Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin: More Fun with Mars Hill
Well, Monday is upon us again, and that means Mars Hill deacon Joel Fariss is once again over at Grey Gallery and Lounge, winning souls for (his version) of Christ. Followers of this blog will recall that one week ago today, I met with Fariss and wrote about our encounter. The overwhelming response has been positive; both Christians and non-Christians in my community have given me gracious feedback on my post.
Today I learned, via a blog post from Stephanie Larsen, a friend of Fariss’s and fellow Mars Hiller, what at least one church member thinks of my efforts:
So many people promised [via the SLOG] to come meet up with Joel that some guys from our church offered to go with him so there’d be strength and safety in numbers. Turns out, for all the talk on the blog, only one girl showed up to talk with him and gave her own perspective on it. (Beware! There is one VERY inappropriate picture on there. The rest of her blog, however, is the most thoughtful argument I’ve ever seen from someone who hates Christianity about why they hate it. To give you a quick recap, she was able to say that she thinks Joel as a person is cool, and she just hates his religion. Fair enough.)
The “inappropriate picture” was a homoerotic photograph by Seattle artist Steven Miller, and given where she’s coming from and who her audience must be, I understand her objection. But the rest of this paragraph absolutely blows my mind. I hate Christianity?! If that is the case, I must hate it in some twisted way that makes me obsessively devote myself to its study; like how Josef Albers hated color, or Freud hated sex!
As of this writing, Stephanie has yet to approve my response, so I will recapitulate the crux of it here:
I was very surprised to learn that something you took away from my essay was the notion that I “hate” Christianity! I would have been just as surprised if someone had taken a critical review of a particular art show as evidence that I “hate” art.
My stance on Mars Hill is no different than that of liberal Christian theologians like Bishop John Shelby Spong. I believe that your exaggerated simplification of where I’m coming from is fundamentally dismissive of my sincere desire for open and honest communication between members of Mars Hills and those like myself who take issue with the church’s stance on social issues for theological reasons.
This exchange is telling. Nowhere in my post did I use or mean the word “hate,” or imply any blanket negative emotional reaction to Christianity whatsoever. Yet this is the response my reasoned objection to the theology of Mars Hill elicited. In psychology, this is called projection. “Love the sinner, hate the sin” is a page from their playbook, not mine.
I suspect that Stephanie Larsen reads hate into my motives because that’s what she expects to see from my kind. She calls Capitol Hill the “liberal, gay-rights, anything-but-Jesus part of the city” and says that folks here “want nothing to do with anything that even remotely smells of church, Jesus, and the like.” Not only is this dismissive of the many Christian congregations that meet peaceably in this neighborhood, it is willfully ignorant of the political and social diversity that exists within Christianity, as though the concepts “liberal” and “gay-rights” are fundamentally incompatible with Christian faith.
Incidentally, this is exactly why I am often critical of The Stranger’s coverage of religious issues. Engaging fundamentalists in shouting matches might feel good and attract web traffic, but it also strengthens their resolve by playing right into their characterization of what their enemies are supposed to be like. Perceived persecution is the fuel that their machine runs on. Let’s refuse to play that game, shall we?
On that note, I guess I’m heartened that Stephanie Larsen had to completely invent an outlandish motive for my perspective, in that it seems to indicate that at least I’m coming from a place she does not expect. I am less heartened, frankly, by the implications for the egalitarianism with which I would love to be able to regard the believers of all faiths. (Larsen’s not doing my opinion of Mars Hill any favors.)
UPDATE: Stephanie never did approve my comment. Instead, she switched her blog to protected mode, which is to say our heathen eyes are no longer welcome to read it. I guess she prefers mischaracterizing me into a vacuum!