"I'm telling you this because I love you."
In principle, every statement of Christian truth is (or rather, ought to be) based on love. If Christianity is true, then, all else being equal, one of the most loving things a person can do is try to persuade others of its truth; for knowing that truth means knowing how reality works, and we've all got to live here in reality whether we know the truth about it or not. Living without such truth might not mean getting hurt -- but then again it might.
One problem with this phrase is that it's the sort of thing that a parent says to a child. Obviously, some discussions of queer issues and their delicate, uncomfortable relationship to traditional Christianity do take place between parents and children. But in those that don't, for the traditional believer to take a parental role in the conversation is insulting. It implies that the gay party being addressed lacks the power, or even the right, to discern right and wrong independently.* This is not only presumptuous and intrusive; it also confirms the stereotype of the self-righteous, preachy Christian. And that is part of the problem: people aren't always fair in their dislike of Christians, to put it mildly, but a lot of the reasons that dislike exists have to do with the fact that Christians can be annoying jerks. It's one of the occupational hazards of being a human.
Another flaw is that, sad to say, an awful lot of us have experienced Christian "love" is some pretty damaging ways, enough so to make the whole concept (and its attendant lingo) repellent. Someone once remarked that "The Jews are a nervous people. Nineteen centuries of Christian love have taken a toll." LGBT people have often suffered from the same problem: many of us have been bullied, neglected, yelled at, even physically injured, by Christian friends, teachers, parents. Nor is it uncommon for such cruelty to have been couched in or justified by Christian language and theology; I know a man who was regularly beaten by his father, a pastor, and who now barely speaks to or about his son or allow his wife and other children to do so, because of his son's sexuality. Professions of love have to be earned with actions before they can be credible to someone who has suffered like that.
"We all struggle with chastity."
I see this one a lot in Catholic circles especially, possibly because of the admittedly austere demands that Catholic moral theology makes of human sexuality. And, yes, with the possible exception of asexuals, we do all struggle with chastity. But the plain fact of the case is that for those of us whose particular cross is queerness, that struggle is unique. It doesn't follow that we get special treatment, or anything of that sort; but the distinctness should be recognized as well as the commonality, and this phrase (and similar ones) suggest contempt for a difficulty that often cuts deeper than the normal struggles of heterosexuality. Gay traditional Christians have very little prospect of getting married, and the support structures for celibacy (outside the priestly and monastic callings) are imperfect among Catholics and, in my experience, practically nonexistent among most Protestants. In addition, most of us feel very much that we have no choice in the matter, and the sense of injustice that that can give rise to is often more of a burden than the trials of chastity as such.
As for those gay people who are progressive Christians, or not Christians at all, they don't grant the premise that being gay just as such is something to struggle with in the first place, and phrases like this implicitly relegate their relationships to the status of moral failings. By all means discuss morality with people you disagree with, when it's tactful and tasteful to do so; but be aware of what you're saying, and be aware that nobody is going to be persuaded by an argument that begins with premises they don't accept.
"Are you sure you're not just confused?"
"Christians have a right to their beliefs, too."
This is quite true -- and I shall be the first to admit that the LGBT community has not always been careful to respect this fact, either en masse or as individuals. Even as a gay man, there have been many times when I've been made exceedingly uncomfortable by other gay people, including friends of mine, even just for being a Catholic, let alone for professing the Church's teaching; in fact, even considering the anti-gay remarks I've been exposed to, such as being referred to as a faggot and a sodomite, I think I've taken more flak for my faith than for my orientation. Kind of hypocritical.
But let's be honest: whatever injustices have happened, and whatever injustices are possible or even likely in the future, the track record of Christians in their treatment of homosexuals is a whole lot worse than the track record of homosexuals in their treatment of Christians (even if the only reason for that is that there hasn't been a gay movement for the last dozen or so centuries). Considering the ghastly way Christians are treated in China, or Egypt, or Indonesia, or Pakistan, or North Korea, or a smorgasboard of other nations worldwide, and contrasting it with the social prominence and power (however much they have declined and are declining) that the faith has always had in this country -- well, it puts me in mind of an album title: Some People Have Real Problems.
It doesn't at all follow from this that bigotry against Christian beliefs is acceptable. It isn't, and it should stop. Christians are no more categorically irrational than gays are categorically irrational. But talking as though Christians are primarily on the defensive, especially when the conversation gets Godwinized, is bad PR, bad taste, and bad spirituality.
Any non-sarcastic use of the phrase 'Adam and Steve.'
The number of people who are persuaded by such language of any part of Christian theology can be counted on one hand. With zero fingers. It was barely funny the first eighty times one heard it, and even then, it was a slightly dull, Christianese summary of a belief someone already held, not an argument for that belief.
"Homosexuality is no different from any other sin."
This one is a little different, in that it tends to come from a more genuinely charitable, and even a more sensitive, place than the others I've listed. The trouble with it is twofold. Part of that trouble is that those who use it have a somewhat disconcerting tendency to start comparing being gay to adultery or murder. In addition to finding that slightly over-the-top, I find it remarkable that being gay isn't being compared to, say, gossiping, or losing your temper, or overeating -- or any of a dozen socially acceptable sins that Christians are tacitly allowed to commit. Homosexuality is still (perhaps unintentionally) being placed in a separate class of sins, and with the "big" ones rather than the ordinary, unobtrusive ones that we all half-secretly want to excuse.
The other problem is that homosexuality is kind of a vague word. In this or that context (usually academic), such as theology or psychology, it can mean something specific. But there isn't a definite popular meaning of the term -- is it homosexuality for a girl to come out as a lesbian and explain to her parents that she's going to remain celibate for religious reasons? After all, she isn't doing anything, but her orientation is what it is. Or is it homosexuality for a straight guy to fool around with a straight friend when they're drunk? After all, their orientation is what it is, yet they're doing something. And so forth. What is being declared sinful here is so generic, that this phrase can indicate anything from a highly charitable traditionalist viewpoint to a barely-concealed rampaging homophobia.
Hey, speaking of which ...
"Accusations of homophobia are just a campaign to silence the Church."
Here again, I've seen this chiefly from Catholics, and it isn't altogether surprising: most Protestant traditions have a few evangelical versions of themselves and also one or more liberal versions, so that there is usually a gay-friendly version of any given Protestant heritage. But the Catholic Church has a very specific, very public, and very long-standing doctrine of sexuality, and also happens to be the largest single tradition in the country. It's therefore natural that accusations of homophobia should be launched more against Rome than against any other body of believers.
Many of those accusations are, in my opinion, wholly unjust. I think the term homophobia should be reserved for cases that exhibit marks of a properly psychological phobia; i.e., an irrational fear and hatred. The intellectual statement that homosexual behavior is wrong doesn't qualify; a person might disagree with it, but the statement is precisely a rational and philosophical one, even if it isn't true. That being said, the bad facts are, a lot of Christians (Catholic and otherwise) are irrationally afraid of and hateful of homosexuals. Westboro Baptist Church is everybody's go-to example, but subtler examples of unfair attitudes, words, and decisions abound, and saying that they don't displays either a gross ignorance of the actual lives of LGBT people, or a shocking callousness about them. Admittedly we're probably better off in this country than anywhere else, except parts of Europe; but the silence of many Christians -- including, miserably, the Catholic hierarchy here -- on the sufferings of gays and lesbians internationally, is doing serious damage to the credibility of the Christian claim to love homosexuals.
This shouldn't happen.
Of course the answer is not to swing the pendulum in the other direction, and make Romophobia socially acceptable (not that it hasn't been before). The point is, an unjust prejudice is an unjust prejudice, and, yes, Christians can be and have been guilty of it. That should be admitted -- not only for the sake of PR, but for the sake of decency.
"Love the sinner, hate the sin."
One problem is simply that it is a Christianese cliche. Now, you could object to Christianese (and this example thereof in particular) on the grounds that it is trite, kitschy, ubiquitous enough to be insufferable, often theologically sketchy, dulls people's minds with pat answers to profound and difficult questions, and fails to communicate to those who don't already know the lingo. But ... well, no, I guess that's everything.
A second problem: take a look at that sentence. Not counting 'the,' one syllable in it is repeated, and that syllable is the word 'sin.' The focus is entirely upon sin. That's largely why it rubs people the wrong way; whether it's intended or not, the subtext is that the person you're saying it to is a sinner -- and you, maybe not so much. Groups such as Courage frequently object to words like 'gay' because they reduce people to a shallow identity -- doesn't this do exactly the same thing? Summing up a whole person and their experience of sexuality under the name 'sinner'?
Someone might object that it isn't a claim to sinlessness, and that in point of fact everybody is a sinner; and technically, that's true, but the force of the saying isn't supplied just by the technicalities. Consider:
And behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, and stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner. (From Luke 7.36ff.)
Did the Pharisee acknowledge, in principle, that he also was a sinner? In all likelihood, yes; we may be sure he knew the Psalms like the back of his hand, in which it says that the righteous man falls seven times a day. Was he wrong in identifying this woman as a sinner? Surely not -- everybody is a sinner, and, since 'sinner' was likely a euphemism for a prostitute, well, they stay in business because people know who they are, so that her sins were probably public knowledge. The Pharisee wasn't wrong in what he thought -- it lay all in how and why he was thinking it. I think that exactly the same problem lurks behind many uses of the phrase 'Love the sinner, hate the sin.' It has been made more generous-sounding than the Pharisee. But pride comes in patronizing and condescending forms as well as brutal and contemptuous ones.
Another problem still can be discovered through a thought experiment. Let's say you're a Catholic: how would you feel if a gay person said sweetly to you, "I love you, but I hate your Catholicism"?
Christians, especially Catholics in my experience, make a great deal out of gayness not being a metaphysical category -- gay men aren't a different kind of being from straight men, they just have a difference of disposition; the difference between them is an adjective, not a noun, if you will. That is perfectly true. But religion is a good parallel example,** because Christians are not a different kind of being from atheists and Moslems and Buddhists -- yet for someone to speak that way is manifestly insulting and hostile, even if the person means well in saying it, for the simple reason that a person's religion is a very precious thing, into which their conscience and sense of self is woven.
Am I saying that the same is true of sexuality? Um, yes. Absolutely. Nothing can be closer to the heart than how we relate to other people, and that is inextricably linked to sexuality -- as Blessed John Paul II taught in Theology of the Body -- for everyone from celibates to prostitutes. Whether we approve of our sexual dispositions, or of any or all of the acts that do or can flow from our sexuality, isn't relevant; they are a persistent and far-reaching influence in our whole experience of relating to people, and when you get right down to it, there isn't much in life that doesn't consist in relating to people, directly or indirectly. It is not only inevitable but appropriate that our sexuality should, therefore, be one of the major factors in our sense of self. A phrase like 'Love the sinner, hate the sin' seems quite calmly and contentedly to direct hatred to an aspect of the person that cannot be easily separated from the person as a whole.
That's all I have energy for right now. Vade in pace.
*I recognize the authority of the Catholic Church to set forth right and wrong in such a way as to rightly bind men's consciences. However, the individual person does not have the right to bind other men's consciences; and the relationship between conscience and authority is an extremely complicated one, to which I can't do justice in a footnote.
**Please note: I have said that it is a good parallel example, not a perfect one. I'm aware of the spiritual character conferred by the sacraments, most particularly Baptism and Confirmation.