Sunday, July 22, 2012

Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner: An Aggravating Saying

"Hate the sin, but love the sinner."

In these days of constant wrangling regarding subjects such as Same Sex Marriage we hear that saying over and over again from people.  They talk about how they believe that being homosexual is a sin, a choice being made by the persons of that orientation, and that choice is a sinful one.  But the ones saying it insist that they don't hate the persons who are homosexual, they just hate the fact that the homosexuals have chosen to be that way and have thus, in the speaker's mind, forsaken God.

Now, there are several potential arguments that could be brought up here.  We could discuss how not everyone is a member of the religions that condemn homosexuality, and even how many of those who ARE members of those belief systems do not feel this way.  We could discuss that being homosexual is not a choice, it is genetic.  Those are topics for another day.  My thoughts today center on the phrase mentioned above.

You see, I do not personally believe that it is possible to hate the sin and love the sinner.  My thinking is that the sin is part of the person, it is part of what makes the whole, and thus cannot be separated out into some singular entity to be hated.  The mistakes that I have made in my life have contributed toward making me into the person that I am today.  If I had not made those mistakes, I would be someone else, and not only that, I would be a someone else who has less knowledge of who I am and the world that I live in.  So if you took those mistakes away, you would be taking part of me away too.

Let me say it plainly, I do NOT think that being homosexual is a mistake.  Because I know that there will be people who seize upon that word and run with it, putting words into my mouth that I never said.  There ARE people who feel it is a mistake, and it is their thinking that I am addressing with this blog entry.

So assuming that you are one of the people who thinks that being homosexual is a mistake, but who is determined to hate the sin but love the sinner, I ask you how do you do this?  How can you separate out something that is such an integral part of a person as their sexuality and hate it without hating the person?  Because sexuality IS part of the person, and by hating it you are hating them.  Again, ignoring the (very important) discussion of whether being homosexual is a choice or hard-coded into us, I understand what you are trying to say, but I'm here to tell you that this particular phrase does not offer any comfort to those who are among the hated.

Quite frankly, I am not homosexual but this phrase makes ME grind my teeth with frustration, so I cannot even imagine the levels of anger and resentment that it must create in those it is being applied to.  I find that when someone says, "I hate the sin, but I still love the sinner." that it screams condescension to me, it says to me that the person saying it is placing themselves above the ones that they are referring to and that the speaker is announcing to the world that they are on the moral high ground and that they will lower themselves to acknowledge that while they believe the person being addressed is in the wrong, they may have SOME redeeming qualities.  The speaker also implies that while there ARE some redeeming qualities in the addressed, those qualities will forever be overshadowed by this one aspect which the speaker finds unacceptable even though it is really none of their business to begin with.

I have to admit that I am always tempted to come back with, "Well, I hate the sin of pride and the sin of presuming to speak for deities, but I still love the sinners.".  I have always been curious what would happen to the speakers if they had their phrase turned around on them.  Would they still believe in hating the sin and loving the sinner?  Or would they start finding reasons why it applies to everyone else and not them?  But as I have a hard time with the entire concept of sin, I can't really do that. 

It really boils down to the fact that I believe the greater evil is to nurture hatred and discrimination.  What other people do in their bedrooms with consenting adults is their own business, not mine.  If someone loves a person of the same gender, or if they love someone of the other gender, it doesn't matter.  Everyone should have the right to visit the person they love in the hospital, to declare that love openly, and to build a life together without worrying that it will be arbitrarily taken away because someone somewhere arbitrarily names that love a sin.  These are the things that matter, and for everything else, well that is between the individual and the person(s) that they love. 

Love is never a "sin", and to hate love is part of my definition of evil.  To claim that you can hate love while loving the lover is ridiculous and aggravating because it isn't possible.  Love is part of us, part of the whole, and if you claim to hate the part while not hating the whole, I say to you that is an impossibility.  Stop and think about it, and think about if you really love that person.  If you do, how can you not love all of them?  I just can't wrap my mind around it, and I'm not sure how anyone else truly can either.

So I welcome those of you who say "Hate the sin, love the sinner" to explain it to me.  Seriously, I want to know the thinking behind it.  Do so in an adult, plain-spoken manner.  No personal attacks, no generalized attacks, how about no attacks at all for that matter?  Adult, rational conversation about the topic is welcome here.  Any other kind of discussion won't see the light of day because, as always, comments are screened. 

*Note:  I screen for offensiveness.  I do not only allow comments that agree with me, but I do not allow comments that are trolling or obviously picking fights.  You don't have to agree with me, but you DO have to be civil, polite, and adult in how you make your points.  Thank you.


  1. Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner... my thoughts on the matter are simply that the alternative (to some people) is to hate the sin and hate the sinner.

    In other words, lying is a sin. I can hate that my friend lies. I can find lying a sin. But I can still love my friend.

    Otherwise, anytime someone sins, if I didn't love them despite their sin, then I'd hate them, too.

    The argument that you cannot separate the sins from the experiences that define us isn't quite true. They make up a part of who and what we are, but are not all of what we are, and thus we can dislike or hate something that we have done while still acknowledging that it is a part of us.

    Applying it to homosexuality is where the statement fails. A sin is an action, not a sexual orientation. The religious interpretation is that it isn't wrong to BE homosexual, it is however wrong to engage in homosexual acts, making the act a sin, but enabling one to still love the sinner, because in that interpretation, the two are separate and the belief is that homosexuality is as much a choice as lying, cheating, etc.

    I disagree with the religious take on homosexuality, nor do I consider it a sin, despite the fact that I am Christian and grew up Roman Catholic. However I am a big believer in the fact that we love people in spite of or despite their flaws, their sins if you will. I can dislike or even hate certain aspects of the things they do, their sins, and still love them for all the other things that make them who they are.

    People are not defined by a sin, or by a virtue. We are, as you mentioned, a sum of it all.

    But that's the take, or at least, my take, on 'hate the sin, love the sinner'. It's a way to try to reconcile the fact that you can still love someone who is doing something that you feel is morally/religiously wrong at times.

    (Again, the statement fails in regards to homosexuality because homosexuality isn't a CHOICE... but it works for all other 'sin' actions.)

  2. I have a lot of sin in my life. I certainly hope that people are able to look past my sins and love me anyway. If I were not able to look past the sins of others, then I wouldn't be able to love anyone including myself. My conservative Christian side believes that drunkenness is a sin. So, are you saying that I cannot love any of my friends who get drunk? Why can I not still love them but hate that they get drunk?

  3. I had this wonderful explanation of the Christian take on "hate the sin, love the sinner," but Jenn said it all. While she used lying, I was going to use drinking (as dleighb brought up).

    I think a better way of putting it would be, "love the sinner, but hate the sin." I love my friends, but I hate when they do stupid things such as drink and drive. While there is nothing in the Bible about drinking and driving being a sin, I believe it is. It is called not loving yourself or your neighbor, because you would risk harming yourself and others by not driving responsibly. ((Note: this is coming from someone who was injured by a drunk driver.))

    But as Jenn stated, this whole argument falls apart for me when it comes to homosexuality. Yes, there are Christians who firmly believe that such acts are flying in the face of God's Word. While many many would disagree and not be happy with me to state this: I do not see homosexuality as a sin. In Galatians there are many sins listed by name (fornication being one of them), at the end it states, "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law." This should include the love between any two people no matter the gender.

    But that's not what you asked... I do think you can love someone and hate what they are doing. Yet, telling them this brings no comfort and does not help them change the /harmful/ behavior they are doing (homosexuality is no more harmful than heterosexuality). It's better to love people fully and help them to see their harmful behavior. I do not think I need to go into what I see as harmful sexual behavior, but I can tell you that a loving relationship between two people is not one of them.

  4. won't let me reply directly to people's comments and I can't find where to change that setting, so this will have to do for now.

    As I read your responses and think about it more, I have to adjust my position somewhat. I still hate that turn of phrase because it implies a superiority on the part of the speaker. "I hate your sin, but I still allow myself to love you, the person despite the fact that you are OBVIOUSLY choosing to sin in this way."

    I also think I need to clarify that the other part of what bothers me is more along the lines of you can't hate a sin that is an integral part of someone (meaning NOT a choice) and love the sinner. Someone choosing to get drunk or to lie is making a choice to commit those actions. They don't have to lie, they don't have to drink, they choose to do so. Someone who is homosexual cannot choose to be homosexual (or to not be homosexual) and, as such, it is a part of them that CANNOT be separated out.

    Thus the inability, in this case, to "hate the sin, love the sinner".

    I hope that is a clearer form of mud than my earlier, murkier mud. :)


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