Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin


To counter balance my last blog post about RT Kendal here is another Christian blog post:

http://bethwoolsey.com/2013/10/3-reasons-i-quit-loving-the-sinner-and-hating-the-sin/

They are attacking the phrase “love the sinner, hate the Sin”. Now I am all for controversially attacking a phrase that is popular for some kind of effect and then putting forward a view that is basically the same as the phrase but the phrase “done properly”. It’s lovely, its Hegelian and as a result obviously I have to disagree with everything it says and defend the phrase.

See this blog post is trying to show how most people who use that phrase “Love the Sinner, hate the Sin” actually get the second part right but the first part wrong. In fact they usually add some logical argument such as “Sin is bad for people, if I hate the sin then really I’m being truly loving to them. Instead of “Love the Sinner AND hate the Sin” they really believe “Love the Sinner BY hating the Sin”. And so instead they spend all their time hating sin and telling people off for wanting abortions because “It’s for their own good”.

But this phrase isn’t about that, it’s about showing that the dichotomy is possible, it’s possible to both love the individual whilst hating some of what they do. This is an important aspect of what love is. I don’t care if the origins of the phrase were something Augustine said about himself, this thing is just true and its true whether or not you’re a Christian. (Although I think much easier to do if you’re a Christian).

But yeah, you need to do more work. Just because it’s possible to love an individual whilst hate what they are doing, doesn’t mean you’ve finished understanding how to go about loving someone else nor go about understanding how to go about hating someone well. And I think I’ll attack it from two angles.

Hating the Sin is actually liberating for the individual.

There is a complication here that I’ve talked about before and I think all Christians get wrong from both liberal and conservative backgrounds. Actually us Christians and them non-Christians agree a hell of a lot on the nature of “Sin”. Yeah we’ll disagree on some specifics, we might disagree on, to use a last psychiatrist’s phrase, whose genitals you’re allowed to lick . We might disagree on how you should spend your Sunday morning. But by and large many of us will agree that it exists and its bad.

Yeah there are moral relativists out there. There are philosophers who will try and argue why it might be ok to murder in specific circumstances. But sit down and watch Jeremy Kyle every day that you can for a few months and count how many times, when Jeremy lays into an individual and calls them a horrible person, they respond with “you have your morality and I have mine, who are you to judge me? Why should I accept your moral standard?”

One time I saw someone kick back at Jeremy, “Who are you to judge me, you’ve done worse in your life?”  . Jeremy responded with “yeah but this isn’t about me and I’ve apologised for it (or words to that effect, this is from memory, if you don’t trust me go ahead and watch it yourself!)”. But even then, they both agreed to a strict moral authority but the only attack was that Jeremy was a sinner and therefore not in a position to judge. (Admittedly the link is the daily mail and so should be taken with a pinch of salt!)

Take a look at this video which I will probably post again and again on this blog:

You see the problem of sin here. You see the problem sin on all the faces of the fathers who had let down their children. They KNOW they are a sinner, but what hope do they have? Counselling? A lie detector test? But then this show, shows you a deeper truth. There is one way of dealing with the problem of sin, you can watch people who are worse then you and yell at them for being worse then you. You can say “I am a sinner but at least I’m not as bad at X and I’ve done my bit in publically shaming X”.

This brings us to the way of the world.

Love those that deserve to be loved.

Anton LeVay was very clever with his Satanic bible. He got to the root of what it was in Christianity that was so appalling to him and wrote about it in a way that actually everyone would agree with. Unfortunately he added loads of weird magic that makes it seem less credible.

But Satanists tend to be nice people. They believe strongly in love those that deserve to be loved but if someone slaps you round the face, don’t turn the other cheek, punch them in the nose! As a result they will spend their lives earning and deserving their love. This is the heart of what everyone thinks and why wouldn’t you? Why would you love someone who doesn’t deserve it? How could you survive if you acted like that?

Love those that do things worthy of love, and hate those that to do things worthy of hate.

This is the principle people live by. Yeah they will disagree on what those things are worthy of hate. For some people, you can have sex with whoever you like but you must never cheat! For some feeling jealous about your partner’s consenting sexual actions with other people is the source of why you are hateable. Some might hate homosexual people whereas others will hate people who hate homosexual people. Some hate a race whereas other hate racists. Sometimes it might those people who take up too much space on the tube at rush hour.

Whatever it is most people treat morality as a litmus test of whether or not I should treat that person as an equal human, or whether or not I should write them off. As batman says, it doesn’t matter who you are, its what you do that defines you.

Why Christians get this wrong – actually all people hate sin.

Conservatives will tell me that they believe in an objective morality. They will tell me that this position is unpopular with people “out there”. Everyone is a moral relativist. Meanwhile liberals will tell me that Christians are too judgemental and actually homosexuality is ok.

Both positions are wrong. People do believe in right and wrong but they are no longer looking to the Church to tell them what is what. Very few LGBT activists are going to be looking to the church to help them understand whether or not homosexuality is ok. No, most of these people will have made up their mind on the issue of homosexuality (that it is fine) and are only quizzing the church, not to find out how the church judges them, but to find out how they should judge the church!

People hate Sin. People see Sin everywhere and they hate it. We just disagree on what counts. The problem is, that hating Sin will almost always inevitably lead to seeing Sin in your own life and to some degree a level of self-hatred or guilt. Many people would in fact celebrate feeling guilty as a sign that you are a good person.

This blog misunderstands that most people know they are sinners and feel trapped by Sin. Love the Sinner hate the Sin is not something that should make people feel judged but liberated.

A liberated view of Sin

Someone I know hurt one of my friends a great deal. I spent a bit of time talking to this person and they asked me why I was being nice to them at all given what they had done and what they had done to my friend. Surely I’d judge them as a “bad person”. I told this friend (non-Christian) that I was judging them… but I had judged them as a bad person long before. I believe in no sex before marriage and so to some degree anyone who has sex with more than one person is a slut and worthy of death. Probably even more so I believe the same about anyone who has ever looked at pornography. I believe the same thing about people who disrespect their parents or put any other God before the one true God. So this new thing they had done that had hurt my friend, couldn’t lower my opinion of them.To some degree they found this attitude liberating and kind of comforting!

(Note: I don’t come out very favourable when I’m judging myself either!)

And I think it is. With most people who love you conditionally you’re kind of waiting for the time when you finally cross the line and they hate you. Maybe it will be some political opinion, maybe it will be how you treat people in relationships, maybe it’s because you act rude in a situation or maybe it’s because you’re too fussy about politeness. But here, this person already crossed the line.. And all people who interact with me can know that they have crossed the line, I think they are a “bad” person.

But what next? Do I hate all bad people like the rest of the world did? Possibly, but if I did that I’d hate everyone including myself. If that’s what I have to do, then so be it but fortunately there is a way out. “Vengeance is mine, so saith the Lord”, I can pawn off that hatred onto God. He is the ultimate judge anyway and so I can say “well I won’t carry out the hatred even though to some degree these people deserve it, God can do the hating instead”. Then God goes ahead and does something weird with my hatred. He puts it all on the cross and somehow justifies people. It’s all a bit confusing and I haven’t fully got my head round it but the important thing is I don’t need to hate people anymore.

But that is my choice, love everyone unconditionally or hate everyone conditionally. There is no middle ground.

I’ve always thought this about the Westboro Baptist church with their “God hates fags” placards and their belief that hurricanes are caused by America’s acceptance of homosexuality. The problem with these people is not that they are too extreme, but they are not extreme enough! They would probably be better off including a placard that says “God hates everyone, especially me”! And then try and find a way to live like that.

How do we go about loving people

Now we get to a point where me and the initial blog post might actually agree. But this is a difficult question, how do you go about loving people?

Love I think is one of those complicated things where it is really difficult to define, but when you look at a specific situation its really easy to see “Is this loving or not?”. Especially the “not”, when someone does something to you or to someone you care about that isn’t “loving” you tend to just know. But if you had to write a rule book so that you could completely define what it was, it would be tough.

Enrich Fromm in his “Art of loving”  saw love more like an art, like playing an instrument or getting good at painting. It was a skill that you practised and got better at. It was a skill where you considered the theory both through reading and discussion but then tried to apply it.

This blog posts concept of seeing someone as a neighbour and looking at how Jesus treated people certainly helps at how to love people. This is something worthy of discussion. And as I’ve said before, the blog post is definitely attacking a certain type of Christian who uses that phrase as an excuse to not be loving, that I believe ought to be intellectually attacked.

But now I’m starting to agree with someone so I better end it here. Enrich Fromm is likely to pop up again!

(Also the original blogger has written a follow up. http://bethwoolsey.com/2015/06/an-update-3-reasons-i-quit-loving-the-sinner-and-hating-the-sin/ I don’t have much to say, I kind of like it except when she goes back to wanting us to actually stop using the phrase, but most of her criticism are certainly valid).

End

There was a song that says a guy loves me “just the way I am”. No one wants this. I want to be loved DESPITE the way I am. The way I am is hateable but I want… no need the love anyway. This is why being able to love the sinner and hate the sin is important because if it can’t be done then all is lost.

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