Thanks to social media algorithms, this image has been cropping up in my feeds lately (apologies; might be triggering for some):
If you’re like me, you may have come of age hearing this phrase on repeat; maybe if you (unlike me) grew up in the church, you heard it all your life.
And if you’re anything like me, the phrase elicits a very specific, gut-churning reaction.
While I understand some people heard this language used in reference to any person committing an act the church considered unholy, I only ever heard it used towards lgbtq people. Ever.
I’ve heard it in all sorts of tones, ranging from pitying to disgust to matter-of-fact. I’ve heard it in countless contexts, from sermons to gossip. I’ve even heard it truncated to just “love the sinner” by well-meaning people who can’t get past their prejudices but want to sound less hateful.
But I have to admit, this is a new one for me.
I first saw it because someone on my friends list had “liked” a Facebook page featuring a picture of a t-shirt featuring the above image. I was momentarily startled and felt a bit sick at seeing the phrase, despite the strikethrough. However, I scrolled past, thinking it was a fluke.
There are all sorts of problems with this use of the phrase, starting with how hurtful it is for so many of us to see it at all (see my above comment about feeling sick). So many unfortunate implications are held within the phrase no matter how many words get crossed off. Even without the direct association with lgbtq people, it still smacks of the church’s propensity for making a Major Sin List and expecting congregants to adhere to it—or else.
Those would be bad enough, and reason enough, to ask for a cease-and-desist on using the phrase, strikethroughs or not. Unfortunately, in this case, there’s actual money to be had in making use of such a damaging phrase. That automatically qualifies it as co-opting.
One argument I’ve seen in favor of the continued use of the image is it isn’t “just” used against lgbtq people and many people weren’t aware it had been used that way. I find that surprising from anyone born and raised in a church after the Religious Right’s rise, but even so, it hardly matters. When multiple representatives of an oppressed group say something is specifically harmful to their group, that’s not the time to argue back.
It’s not acceptable for an individual or group to profit from something used largely against the very people they claim to be allies for. Regardless of how “helpful” some members of the lgbtq communities and/or lgbtq Christians may find the X’d-out phrase to be, quite a lot of us find it triggering and hurtful. While I can’t tell anyone what to post on their own social media page, I can—and will—say that absolutely no one ought to be making financial gain from something that wounds others.
If this is something you personally find meaningful, I won’t tell you how to feel or that you shouldn’t like and appreciate it. But I am asking that we not support anyone—particularly someone who doesn’t identify as lgbtq—in making a profit from this phrase. Don’t make a purchase. Don’t keep sharing and passing it around. Don’t continue to grind salt in the wounds of those of us who have been on the receiving end of “correction” through use of the phrase.
If you are truly an ally (or heck, a card-carrying member of an lgbtq community), there’s a far better way to show that you’re about love (and not all the other unmentionable crap in that phrase). Put your money not towards a poorly-designed shirt but into a charitable organization for lgbtq causes. There are dozens of them, likely including ones in your own hometown. Here’s your chance to be the church, not just cleverly change the church’s worst slogans.