Reading Time: 9 minutes Wrong kind of paladin. (Credit: RicLaf, CC license.)
Reading Time: 9 minutes

The drumbeat of hypocritical defenses of bigots-for-Jesus for their fellow bigots-for-Jesus continues as Christians continue to lose grandly on every single social issue of our day. I’m noticing that the main theme in these defenses is that a bigot-for-Jesus can’t possiblely condone sin. (Here’s a representative paladin for the God of Love, if you want to see this behavior in the wild.) Today I want to talk about this particular defense and why it fails so spectacularly.

Wrong kind of paladin. (Credit: RicLaf, CC license.)
The world could use a lot more of these paladins and a lot fewer of the other. (Credit: RicLaf, CC license.)

The idea is that TRUE CHRISTIANS™ get sin cooties if they’re anywhere around what they (mistakenly) think is sinful behavior in others, so if they’re not fighting it tooth and nail 24/7 and complaining loudly enough about it to be heard from orbit, then they’re actively participating in it themselves, at least in their weird bizarro-universe. So in order for them to not participate in sin in any way, they must be given free license to harass and persecute others at will–and must be given their way in every single place they demand it, so they can remake society into what they (mistakenly) think it used to look like–before they began losing in every way possible.

Christian bigots and zealots love to judge and control others. It’s their favorite thing in the world to do. The whole world, being as desperately depraved as it is, needs their loving-but-firm boot upon their necks to keep them in line with TRUE CHRISTIAN™ ideals and morals. Who will help these sinners if TRUE CHRISTIANS™ don’t step in to control every single aspect of their lives for their own good? Because you know it’s always for their own good. It’s never because these bigots and zealots are just meddling busybodies with raging cases of narcissism and control-lust who found the perfect vehicle–fundagelical Christianity–for expressing those dysfunctional needs.

It doesn’t even matter if the people they’re judging and controlling are Christians or not. They’ll judge and control anybody. They aren’t picky. And their saner, more loving peers are so terrified of being called divisive or of “muzzling the oxen” that they tend to restrict themselves to trying to silence the critics of their more toxic brethren rather than reining in those bad apples. Only very seldom do we hear about Christians speaking up in protest of what their brethren are doing.

I’d noticed long ago that Christians like that tend to relabel common words so they can keep doing whatever it was they wanted to do in the first place. When told to “love your neighbor as yourself,” control-mad Christians will redefine “love” to include beating the shit out of their children, denying women contraception coverage, and throwing their LGBTQ kids out in the street with nothing but the clothes on their backs. And that’s not the only relabeling shim-sham act they do.

The Christian Relabeling Process.

Here’s how the relabeling process works: First a desire is conceived. A problem is identified as interfering with the achievement of that desire. A solution is proposed and accepted, and the desire is thereby achieved.

Desire: To treat everybody they don’t like as lesser human beings, strip human rights and dignity from anybody who isn’t in the tribe, silence dissenters, force compliance from others, and express hate toward those they think are ickie.
Problem: That’s really hateful behavior. Hatefulness is bad.
Solution: Keep doing the hateful behavior, but call it loving! That’s just as good as it actually being loving. Ignore anybody who tries to say it’s hateful. They just don’t understand TRUE CHRISTIAN™ love.

When reminded “do not judge lest you be judged too”, they come up with a new and trendy way to wiggle out of that command so they can keep doing what they really wanted to do all along anyway.

Desire: To judge the shit out of everybody possible.
Problem: They’ve been told not to judge lest they be judged themselves.
Solution: Judge anyway, but just call it something else. Ignore anybody who says it’s very judgmental behavior. They just don’t understand. Only godly TRUE CHRISTIANS™ do. Or else declare that they are allowed to judge because Jesus did, which sounds suspiciously like declaring that they are gods themselves.
Achievement: Getting to judge people while not being called judgmental and risking one’s eternal soul by sinning! Hooray! If anybody objects to being judged, then just whip out the new relabeled term for it and feel smug and justified.

See what I mean?

The new trendy way to judge people while still escaping the charge of “judging people” is to call it something else. In this case, the relabeling takes the form of “condoning sin.”

It’s funny that I never heard that term that I can remember while I was Christian. I suspect this bit of Christianese got invented after I left the religion. Now it’s pervasive. “Condoning the sin is not an act of love,” Christians tell themselves. Condoning sin is now a sin in and of itself. Christians bigots wrestle with how to love their own family members without inadvertently “condoning sin”. It’s absolutely everywhere, and the term is used every single time to rationalize the judging, harassing, persecution, and controlling of other people.

When you hear the term “condoning sin,” that is a dogwhistle term. Pay attention when you hear it. It is an absolution of all responsibility for judging others. You can all but hear them whine, in mewling voices, that they simply can’t help criticizing others and trying to grab control of people’s most intimate lives and decisions. Doing anything else would be–wait for it!–CONDONING SEEEEEEEE-YIN, and they can’t possibly do that.

If they’re not around to tell everybody they’re sinning, then how will sinners ever know they’re sinning (other than living in a society that 24/7 bombards people with the various judgments and control-grabs of all those TRUE CHRISTIANS™, I mean)? If they just let other people live their lives free of Christian meddling and persecution, if they just let people believe whatever they’ve concluded is true, if they just let others run wild like feral toddlers with negligent parents (and I have literally heard non-Christians described as such numerous times), then how will those “toddlers” grow up into big strong TRUE CHRISTIANS™ like themselves?

The Problem with Using “Not Condoning Sin” as an Excuse to Judge and Control Others.

1. It assumes that these Christians have the right to approve or disapprove of anything others do.
By using terms like “condone,” Christians try to insinuate that they have any right whatsoever to control anybody else. Nobody says they have to like anybody else’s life or life decisions, but Christians don’t have the right to control others. It’s not up to them how other people live their lives. Nobody is asking their permission to do anything. Don’t make any mistake here: the word “condone” wasn’t chosen by accident. It’s become so popular, as blatantly obvious as it is, because it gives Christians a great excuse (in their minds at least) for grabbing control at others’ expense and being hateful instead of genuinely loving, which is what they clearly wanted to do in the first place. But they can’t insinuate their tendrils into others’ lives without first establishing that they have the right to have a say–and a veto, more importantly–in deciding what those others do. First and foremost, the “condoning sin” defense is meant to establish that right for Christians–but they do not have that right in the first place.

2. It assumes that these Christians have opinions that anybody else really cares about.
This might be the crux of these TRUE CHRISTIANS’™ frustrations with the rest of us. Most of us don’t give a shit about what they think, or care what strangers like them want us to do. Christians can handle opposition, but they cannot handle irrelevance. But their opinions are just that: irrelevant. What they condone or do not condone matters less to me than what my cat condones or doesn’t condone. If I want to sit down on a chair that my cat is in, it doesn’t matter if he condones me doing it–it’s my chair and if I want it, then I get to sit in it. If I decide to sit somewhere else because he’s too damn cute to move, then that’s my decision, not his. I strongly suspect that Christian bigots and zealots are more concerned with losing their dominance in our culture than they ever could be about evil BORSHUN CLINICS and TEH GAY PANIC. By assuming that of course everybody is waiting with bated breath for their opinions, they can fool themselves into believing they still have relevance.

3. The pretense doesn’t fool anybody outside the tribe.
All these hand-waving, wide-eyed declarations that they’re not judging, they’re just not condoning SEEEEEE-YIN don’tcha know do not actually serve to distract anybody from the fact that why yes, they are judging the hell out of others as well as trying to control their lives. And trying to silence them. And trying to grab way more power over others than they deserve. For these reasons and more, one term constantly applied to Christians as a whole is “judgmental.” You don’t ever hear people criticize them by saying “they just don’t condone much.” Rather, people say “these assholes are judgmental hypocrites.” That’s because we know that “condoning sin” is nothing but a smokescreen masking the real desire: to judge and to control.

4. It makes their god look like a jackass or a weakling (or both).
If their god is so powerful, then why can’t he convict sinners without his followers judging the hell out of everyone and trying to control them? Is their god so weak he can’t talk to people on his own? Is their religion so difficult to parse that they can’t wait for sinners to come to them voluntarily to ask for their opinion? Is he so puny that he needs his followers to write a letter to the editor about how evil BORSHUNS are, or for a Arkansas bigot lawmaker to have a “meltdown” on his Facebook page over a gay pride parade because–as he puts it–they obviously chose to have the parade on Sunday to specifically insult him and his particular cult’s beliefs? (I suppose if they’d chosen to do it on Saturday, he’d be outraged over their insult to religions that hold Saturday as holy? Oh no, it’s only an insult if it’s to his beliefs? Okay. I get it. Thanks for clearing that up.) Is this godling such a jackass that he needs his followers to behave this way and condones their sin for the greater good it might do? They could always, I dunno, pray for us to magically change our minds. By trying to control us, they show that they don’t trust their god a whole lot. Maybe they know he doesn’t truly actually answer prayers and needs them to help the lil guy out sometimes.

5. It is backfiring. Hard.
Did Christians notice that Pew report that said that Christianity is totally hemorrhaging members? Of course they did. But they don’t want to think about one very important take-away of the survey: A lot of that downward spiral is happening because their religion does not know how to love anymore. They can spin-doctor it all they want, but when thousands of Christians churches are already closing yearly and when 3500 Christians a day are leaving this religion and never coming back, and when the overwhelming reputation of Christianity is that of “judgmental assholes,” it’s hard even to conceive of the volume of fail that is needed for Christians to recognize that their clever little relabeling strategy is anything but the worst sort of backfire. It’s not working to relabel judgment any more than it worked to relabel hatred as love or sexism-as-the-bonus-plan or separate-but-equal as the new “religious freedom.”

People know what love is, and they know what sexism and bigotry are, and they know what judgment is. Christians might be able to trick themselves with ease, but they aren’t tricking everybody else into adopting their version of reality. Hell, they aren’t even tricking all their own members. Their own people are leaving, and Christian judgmentalism is a big part of why they say they’re leaving.

This is a better paladin too. (Credit: 1st Brigade Combat Team, CC license.)
This is a better paladin too. (Credit: 1st Brigade Combat Team, CC license.)

Stripping away the label.

Every single time Christians use the phrase “condoning sin,” they need to know that the rest of us mentally translate it to “going without viciously judging and controlling others.”

Here is how I hear it:

“I can’t condone sin.”
“I can’t go without viciously judging and controlling others.”

“If I let this gay pride parade go by without a letter to the editor, it’d be like condoning sin.”
“It’d be like going without viciously judging and controlling others.”

“How do I respond graciously without condoning my sister’s sin?”
“How do I respond graciously while going without viciously judging and controlling my sister?”

“Condoning sin is a sin.”
“Going without viciously judging and controlling others is a sin.”

I know their religion’s leaders have given them the weird idea that their input, opinions, and control are desperately needed by millions of sentient, fully-responsible American adults, but these leaders are wrong. They are using their flocks as dupes to advance their Christianist agenda of turning this country into a theocratic hellhole. But even these leaders can’t fully whitewash the truth:

Nobody converts because they got judged and controlled super-hard.

By and large, people convert because they (largely mistakenly) think that this religion is all about love and mercy–and largely they think that because a Christian was kind and loving toward them at a time of need.

Love confuses people. We know how to deal with Christians’ hate, judgment, and control-lust: we deny them. We fight them. We oppose them. But love? Does anybody seriously think Christianity would be fading like this if Christians actually did more of what their Savior told them to do? Hell, we’d never have any reason to oppose Christianity if it actually did that. And they’d be so busy fixing the world’s ills (the real ones, not the imaginary ones Christians keep trying to “fix” in ways that mysteriously leave them with way more power than they deserve to have over others) that they’d never have time to worry about what consenting adults do. Has it escaped anyone that the more Christians try to push for control over others, the further their religion declines in both credibility and numbers?

I wish it mattered more to Christians to be good ambassadors for their religion than it does for them to judge and control everyone around themselves, but I guess this is what I should expect as the religion continues to lose its onetime dominance in society.

In the end, Christians themselves are the biggest allies we could ever hope to have in defeating religious overreach.

ROLL TO DISBELIEVE "Captain Cassidy" is Cassidy McGillicuddy, a Gen Xer and ex-Pentecostal. (The title is metaphorical.) She writes about the intersection of psychology, belief, popular culture, science,...

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