Homosexuality Is Not a Sin

“Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin."

Not sure if I hate the sin, but I hate this saying. Well, at least when used in reference to homosexuality.

The primary reason that I bristle against this saying is that I reject the idea that homosexuality is a sin. We should love everyone, including sinners. So, I am not saying that we should instead hate the sinner.

I am not rejecting the idea of sin at all. Instead, I am saying that the construct which frames homosexuality as a sin is figment of convention and tradition.

As you will notice, I am using sin interchangeably with immorality or, more specifically, acts of immorality. I do this because I view sin as anything which makes communion with God and our fellow humans impossible. These two types of communion, with God and with our fellow beings, cannot be separated and our communion with God is largely measured by the communion with have with others. Central to my conception of morality is an emphasis on respecting the autonomy and dignity of all.

I tend to adhere to the idea of autonomy advanced by the philosopher Immanuel Kant. For Kant, the thing which makes humans special (and deserving of universal respect) is that they are able to choose for themselves their own conception of the good life. Not only can we choose a conception of the good life (the type of life we want to live), but we can revise that conception as life goes on. When our views "evolve," we are being human…and in a good way. Kant’s view of autonomy and the good life expresses how I feel about freedom and morality better than anything else that I have read and contemplated.

“Love the sinner, Hate the Sin,” is a saying with great intentions. It is a way of saying “You can dislike a certain action, but you should be nice, even loving, to those that do it.” It seems to be most often used (in my experience, at least) within discussions about homosexuality. We should love homosexuals, but hate their homosexuality. Now, some might respond that it is not homosexuality, but homosexual sex which is the sin. However, while there is more to sexuality than sex…sex is a very integral aspect of sexuality which cannot be completely separated from sexuality.

The problem that I see with this saying, as applied to homosexuality is that it seeks to separate the actions of the individual from the peaceful life-style they chose to live. Now, I do not think that gays and lesbians choose to be homosexuals, but from my Kantian perspective this matter is not of moral significance (though I appreciate that for others it is) If one chooses to be gay, or even chooses to live ones sexual orientation (rather than actively suppressing it), it is part of their basic humanity to choose to do so and to live according to their conception of the good life.

Now, you may be saying, “Well, of course they can choose to be gay, Baptist, atheist, or…a Yankees fans.” But my argument goes farther. We should also respect them for their choices and show them the dignity that they deserve. By dignity I do not mean that we should merely not abuse or persecute them, but we should include them in our society as valued equal citizens. I will not get into the legal and policy implications of such an outlook here, but they are indeed vast.

What about criminals and abusers? Can’t people choose such paths as their conception of the good life? Well, this is where Kant draws a line. Kantian ethics is not relativistic. Instead, it is likely the most ardent rejection of relativism I am aware of.

Those who show a blatant disregard for human dignity (particularly when it comes to acts which assault the autonomy and dignity of others) should be viewed as immoral. They should possibly even go to jail or otherwise be controlled be the state. This includes rapists, abusers, and thieves. That said, it would be very hard to see how any of these crimes could be viewed as a reasonable conception of the good life, or integral to any such a conception, in the way that living with one’s loved-one would be. We should love the sinners within these categories while hating their sins. This may well be a challenge.

Many will point out that this saying has been used by many religious leaders in reference to homosexuality. That is true. I think that this has in many ways been used as a call for a loving approach to political and social disagreement. More importantly, it is a call to patience and charity.

When we look deeper, this attempt to separate individuals from the people that they really are fails. If we are to respect, value, and love, we have to respect the whole package, the whole person.

Can their be homosexual sin? Indeed, there can be. Like with heterosexual relationships, homosexual relationships face challenges. Promiscuity and unfaithfulness are wrong for homosexuality as they are for heterosexuality. As in any form of abuse, whether the abuse is spiritual, physical, or sexual.

However, the desire to enter into committed relationships, whether we call those relationships marriage or not, is a righteous desire. The move toward same-sex marriage should be welcomed, if not celebrated, by those who are concerned about both individual happiness and strong communities.

Lastly, we should also stop using God as a tool for reinforcing our cultural traditions and conventions. Using God for such ends is not only disrespectful of God, it is polluting the waters of faith and religion.

Why is faith and religion important to you? Is it merely a means to achieving your cultural and political goal? I cling to the hope that faith and religion are valuable in and of themselves. Yet, using these things to persecute and exclude homosexuals is distracting us from faith and religion rather than protecting faith and religion.

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Categories: Philosophy, Religion

44 replies »

  1. Do you reject the Bible’s teachings on homosexuality in favor of Kant? The Bible is really clear on the topic….

      • or another way to put it is that one’s moral interpretation should guide one’s reading of the Bible which has a different emphasis all together (and also points to one reason we have scripture in the first place)

        • Chris your conscience appears to be seared. Stating that youll choose a morally bankrupt value, over the clear teaching of scripture. There is in the scriptures, a laundry list of sinfull lifestyles, that by the wording, all repented of. Saying that some were such, but they had been washed in the blood and Spirit of God, to live in the freedom of their bondage to those lifestyles.

        • The parable of the Good Samaritan teaches us to find the good in those whose lifestyles we despise. How do you reconcile that to your rejection of homosexuals, SeriousQ?

        • Let’s put it this way. If God will really condemn a loving, monogamous, Christian child of God simply because he is gay, while letting a bigoted “purist” like yourself get into paradise, then I’ll gladly spend my eternity in hell, because I don’t want to be in a heaven with people like you.

        • Well Jim, the only biblical call and direction, for a “gay” person, is to be life long, sexually celibate. There is no wiggle room for any other way for them to live, and honor their bodies, as the temple of God. Unmarried hetersexuals are to live the same way. There are no scriptures blessing sexually gay relationships. I’m not bigoted, just being biblical. God is no respector of persons either.

        • The Bible also says not to mix fabrics or eat shellfish. Again, if following the Bible to letter is really what you want, be Jewish, because they’re a lot better at it than Christians are. However, if you want to pick and choose which sins Jesus died for, go ahead and be bigoted and biased. If God’s the same way, I’ll gladly take hell.

        • SeriousQ this is not really an attack against you since your argument is not original to you, but its worth pointing out that you are not “just being biblical” What you are doing follows a pattern, and has a well defined history. You are participating in a specific type of discourse that projects modern categories of thought back into antiquity (where those categories did not exist) and in doing so you allow yourself to define people different from yourself as sinful, inferrior, pathological or morally bankrupt. You reduce human intamacy (spiritual, emotional, intellectual, physical) to sexual acts.You empower yourself to make sweeping judgements and pronouncements about how other people need to live. This implies that you believe you know more about the meaning and nature of other people’s existence than those people know about themselves. You claim that a sacred text empowers you to do all that. But the Bible doesn’t empower us to do any such things. You seem to confuse ideology with faithfulness. Theology and rigorus engagement with the bible do not unavoidably lead to expressions of authoritarianism. In many cases reading the Bible leads people to humility and to be extremely cautous when talking about the most intimate aspects of other peoples lives.

        • It’s what Martin Luther called the canon within the canon, the interpretative lens which provide coherence to the text

        • A slightly different way of saying it in the Mormon context might be to say that individual agency takes priority over texts or authority figures. Maybe that doesn’t resonante with many people, but agency as represented in the Temple (think about the structure of the decision Eve faces in deciding to eat the fruit.) is both challenging and beautiful in the way the structure emphasize the importance of the actual decision. Often times appeals to the authority of texts or religious leaders take the form of attempting to prevent a decision from being made. We can see this at work in the comments here, in the way a very narrow understanding of the Bible is taken as singluar, absolute and unquestionable. When dealing with sexual difference the moment of agency comes when we decide to listen to the voice of the other, allow the other to tell his or her own truth. Or reject the voice of the other and insist that we know more about the other then the other knows about itself.

    • The Bible has laws against numerous behaviors, yet most of those are ignored in favor of scaoegoating LGBT people. How convenient for you.

      • Murderous feelings are not always sins, but murderous acts are always so. Jesus said that so much as being angry with a brother is subject to judgement (Matt 5:22). Sin is in the will.

      • Chris, to reject what Jack stated, shows the morally bankrupt beliefs that you profess. This the only way that you can believe in finding God’s blessing for homosexual sexual relationships. Please read my response to your post below.

  2. I can appreciate your distaste for that saying. Even so, if any person is aware of a living together couple, whether homosexual or hetersexual, the assumed norm, is that there are sexual relations within these couples. For the hetersexuals, only in a rightfully legitamate marriage, is God’s blessings of their physical union. The homosexuals, by God’s word need to remain sexually celibate as long as they live that orientation toward their sexuallity. The Scriptures give no teaching on the blessing of Homosexual sexual relations. I’ll pray that you’ll open your heart to God’s Holy Spirit, and your spirtual eyes be enlightened to the wrongness of your current beliefs.

  3. The problem we have been coming up against for years is that the theological justification of homophobia in it’s various forms is well established. Jack and Jada believe that they have authoritative readings of scripture, but what they have a harder time seeing is how those readings are historically constructed, how those readings use difference for the sake of degradation, the ideological priorities of those readings, and how those readings are decontextualized.

    I’m glad that you wrote this post, I think its a necessary task to challenge these cultural truisms that are in reality very toxic. I also think its great that you addressed choice. You are spot on, in that while I think for most of us (gay or straight) our perception of our sexual identity isn’t a matter of choice; but if it were a choice it still wouldn’t matter. The law, and society should still respect the dignity of the individual.

    I think that in addition to Kant thinkers such as Levinas and Derrida are very helpful because with their emphasis on Otherness and hospitality they do a lot to describe the theological priorities that we should be focusing on when we encountering the challenges posed by difference.

    • “historically constructed”, “difference for degradation”, “ideological priorities”, “decontextualized”…

      Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.

      Take the plank out of your eye.

    • Douglas,

      I think there are a range of thinkers that one might use. Admittedly, I have not dealt much with Levinas or Derrida. Ultimately, it is my experience that has led me to reject how my gay friends are portrayed.

  4. Even using Kant’s guidelines, the moral implications of homosexual relationships are not identical to the moral implications of heterosexual relationships. Indeed, those of the latter are far more grave. So, living in a society where it is still appropriate to promote commitment between heterosexual couples because of their potential to procreate, it is appropriate to designate an institution for that unique purpose. If not, we therefore equate the responsibilities of both; doing so would do one of two things, either unfairly attribute non-existent obligations to same-sex relationships, which would be unfair, or it would minimize the moral obligations of heterosexual relationships, which would be harmful.

  5. I am always amazed at this argument from the religious aspect. There are MANY other abominations that the bible points out that you completely ignore. Jesus was adamantly against divorce, but I never hear anything said about that. Or any of the other things in Leviticus that most people of religion use to “prove” that any one but straight people are immoral and frowned upon by God.
    Whether people’s sexual orientations are a choice is very much at the heart of this debate. As a bisexual male, I can tell you, this was something I did NOT choose. Neither did my spouse, who’s also bisexual. We are born to be who we are, same as you. Period. For all the gay, bi & trans people I’ve known throughout my life, not on of them was a heterosexual and then one day decided to be gay.
    The real issue here is, does the bible really say what you think it says, or, are there other possibilities? If there are, are you willing to research it and keep an open mind? If not, then the reality is that you are going to believe what you want to believe, whether it’s the truth or not. Then you are CHOOSING to use your religion to denigrate and dehumanize living beings only to justify your own bigotry. This is a subject I’m very familiar with, as I almost committed suicide over it. This issue has very REAL depth and meaning to me, while you debate it like it’s just something you can look down your nose at, or feed your own self righteousness with. The truth is, you people really don’t know as much as you *think* you do. Once you personally have dealt with same sex issues, you will have a completely different perspective on it, until then, you are interjecting your opinions as though they’re really relevant to the conversation. That would be like me having negative opinions on quantum physics, while not possessing any knowledge on the subject.

    • There are many hypocritical Christians, but that doesn’t make the Bible wrong and it is very clear that homosexual acts are a sin. Saying Homosexual sex is no longer a sin just because society deems is OK is just as wrong as saying pre/extramarital sex or divorce is no longer sin for the same reasons.

      Yes, the Bible says what we think it says. There are references that condemn this act from cover to cover, old testament and new. Whether you are born that way or not is irrelevant, we are all born with a sinful heart. Sin comes in many shapes and sizes and we all have to deal with it. God warns not to trust your heart. (“For out of the heart come evil thoughts- murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” Matthew 15:19) Having same-sex attraction is not a sin, acting on them is. Everyone has sinful desires, and everyone has acted on some of them.

      I don’t really care how other Christians are acting, but a true follower of Christ would never dehumanize or show any type of hatred towards a homosexual person or any person. Hating and even judging another is just as much a sin as homosexual sex. We can love the person, while disapproving of the sin. Christ died so that all may be forgiven and enter the kingdom of God, your sin is ultimately between you and him. My job is to love you without condition and spread his word. If you have felt hated or judged by Christians that is their failure, not yours.

      You may not like what I’ve said, you may be angry, or even dismiss me as an ignorant religious whack job. But, if you choose to accept any of what I said, I hope it’s that you understand we are all sinners and none of us are perfect.

      I realize this is a Mormon site and I don’t really care, just keep in mind I’m speaking as an Evangelical Christian. I can’t support or speak for Mormon doctrines or theology.

      • Robert, Patheos is an interfaith site and all are welcome here at my blog Approaching Justice. I am not a relativist, so I am not saying it is no longer a sin. I am saying it never was. Clearly from the responses here and elsewhere…many disagree with me on that. I fully expected that. Thanks for stopping by.

      • Robert, I don’t consider you a religious whack job. I do however realize that are set in your beliefs, and that’s that, whether they’re right, wrong or indifferent. Fact is, what you think the bible doesn’t really say anything about homosexuality, as the word never appeared in the bible until the late 40’s.
        My suggestion is that if you are going to make judgments on an entire segment of society, you should at least know what you’re talking about and do some serious, and I mean serious research. All too often people such as yourselves only take look at things though a particular lens, never questioning whether it’s correct or not and only want to find “facts” that back you up but will never look at anything contrary. What I find most amusing about all of this is that people like you, self righteous smug think-they-know-it-all’s are judging people on something that you have NO personal experience with and you really don’t know as much as you *think* you do. But I challenge you to read this in it’s entirety and then come back and say the exact things you did above.

        • I have researched the subject and prayed about it extensively for years. After I found out my dad had SSA we both looked into it quite a bit, he’s been researching it his whole life, and we both came to the same conclusion. I may have no personal experience with it, but he does, and he came to the exact same conclusion I did.

          I’ll admit I didn’t read that whole letter, I was mostly curious on his opinion of Romans 1:26-27. His argument is that Paul is listing sins that occur because people turned away from him, not sins that will condemn you. That makes no sense because a sin is a sin, and all sin can condemn you. It says “…God gave them over to shameful lusts.” Which is using even more severe language than the references of lust mentioned elsewhere in the Bible, and we already know lust is a sin. Then it goes on to say “Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts, and received themselves the due penalty for their perversion.” So their lust was so shameful that they abandoned natural relationships, which is defined here as a man with a woman, and they were punished for it.

          I’m sorry if I came across as self-righteous or judgmental, that was not my intent. I would encourage you to pray on this matter and dig deep into the scripture. Rely on God to reveal scripture more than the words of any theologian, pastor, or any other human. If God reveals to you that I am way off base, and completely backwards, great, don’t let up and get your message everywhere, and don’t let the words of any man discourage you.

        • “Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts, and received themselves the due penalty for their perversion.” So their lust was so shameful that they abandoned natural relationships, which is defined here as a man with a woman, and they were punished for it.”

          Well, I can certainly understand how you would come the conclusion you have. And this would be fitting if we were talking about people who were born heterosexuals but decided they wanted to be in same sex relationships. So for a gay person, unnatural acts would be having sex with opposite sex partners. THAT would be the perversion that you’re speaking of. When peoples natural orientation is that of same sex partners, how are you going to try and make that leap? What you’re saying here is that people get to choose their orientation. I can assure you as a bisexual, I did not ever make that decision. I can tell you though, particularly being raised in the Catholic church that these BS ideas and prejudices pushed me to the brink of suicide. For all the blathering that religious leaders have done over the years…If you just pray hard enough, God will deliver you. God won’t save you if your faith isn’t strong enough. Well you know what..that is complete and utter garbage. I’m sorry Robert, I’m really not trying to come off as a complete ass here but you need to understand how absolutely ignorant and hurtful words like your typing are. I KNOW who I am. I also KNOW that God created me *exactly* as I am…for HIS reason’s, not yours and anyone else. I was lucky in the fact that God chose to intercede in my life before it was too late.
          You believe that God created us in his image? And that He’s infallible? Then it might do all of you well to consider that perhaps there’s a whole lot more to His plan than you realize, perhaps maybe, just maybe y’all might just want to back up off this issue.
          There are so many things wrong with what you’re trying to get other people to believe. For one, the bible is not translated correctly.

          I’ve read page after page on this subject.

          I’ve had this conversation so many times over the past 15 years that I’m really sick of it and just wish and hope that one day, maybe you guys will realize that you should just probably worry about your own lives and leave us to ours.

      • Robert you said that better than I ever could. Homosexuality to a Christian may be a sin, and the bible seems to support that notion. But in the end, it doesn’t give anyone a right to hate homosexuals. It is just as possible to be a homosexual and a Christian as it is to be a thief/liar/adultery and a Christian. We all make mistakes and nobody is perfect and thankfully that is why we need Jesus. He saves us. Again gay men and women, what you do is between you and God. It is not for me to judge. I am sorry that not all Christians believe that, but unfortunately gay marriage is a hot topic right now and everyone wants to put their opinion in.

  6. Wow! You must hate it when I teach the children this concept. I do believe we can “love the sinner and hate the sin” without being self-righteous. I believe sleeping with someone who is not your spouse is a sin. I don’t care the sexual orientation. That does not mean I have to treat the person who does not believe as I do as a sexual deviant. It means that I am teaching my children…our children…a certain moral code that exist for our family. I believe in what I am teaching my children and I will continue to teach my children not to judge other people’s choices, but that in our family, this is what we have been taught. I hope they don’t swear…or call other people names…or drink…or smoke…or have sex outside of marriage.

  7. I think the main problem with homosexuality from a mormon viewpoint is that it does not fit within what we refer to as “the plan of happiness”. This plan is the crown jewel of our beliefs and brings meaning and fulfillment to all that we do. Homosexuality doesn’t have any purpose or place in that plan and seems like kind of a distraction from what we see as important things in life. Should we be labeled as bigots for believing this? I sure hope not.

  8. Chris, you are promoting a personal opinion, of course. Although having homosexual desires is not a sin, as has been pointed ot by others, according to the scriptures and corroborated by current prophets, acting on homosexual desires was and still is a sin. There is no spititual or scriptural reason that religions should teach that homosexuals should be allowed to marry and that in such a marriage, homosexual acts would be legitimate.


  9. Chris, you seem to be promoting popular confusion on this issue. LDS teachings on God’s law of chastity are unambiguous. They apply to everyone, notwithstanding sexual inclination. Elder Bednar reiterates this in the last conference. I think it is not correct to infer that the idea of chastity is simply motivated by some kind of “homophobia”.

    We Believe in Being Chaste

    Perhaps we should also deplore Alma’s scriptural exhortation, …wickedness never was happiness… so often quoted in this context.

  10. Hey man, I just want to say, thank you for writing this and expounding. I’m not a Mormon (I’m not a Christian for that matter, I’m a Hellenist) but I am a gay man, and so reading something like this really touches me. In a time when there is an increasing threat of violence and when the love I have for my boyfriend is constantly denigrated, it is really uplifting to hear voices in the wind.

    Thank you.

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