Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin

Over on the HoBD list, they're having a very sophisticated discussion about that aphorism that "good Christians" should or might "Love the sinner, but hate the sin." I enjoy the discussions that the HoBD folks have; they almost always provoke me to deeper thought.

Various thoughtful folks on the HoBD list have offered thoughtful comments about holiness and biblical exegesis as it relates to "Love the sinner; hate the sin."

God knows, I believe that our faith in Christ calls us to holiness. In our personal lives. In our lives in community. As a church. I believe God calls all of us to holiness.

But here's the bottom line.

When anybody tells me they "Love the sinner, but hate the sin," I immediately know I'm dealing with someone who hates me, my life, my relationships, and everything I treasure in my life. Those people can quibble and temporize all they want. But the fact is, "Love the sinner, hate the sin" has become a bastion for people who are willing to tolerate every other "sin" except for the supposed "sin" of Christians who are in committed relationships with people of the same sex. Do they look at the morbidly obese former-bishop Schofield and offer to love him but hate his sin? No, they do not. Do they turn their little slogan against twice-divorced-and-thrice-married bishops of our church? No, they do not.

It seems to me that the only people against whom I hear them deliver this slogan is us gay people. And the message is condescension, pure and simple.

If they were talking about "colored people" or "retarded people," someone would call them on their bigotry. But so far, as of January 7, 2008, they are still allowed to trot out their "Love the sinner, but hate the sin" mantra as if it did anything besides articulate mask deep, uncompromising hatred of homosexuals. And even our best friends try to engage those "Love the sinner, hate the sin" people as if they were rational. It is so easy to get sucked in by their apparent sense.

But it's not sense. It's hatred.

I think it's time to call them on it. Most of us have learned that it is deeply offensive to call people names that cause hurt. We don't call African American men "boys." We don't urge various non-white, non-Europeans to "mind their place." But somehow it's ok to tell queers that they can "Love the sinner, but hate the sin."

Well, guess what? When someone uses that term, I absolutely know that they hate me, and they have decided that my life and any relationship I might have is a "sin." They believe they are justified in discounting and hating both me and my behavior. It doesn't matter how much fancy language they dress it up in. It's hatred. But it's hatred without the courage to own itself. It is single-issue condescension.

Please show me any other instance in which they trot out this "Love the sinner, hate the sin" canard. Show me any other instance in which they use it against some group other than homosexuals. If you can, I'll consider they're not just lamely seeking to mask heterosexism and a hatred of homosexuals.

Until then, I'll remain convinced that the "Love the sinner, hate the sin" folks are just bigots with fancy pseudo-bible language masking their deep hatred.

In response, here's what I have to say to them.

Addendum: Elizabeth Kaeton, also spurred by the "Hate the Sinner..." language, also blogged today on this topic. Go read her essay. It's a doozie!

Further addendum: Sometimes, the "arguments" are so infuriating that the only reasonable response is this one [photo at left], which Caminante gave me. As she said: "Hissspit is for those moments in life when words fail me but I need to do something. I think felines have a perfect answer."

Yet another addendum (01.11.08): That Kaeton Woman, in this post yesterday, did a much better job of talking about the moral and theological issues on which I tried to touch here. I strongly encourage you to read it.


Blogger Wormwood's Doxy said...

I heard someone say once that people loved that phrase because it was the only way that they could say the word "hate" and still feel clean.

I'm here to tell you...there isn't any way to say the word "hate" and BE clean.

1/08/2008 5:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK -- the phrase originated with Gandhi, trying to persuade the people of India that they could not hate the British colonial government, in spite of their oppressive actions. The emphasis was on loving the unlovable. It has, of course, been turned on its head & become code for something completely different -- "I will hate you until you stop being who you are!"

Fine piece of writing.

1/08/2008 8:46 AM  
Blogger Suzer said...


1/08/2008 9:17 AM  
Blogger Malcolm+ said...

The problem, of course, isn't with the statement "Hate trhe sin, love the sinner." The problem is that many (I am reluctant to say all) of the peoploe who use it don't really mean it.

I hate the way the "conservatives" have tried to use this wedge issue to tear the Church apart. I don't hate them. Or, at least I try not to hate them. I try to love them. Even at their most unlovable.

On those days when I am most open to God's grace, I sometimes manage it.

1/08/2008 12:32 PM  
Blogger Caminante said...

Thanks for your posting.

I started writing a response to Joan's note on the HOBD list and my computer froze. Guess it was too steamed.

Today is a day when I am fed up with their smarmy piousness and reduction of who we are to SEX, SEX, SEX, SEX!!!!! I was going to say that her words are a total conversation stopper and a reduction of the esse of a gay or lesbian. They are hardly welcoming at all.

Right after her note came the wacko note of JB who likens the search for our equality to the creation of the Weimar Republic and Hilterism. Sick, perverted.

Her response to you is also condescending.

Doxy is right: it's nothing than a shabby cover for fear and hatred.

The mouse is roaring today. (Did you think I didn't have it in me?)

1/08/2008 5:00 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Well done, my dear. I am so sick of this conversation I could throw up. Makes me feel like we've made absolutely no progress whatsoever, and of course, I would be wrong. It's good to know there are intelligent, articulate voices still willing to take on this particular battle. Thank you for that.

1/08/2008 5:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The other thing that gauls me about these LTSHTS people is this accompanying phrase: "If *only* they would be celibate," (said with a smarmy smile). Yeah right! We should be forced to deny part of God's creation in us.

Your button/banner at the bottom is sooooo right!

1/08/2008 7:35 PM  
Blogger Jan said...

Bravo. Or maybe I should have said "amen." Thank you.

1/08/2008 8:53 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Many thanks to all of you. I have been rather taken aback at the firestorm this created on the HoBD list. And it merely confirms what I said, and what some of you all have said more articulately than I: It really is about their hatred.

The "conservatives" don't trot out this "love the sinner, but hate the sin" canard against any other group. They save it for the queers. That, in itself, speaks volumes. They pretend to be "doing theology," when, in fact, they're merely objectifying a small group of God's children yet again.

You're right on the money, Caminante: They pretend it's about "homosexual sin." But it is not.

Fact is, we all have a problem with sinning sexually. We all sin sometimes when we use others for our own lust. If all of us could be held to the same standard of commitment and mutuality and self-emptying, I would be very, very happy.

I know several of you, too, subscribe to the HoBD list. It is merely through the grace of God that I did not reach through my computer screen and grab that condescending Joan by the throat. She posted her remarks on a listserv to which I'm not allowed to post. That's probably a good thing, as I have not yet calmed down enough to respond in accord with my baptismal covenant.

1/08/2008 9:57 PM  
Blogger Caminante said...

Sometimes I think my cats have the best response: hissssspit. It's terrifically satisfying to give a good hiss when words fail.

1/08/2008 10:25 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

LOL, Caminante. Can you give me an ICHC graphic to go with that? {grin}

1/08/2008 10:46 PM  
Blogger Caminante said...

"Can you give me an ICHC graphic to go with that?"

How about this? Go see today's posting.

1/09/2008 11:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just don't get why y'all are upset about the phrase. Every time they say it to me I just smile and say, "Why, that's **exactly** the way I feel about your sinful and vicious attitude towards God's gay and lesbian children, and I pray that you'll repent and return to the Lord!"
And I mean it too.

1/09/2008 11:37 AM  
Blogger June Butler said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

1/09/2008 6:30 PM  
Blogger Rory said...

And amen.

Excellent post, thanks for sharing it!

1/10/2008 8:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

CSLewis noted that we apply this always to . . ourselves! We know, when we sin, that we are not playing to our best selves or living up to our best callings.

I must also say that I am saddened by the intemperate, and I think inacurrate, characterizations of those you call your opponents, Lisa.

Many of us do not hate LGBt friends and relatives, nor do we despise their relationships. Quite the opposite. I think there are many good things between same-sex couples and I also think, trusting the wisdom of Christ as I understand it, that same sex unions are not right. My attitude is much like the one I have toward my late teenager daughter who is dating a guy who is not right for her. Lots of nice things about him, and about them together. And I am not saying much but I am not giving it my blessing. Similarly, I priest friend of mine is, I think, acting out of bounds in some ways. I love him, support him, and am at his disposal. But, I do not think I have to give him the green light on everything.

I love my gay cousin (and others) and think I have concretely, consistently, and caringly befriended him. I don't think those on the left automatically get points for loving LGBT more just because of their stance on SSB's. I am a conservative and I know that I don't fit the picture you have painted of conservatives, nor do others that I know. Tho' I can try better to understand where you're coming from.

1/10/2008 11:16 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

I have heard this phrase since childhood and it was, back then, applied much more widely. But it never once convinced me. My gut reaction was always that it was a cheesy distinction that allowed a spirit of judgmentalism to stand and carry with it an air of sanctimonious smugness. Always made me wanna puke.

I have not come to believe it one whit more as time has passed, no matter when or by whom it is used.

1/10/2008 4:16 PM  
Blogger Cecilia said...

Lisa, thank you for this. Amen, amen, amen!

Pax, C.

1/10/2008 9:28 PM  
Blogger Cecilia said...

And Anonymous, since he never said a word on this matter, let's leave the mind of Christ out of it, shall we? On second thought... Matthew 25. Yeah, let's stay with the mind of Christ. Sorry it doesn't support your argument.

Pax anyway! C.

1/10/2008 9:34 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Thanks, y'all, for carrying on the conversation when I had to be offline.

And this must be a good post, because we have -- yet again! -- another "anonymous" posting, who merely proves my point.

1/10/2008 11:00 PM  
Blogger Grace said...

Well, I have to disagree, guys. I think it's a perfectly good expression, but being misused in this case.

Suppose someone was using, and abusing drugs or food. Anything that is "sin" destructive of human life, harmful to God's creation we should "hate."

But, we should love people that are entrapped in all these things, as created in the very image and likeness of God. Someone for whom Christ died.

I think folks who use this expression in the context of loving, committed same-sex relationships are wrong, and have been deceived. They're not able to see the harm that is caused by their position.

But, I can't say that everyone is motivated by deliberate hatred. Many like this anon. poster are truly sincere, and well-meaning.

1/11/2008 8:27 AM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Then we'll have to disagree, Grace. I do not believe Jesus taught us to "hate" anything.

But here's the most significant, and one that a couple of the "conservatives" on the HoBD finally "got." Gay men and lesbians have been beaten over the head with this phrase for all our lives, and we hear it as hateful. Thus, those who actually love us -- including those (few) who might want to "love us into repentance" -- will refrain from using this phrase against us.

That Kaeton Woman in this post yesterday did a much better job of talking about the moral and theological issues on which I tried to touch here. I strongly encourage you to read it.

1/11/2008 6:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, Lisa. I can see your point.


1/12/2008 8:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah...I love black people, I just can't stand their color.

I love men too, I just can't stand their maleness.

Jeez Louise... if we could only find a way to put all that stupid in a bottle and sell it to the Chinese. And, I do love Chinese people. it's WalMart I can't stand.

1/13/2008 7:57 PM  
Blogger Kirk Masden said...

I found myself being bothered by the usage of "Love the sinner, hate the sin" that you wrote about and a little searching on the internet brought me to your blog. Here's what I wrote on Facebook:


My basic argument is that saying "Hate the sin, love the sinner" in regard to gay marriage is no less offensive than saying "Hate the delusion, love the deluded person" in regard to those who oppose gay marriage for religious reasons.

8/03/2012 7:15 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Thank you for that comment, Kirk. You put it very well. I was able to follow the link to your Facebook page, but not allowed to post a comment there. Sorry I couldn't post my hearty "Amen!" there.

8/03/2012 7:34 PM  
Blogger Kirk Masden said...

Thanks Lisa! I'll look into changing the settings to that anyone can post a comment.

8/03/2012 9:34 PM  

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