  which meant that if one Christian person thought another Christian person was doing something wrong, and they had a close relationship, the wrong doer would be admonished in a loving, kind way.  But how is this any different from any non-Christian friendship?  I would consider it very foreign, and indeed not a friendship at all, if I did something wrong and one of my friends did not say something to me about it.

Back to the topic at hand, homosexual “sin.” It’s as if these people somehow think that the stain of the homosexual’s sin is going to mark them, like a Scarlet H, and they’ll be judged by God and everyone else that they *gasp* accepted and *choke* loved a homosexual.  Do they think that the gay will rub off on them, for goodness sakes?  I really do not think that this is an exaggerated view.  I have heard so many Christians quote Leviticus, which calls a man lying with a man an abomination, when speaking about this issue, yet fail to mention the other abominations mentioned in Leviticus.  I have seen the disdain in the faces and have heard it in the voices of those who speak about “those who sin against nature.”  I know a mother and father personally, prominent Catholics, who have disowned their gay son because of his “choice of lifestyles.”

You know what’s interesting? I’ve learned more about love from some of my gay friends than from most Catholics I’ve known. And you know why that is? Because these people *know* what it means to suffer. To *really* suffer. If you can come through the sort of suffering that many of them have had to endure and STILL be a loving, compassionate soul, instead of one that hate’s the world and everything in it, that’s really something.

I love my gay brothers and sisters.  I want the world to know that.  They have taught me much about what it means to live.  And I stand with them.  Now and forever.

Becoming Buddhist

baby buddhaMy decision to “become a Buddhist”  occurred slowly (as if one every really “becomes” a Buddhist, when in reality they adopt Buddhist practices – “Being a Buddhist is more of an action than a state of being, at least IMO).  I had been having such a very had time with the faith I was raised in: Catholicism.  Well, perhaps not with *that* faith per se, but with the whole concept of God, especially as He is presented in Catholicism specifically, and in western religions generally. 

See, I just didn’t *get* God.  Or maybe “He” didn’t get me.  Intellectually, I understood the concept of a creator, an un-created being, a deity, a non-contingent reality.  And for most part, I still buy into that concept.  Where I couldn’t quite connect, as say, my wife could, or many of my friends, was the whole concept of a “personal” God.  “Someone to hear your prayers, someone who cares,” as Dave Gahan sings.  Sure, I’d had what I *thought* were real experiences of this God, this Lover of Souls who “knows you better than you know yourself,” but when I look back on these experiences now, it’s easy to think that these were just fabrications created by my mind, made to feel more real due to emotional impressionism and a desire, a wanting, them to be real.

Maybe they were.  I really don’t know.  How can I?

What I DO know is that I have very real, very tangible doubts (can a doubt be tangible?) about the existence of a loving, personal God.  I’m not saying that He *doesn’t* exist.  To say such things would be the height of hubris.  But what I *have* been saying, at least to myself, is that I desperately want to know.  I crave understanding.  But how can I get that understanding?  Ultimately, I can’t.  I’m convinced, at the present time anyway, that there simply isn’t any way to know – and I mean to know in an experiential way – that He *really* exists.  And so, what am I to do?  Well, what I *did* do is seek out a philosophy that made sense to me.  That “met me where I was at,”  (I sure hate that expression) and what I found was Buddhism.

What struck me about Buddhism, as a practice, as a manner of living, as a philosophy, was that it is highly experiential.  Observable.  As one’s sitting practice of meditating develops, one can directly see peace, tranquility, and a calm mind developing. And it doesn’t rely on faith in some God “out there,” to provide grace in order for one to wake up, become enlightened, become actualized, whatever term you wish to use.  Now, there may BE a God out there providing grace but Buddhist practices don’t rely on one’s supplication and sacrifices to that deity.  Just practice.  Meditation.  Calming the mind.  Detaching from one’s attachments.  Practicing compassion for others.  Loving one’s self and other living things.  It’s all very simple.  No dogma, no infighting about this doctrine or that tradition.

What a breath of fresh air this has been!