Tag Archives: sinner

Why “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin” Doesn’t Work

This post inspired by Beth Woolsely’s article, which I’m sure is much better than mine.

This painting by Heinrich Hofmann is in the public domain..

What makes you who you are?

Is it merely the physical body, the material of which you are made?

Is it your genetic code that makes you “you?”

Is it the information you contain, your thoughts and feelings, which determine your identity?

Are you composed of what you have done?

Are you composed of what you will do?

“Love the sinner, hate the sin,” rests on the premise that we are essentially separable from our actions. That hating your actions has nothing to do with hating you; that loving you in no way implies a love for your actions.

There are some circumstances under which this makes sense. A person who has been forced by circumstance to do something they would rather not be doing, for example, or a person who has developed a habit they would rather not have through addiction or poor teaching.

But in these cases, the person’s action is clearly not in line with their will – the assumption that the person is  better than their action rests on a clear distinction that the person doesn’t want to perform that action.

Can it be argued that we are defined by the actions that we want to take?

Where does this leave an unrepentant “sinner?”

Where does this leave the “sinner” who believes that at least some of what you call “sins” are not, in fact, grievous crimes?

Where does this leave the person in the sexual relationship outside of marriage, or the one whose spiritual practices you consider to themselves be “sins?”

Where is such a person left if you hate their relationship, or their spiritual practice?

If you hate these things, can you truly love them?

Or is the effect of this “love the sinner, hate the sin” truly to allow the hater-of-sins to behave hatefully towards the person, transgressing their personal boundaries, treating them with anger and disgust, and attempting against their will to force a change in their behavior, while still allowing the hater-of-sins to pretend they are not themselves being a horrible person?

Food for thought.

This painting of Joan of Arc by Dante Gabriel Rossetti is in the public domain. Joan said it was God who led her to successfully drive back the invading armies threatening France; she was killed by the Church, depending on who you ask, for blasphemy, witchcraft, or crossdressing, and later venerated as a saint.
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