Love the Sinner, Hate Everything About Them
At an in-law family event recently, I was expressly not introduced to a particular family friend. She is, it seems, one of those Christians who is offended by homosexuality. My partner went and said hi to this person and when her friendliness was gently rebuffed, decided she’d enjoy her time more if she spent it with other guests. No harm, no loss.
In talking about this woman later, an aunt defended her by saying “To give her credit, she is a good Christian. She firmly believes in ‘love the sinner, hate the sin.’ You can’t fault her for that.” My partner’s mom agreed, and my partner and I changed the subject.
I changed the subject because I firmly believe that “love the sinner, hate the sin” is bullshit. It is condescending and patronizing, and it excuses hating people while denying to do so.
What’s more, it’s not even Christian. Now, I’m going to do something here that I have never done before. I am going to encourage you all to go and read a sermon posted on a church’s website. It is a fabulously fantastic sermon and, although I’m only going to quote a tiny bit here, the whole thing is worth reading. In “‘Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin’ is not Christian,” Reverend Cheri DiNovo says this:
Did you know that the saying, “Love the sinner, hate the sin” has absolutely nothing to do with our faith? It is not to be found anywhere in the Bible. It was said by Mahatma Gandhi on one of his not so good days and it has been used to beat people up. It has been used to do violence to people ever since. Something Gandhi would never ever have wished. When I was sparring with the person who helped organize the rally against same sex marriage at Queen’s Park a couple of weeks past, I heard those lines from his mouth. So that’s why I thought we should talk about them. He said we should hate the sin, meaning in this case, homosexuality, but we should love the sinner. Now in the Bible there’s no place for that kind of noise. In the Bible there is no separation ever between the sinner and the sin. You can’t separate them out.
ExChristian.net does a good job of tracing the Bible verses which assure us that the sin and the sinner are one, that God does not love sinners, and that “love the sinner, hate the sin” cannot be a Christian concept.
Beyond the Bible, in life you can’t separate them out either. It’s not a coincidence that the above sermon was prompted by a talk on homosexuality: fully 60% of the Google searches on “love the sinner hate the sin” also include the term “homosexuality.” Considering there are maybe two Bible verses which may or may not condemn homosexuality (for men, nothing is said for women) that’s a heck of a lot of attention given to it, isn’t it? As long as you are defining homosexuality as a sin that deserves to be hated, how do you avoid hating homosexuals? If you hate Islam, how do you not hate Muslims? On the flip side, are you really supposed to hate war but not warmongers? Hate pedophilia but love pedophiles?
How can you hate someone’s sexual orientation to the point where you refuse to meet their partner of nearly a decade, and still claim to love them? How can you hate someone’s atheism so much that you accuse them of being immoral and threats to the foundation of a state, and still claim you love them? Easy: you redefine “love” as this: “We love the sinner by being faithful in witnessing to them of the forgiveness that is available through Jesus Christ.” That’s not love. That’s condescension.
Furthermore, why should the actor and the action be separated? I hold the actions of President Bush against him, and I think I am justified in doing so. If he walked in here I would feel no desire to say “I hate that you started this war, I hate that you did this and that, but I love you.” No. He is the person who did all those things that I hate. I feel legitimized in hating the actor for his actions. Am I wrong?
You know what, though? If he did walk in here I would be polite to him, shake his hand and offer him a seat. If what “love the sinner, hate the sin” meant was “be nice to people you disagree with” I would have no trouble with it. It’s not, though. It means “Tell people you love them even though you hate everything that makes them who they are, that way you can exert your moral superiority and no one can call you on being a bigot.”
It is impossible to love the sinner and hate the sin. It all comes down to that. If you think it is possible, then I’m betting you’ve redefined love to something that the “sinner” wouldn’t even recognize.