Spiritual 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.