Spiritual Bullying

Christiansarenotperfect Spiritual BullyingSpiritual bullying…, not two words you expect to see together, but it happens. Probably the most visible aspect of spiritual bullying is that old chestnut, “Love sinner, hate the sin”, which is almost always applied to LGBT folks. Interesting note, that particular phrase doesn’t come from the Bible. The exact quote comes from Mohandas K. Gandhi’s autobiography. It may have been inspired by a quotation from St. Augustine of Hippo

“For this reason, the man who lives by God’s standards and not by man’s, must needs be a lover of the good, and it follows that he must hate what is evil. Further, since no one is evil by nature, but anyone who is evil is evil because of a perversion of nature, the man who lives by God’s standards has a duty of “perfect hatred” towards those who are evil; that is to say, he should not hate the person because of the fault, nor should he love the fault because of the person. He should hate the fault, but love the man. And when the fault has been cured there will remain only what he ought to love, nothing that he should hate”

Whether or not Gandhi paraphrased old St. Auggie, I couldn’t tell you. But, I do find it interesting that the line fundamentalist Christians use to justify their treatment has its origins in the writings  of a man they claim is in hell; while, in reality, Mohandas Gandhi was more Christlike than just about any Christian I’ve ever met. Funny how that works out.

It’s not just LGBT people who are bullied by some members of the church. Some folks slung a little mud at Rob Bell when he had the temerity to suggest in his last book, “Love Wins”, that hell as actual, physical place may not exist (John Piper tweeted “RIP Rob Bell). Unfortunately, it backfired on them and “Love Wins” debuted at number 2 on the New York Times best seller list. Damn, I could use a little publicity like that. If that’s not a good enough description of spiritual bullying, check this out: just after San Francisco’s Catholic Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone’s statement that sexually active LGBT Catholics are unworthy to receive Holy Communion, Newark’s Archbishop John Meyers doubled down on that sentiment, saying that Catholics who support marriage equality are  equally unfit to partake in the Lord’s Supper. Now, isn’t that just the picture of tolerance?

Unfortunately, most of us aren’t as lucky as Brother Rob and don’t get a boost from bullying; until you learn to tell bullies to kiss your ass (as lovingly and Christlike as possible), it can tear you down. Don’t believe me? Look at the suicide stats for LGBT youth. Or that 40% of homeless youth are gay and are on the street because their family kicked them out. How times have heard that you can’t be liberal and Christian? All too often in church, it’s my way or the highway. I hate to say it, but the church bears a good deal of responsibility for these things. Instead of being the bully, the church should be the place where someone who feels inferior, singled out, excluded and humiliated can seek refuge.  We should be the place where people come to feel equal, included and worthy of love.  We should be the place that tells them what the world thinks doesn’t mean anything because God them loves just the way they are.  We should be the place they come when their biological family disowns them. We should be the place where they know they are loved not just by God, but by living, breathing human beings regardless of who they are, what they have or what they’ve done.  We should be the place they come when they’ve screwed up because they know they’ll find forgiveness, not judgment.  And, we should do it because that’s what Jesus would do.

  • http://www.facebook.com/slschultheis Sherri Rash Schultheis

    This is just beautiful. I have been feeling so sad lately about all of these things. Thank you.

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  • Rene Gale

    Excellent thoughts. Am not LGBT but know that God loves all people and it is humans who create artifical divisions and show prejudice.


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  • http://vampireflynn.com Peter

    I had a nervous breakdown after a church-sanctioned witch hunt four years ago and have still been in recovery from it. I hope more people listen to this sentiment, because far too often a place of healing has become a place of ridicule.

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    • joerie1

      You’re absolutely right, Peter. And, I’m so sorry to hear what happened to you. It didn’t involve the way of Christ at all.

  • Tolkien1138

    The Venerable Fulton J. Sheen, now on the path to sainthood, had similar thoughts to Ghandi (possibly also inspired by Augustine?):

    Christian love bears evil, but it does not tolerate it.

    It does penance for the sins of others, but it is not broadminded about sin.

    The cry for tolerance never induces it to quench its hatred of the evil philosophies that have entered into contest with the Truth.

    It forgives the sinner, and it hates the sin; it is unmerciful to the error in his mind.

    The sinner it will always take back into the bosom of the Mystical Body;
    but his lie will never be taken into the treasury of His Wisdom.

    Real love involves real hatred:
    whoever has lost the power of moral indignation and the urge to drive the buyers and sellers from the temples
    has also lost a living, fervent love of Truth.

    Charity, then, is not a mild philosophy of “live and let live”;
    it is not a species of sloppy sentiment.

    Charity is the infusion of the Spirit of God,
    which makes us love the beautiful and hate the morally ugly.

    It is disappointing to hear the literally 2,000 year old practice of denying communion to manifest grave sinners is all of a sudden called “spiritual bullying” when its intent is for the spiritual well-being of those denied. Since Catholics believe in the Real Presence, they take 1 Corinthians 11:27-28 very seriously: “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” There have been times when I have not received communion for this reason. I was scared at first because I worried what other people would think, but the reality is likely no one is thinking anything of it, and if anything may be thinking of what a courageous and honorable thing it is to do. And the good news is it can be easily remedied with a trip to the confessional. In the meantime, making a spiritual communion is always available to all.

    Peace in Christ as always!

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    • joerie1

      For me, denying people the means of grace to coerce them into toeing some abritrary line is not for anyone’s well being. All it is does is drive people away from your church. As a former Methodist (now attending a liberal Baptist church), I believe in an open table when it comes to communion. By allowing everyone to partake of the mystery, we give God a chance to work in these peoples lives.

      • Tolkien1138

        I know it can be difficult for non-Catholics to understand. But it has nothing to do with coercion but is about preventing sacrilege. If the Eucharist IS the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ, it should be approached with fearful reverence, much as the Jews had for the Ark of the Covenant. An exterior sign of grace is ineffective without an interior disposition toward this grace. Those who are in a state of grave sin are by definition unreceptive toward this grace. Those who do not believe in what they are receiving are by definition unreceptive toward this grace.

        When it comes to Catholic public figures, not only does it involve preventing sacrilege, but also in preventing scandal. Their sins and/or dissensions from the Church are public knowledge, then are publicly seen receiving Communion, giving the impression that unity with the Church is still possible given their (unrecanted) actions, causing others to follow suit. So by denying communion in these cases, they also help keep these public figures from having a great millstone flung around their necks.

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        • joerie1

          You’re right, I don’t understand Catholic doctrine on this subject. I’m not a believer in transubstantiation; for me the Eucharist is a reminder of what Christ has done for us and will do for us in the future. That doesn’t mean I discount the mystery involved, because I don’t know how it works to forgive our sins, I just know that it does. I do not I believe that the Eucharist is only for those who meet certain conditions. I do believe, however, that grace (and by extension, the means of grace) can change a person’s “interior disposition. For that reason, I believe communion should be available to all. Besides, who am I, a sinner myself, to deny the means of grace to anyone else. Remember, “Judge not, lest ye be judged”.