Tuesday, May 22, 2012

"Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin"

From the comments section on Thinking Anglicans, from someone who definitely does not love my kind:

 "So, the alternative to the smug 'Love the sinner, hate the sin' mantra is to think that 'tax-collecting' is either morally neutral, 'not as bad as people make it out to be' or 'innocent, right, honourable, wholesome and good'? Perhaps the real issue that Christ highlighted in his parable was the danger in dismissing an approach to God based on genuine contrition, especially when it casts us in a better light to contrast our public piety with the notorious misdeeds of others. We're all guilty of that."

So let's take a look at "Love the sinner, hate the sin" in action:

The whole "Hate the sin, love the sinner bit" bit is a rhetorical cudgel to clobber other people while letting us feel superior.  See the example above.

I'm all for contrition.  When you bear false witness against your neighbors (especially when you deliberately and publicly misrepresent their lives and their relationships), then you should feel contrite.
However, contrition is not necessarily an entrance fee for salvation.  It's what we should feel when we  deliberately harm someone.

God loves us the same way we love each other, in our entirety, because of and despite so much.  Just as we do not single out aspects of each other to love and others to hate, so God does not either.  Anything else is not love.  It is something else.

Failure to conform to the demands of a Bronze Age purity code that cannot stand up to the tests of reality and morality is no cause for contrition.


Tristan Alexander said...

All I can say is, If you can hate the sin but not the sinner, I can hate the beliefs but not the believers!

rick allen said...

"I can hate the beliefs but not the believers!"

I should certainly hope so.

I am not sure what the video has to do with this question--that guy seems to be the point man for the "hate the sin and hate the sinner" team.

I'm not sure why people hate this formulation so much, the separation of moral discernment from individual hatred. It's not always easy to do, but it's a fairly common thing, and I'm not sure how the other alternatives stack up to it.

Every parent has had that time when a child has hurt someone else, and been scolded, and tearfully bursts out, "You hate me!", and mom or dad releases the brow, and smiles, and says, "No, I love you, but I really hate what you did to your friend." It's how we come to understand that being expected to behave lovingly is not hating us.

It's not easy to hate war and love George Bush. It's not easy to hate torture and love Dick Cheney. But that is precisely what Christians, at least, are expressly called to do by Jesus. "Love your enemies."

Part of its possibility lies in equivocation. To hate greed is not the same as hating a greedy person. It can lead to it, and obviously it often does (see Exhibit A above), but it need not.

So, in the end, there are four possibilities (let's take murder as our example):

1. Love murder and love the murderer.
2. Love murder and hate the murderer.
3. Hate murder and love the murderer.
4. Hate murder and hate the murderer.

Of these four, I think the Christian faith still calls us to go with number three. It isn't easy, but I think it's possible. And I think it far better than learning to love murder so that we can love the murderer.

(And this, of course, entirely skirts over what is often the real issue in these disputes, whether a particular thing is, in fact, a sin. If it is not, "Hate the virtue" is not really an option.)

MarkBrunson said...

Hatred is a pointless, selfish, and self-destroying emotion. This comes from someone who hates a lot. It is useless, exhausting, and ungodly, regardless of its inclusion in the bible as being something God does. If He does do it, having done it myself, and knowing its source and effect, He is not God.

Paul said...

Anyone whose "sin" is hated knows the "love the sinner, hate the sin" platitude doesn't wash. It's visceral and maybe that's because the "sin" they are hating is an integral part of my identity, viz. being gay. So an integral part of me is being hated and the distinction simply does not hold up. We can play abstract games and even say God loves us all unconditionally and does not view our sins kindly, which I believe is true, but that is way too abstract. When the rubber meets the road in human interactions the "sinners" know they are not loved either.

Lapinbizarre said...

Not the biggest congregation, is it?

Counterlight said...

Pastor Worley makes me think that we should reconsider Godwin's Law.

MarkBrunson said...

I've said, for quite some time, Counterlight, that the only people who invoke Godwin's Law are people with a Nazi agenda.