May 8, 2007

Enough of hate

Recently some of my friends have started posting a bumper-sticker that says, “Love the bigot, hate the bigotry.” This is a response to the oft-repeated, “Jesus taught us to hate the sin but love the sinner”? But I’d like to offer a better response. I’d like to say, “Enough with the hate, already.” After all, Jesus didn’t say anything about hating sin or sinners, did he? Not in my Bible! Luke alone preserves the saying about hating one’s family (a strange twist on ‘family values’) and one’s life (14:26) and John the instruction to hate one’s own life in order to gain eternal life (12:25).

So this floating quotation seems not to be an authentic logion. But suppose one wants to argue that it is in keeping with what Jesus would have said; well, let’s take a look at that possibility.

First of all we have to ask, What is sin? (If that’s what we’re supposed to hate.) Wrong actions? Would Jesus have said that? No, because defining behavior alone as being sinful is not only non-Christian, but non-Jewish. The Tenth Commandment (“Thou shalt not covet”) and the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:20-48) have confounded jurists and agnostics for centuries. In Judaism and Christianity, ethics, which forbids certain acts, is augmented by a higher moral law in which it is not enough just “not to kill, not to commit adultery...” but in which one must not hate, must not lust, must not desire (possessions or actions) wrongly. For the Christian and the Jew, there may be victimless crimes, but there are no victimless sins.

Jesus recognized, in his critique of the Pharisees, how by categorizing certain actions as sins it becomes very simple to justify oneself. When behavior alone is the criterion, it becomes painfully easy to stand in judgment: “I thank God I’m not one of them!” is a cry of self-justification through the judgment of others who do “what I don’t do.”

So it would seem on the first count, the very nature of sin, that Jesus would not have said, “Hate the sin, not the sinner.”

But there is a further difficulty. How does one separate the two, if sin involves more than behavior, as both the Law and Jesus maintain? Jesus does not deal with sin apart from sinners. Without a word about hatred, Christ on the contrary tells us that we should love the sinner and forgive the sin. Be hated — yes, you will be — but do not return that hatred with hatred.

It is impossible to “hate the sin” apart from the sinner, as if sin had some reality apart from the desires and actions of fallen human beings, as if you could somehow extract the sin from a person and vent your purifying fury upon it. Such a notion is very far from the Gospel. What is worse, those who begin by “hating the sin” in this abstract way soon will come to hating the sinner in a concrete way, as indeed they must, since the one cannot exist apart from the other. And when those who legislate what is sinful have sufficient power, we have seen what results: the auto da fé was intended to save the souls of those repentant heretics being burned alive.

There have been enough burnings. There have been enough crosses on the hillside. No more hate, brothers and sisters. Please; no more hate.

— Tobias Haller BSG


34 comments:

Anonymous said...

A most ispiring meditation.

During my student days, in the early 1960s, my professor of Philosophy, Max Horkheimer, invited John A.T. Robinson to lecture at the University of Frankfurt. The invitation caused an outrage among evangelicals because they identified the Bishop of Woolwich with the "death of God theology". While introducing the lecturer, Max Horkheimer, a Torah-observant Jew, declared himself an "atheist", in order to comply with the Decalogue's prohibition of images. The 'fundigelicals', opposed to Bishop Robinson were actually the ones creating God in their own image and likeness. And that is what TEC's dissenters, relying on Akinola and Minns, are doing today.

/s/ John Henry

rick allen said...

I can understand your concern about approving hatred of anything. But, if we ought not to say that we hate, say, murder, how should we describe our feeling for it?

In other words, if my feeling about a particular sin (murder is the most obvious example) must necessarily bleed over into my feeling about the person committing such sin, and if I must (as I must) love the sinner, then am I not then inexorably drawn to love murder, as well?

To put it another way, I am not so sure that the differentiation of the sin and the sinner is as impossible as you suggest. There is of course a danger, always, that our hatred, or disapproval, or detestation, or abhorrance, or however you want to describe it, of the sin, of the act, may translate over into our attitude toward the person. But if our attitude toward the sin and the sinner is necessarily one, if we don't have the moral strength to separate the two, doesn't that mean that we must come to love the sin, whether it is murder, exploitation, greed, or whatever, if we love the sinner?

I know that "hate the sin, love the sinner" is trite and is trotted out all the time to justify, basically, hating the sinner. But I don't know what the real alternative is. If we don't hate sin, what should our attitude be toward it?

By the way, I learned only recently that the distinction dates back at least to the summa theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas, in his article on hatred. Whether it was a commonplace before that I have no idea.

Tobias said...

Thanks for the comments.

Rick, I think you are right about Thomas Aquinas -- though my guess is he was responding to currents that had been around for a while.

I see the problem as you describe it, but I don't see any way around Jesus' counsel, which is to "forgive" any sin directed against oneself. He, of course, went further and forgave sins not directed against himself! The best counsel, it seems, is to he hard on ones own sins, but forgiving of sins in others. The danger, it seems to me, of even focusing on the obvious "big sins" of others is that it blinds me to my own, takes my attention off of my own failings. So yes, while I can agree that murder is a terrible thing, I first need to look into my own heart and find when I've been tempted to wring a neck or two -- and not feel particularly virtuous for having stopped short of actual mayhem -- for as I tried to note, the impulse is where the sinful root lies, and it is in God's eyes perhaps as culpable as the act. This is why, perhaps, Jesus equates hatred with murder. (Mat 5:21-22)

Wormwood's Doxy said...

I wish I knew who said this, but it resonates so strongly for me---"Christians love to use that phrase ("hate the sin, love the sinner") because it is the only time they can use the word "hate" and feel clean doing it."

I have never been able to use the word "hate" since...

Grandmère Mimi said...

Since it's her feast day, from Julian of Norwich's Revelations of Divine Love

The soul that willeth to be in rest when [an]other man's sin cometh to mind, he shall flee it as the pain of hell, seeking unto God for remedy, for help against it. For the beholding of other man's sins, it maketh as it were a thick mist afore the eyes of the soul, and we cannot, for the time, see the fairness of God, but if we may behold them with contrition with him, with compassion on him and with holy desire to God for him. For without this it harmeth and tempesteth and hindereth the soul that beholdeth them. For this I understood in the Shewing of Compassion.

thomas bushnell, bsg said...

the quote, of course, comes from Gandhi, for what it's worth.

in response to Rick, who wonders what our attitude should be towards sin, the answer is clear. we should forgive sin. Jesus didn't say "hate sin but forgive sinners" either; he forgave sinners, and he forgave sin, and i can't find much distinction between the two in the pages of the new testament.

perhaps the reason for wanting to hate the sin and love the sinner comes from a conviction, deeply rooted and hostile to the gospel, that sin, really, actually, can't be forgiven. that it can be expunged from the sinner, so that the sinner is no longer really a sinner, and then, once separated, the sinner can be loved and the sin hated. but this is not the forgiveness of sins, is it?

John said...

Thanks for that article - good thoughts.

As for Rick's concern, I think that we can still draw a line between the abstract "murder" and a specific act of murder. We must let nothing prevent us loving our neighbour, even if she is a murderer. Our hatred of murder will try to bleed over into our treatment of the person involved, but this is precisely what we have to avoid. To the extent that our feelings about murder in the abstract prevent us loving our neighbour (even while opposing and regretting her actions), we should repent of them.

pax et bonum

rick allen said...

"I don't see any way around Jesus' counsel, which is to "forgive" any sin directed against oneself."

But I don't see any contradiction in forgiving a sin committed and hating the sin itself. Indeed, if the sin is not hateful to me, if I have no feeling of the harm done, why forgive what I do not object to?

Again, to give a concrete example (and I think we go very wrong in talking about "sin" abstractly), if I am slandered, so that I lose my job, and my home, I should of course forgive the slanderer. But this does not mean that I don't hate harmful lies, or the traducing of the innocent, or gossip that destroys lives.

"The best counsel, it seems, is to he hard on ones own sins, but forgiving of sins in others."

I agree. We do talk of "forgiving oneself," but in fact that usually refers to the acceptance of forgiveness of ourselves by others, or by God.

But this being "hard on ones own sins" seems to me just another way of hating what I find in myself of greed, self-centeredness, hatred of others, self-righteousness, and whatever other vices I may prominently display. In hating my own sin I don't hate myself. Indeed, if I did not hate my own sin I would have little motivation to change or fight against it.

"Hatred" is a very strong word. It is not appropriate, as normally used, for small failings, and its use there often indicates an extreme scrupulousness that can be terribly inappropriate. And just as hatred of others' sins may lead to hatred of others, so hatred of my own sins may lead to hatred of myself--both wrongly.

Still, to come back to my original point, I should not hate George Bush...but I think it very necessary that I hate warmongering or deception that leads to war. There is a risk, in hating war, that I may become self-righteous in my judgment of those who provoke it, and come to hate them. But surely that does not mean that I must not hate war.

Tobias said...

An interesting continuing discussion!

Thank you, Thomas. I had no idea the quote originated (in the form "Hate the sin, not the sinner") with the Mahatma. Perhaps what bothered me about it is that suggestion of dualism, which this source explains a tad? Snopes, by the way, has this to say, "It's actually from St. Augustine. His letter 211 (c. 424) contains the phrase Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum, which translates roughly as 'With love for mankind and hatred of sins.'"

Rick, I suppose part of the issue here hinges on two questions. First, what exactly do we mean by "hate"? I tried to unpack what we might mean by "sin" -- but haven't attempted to unpack "hate" in a similar way. All I can say is that it strikes me as a very strong word -- and no matter how mildly it may begin it seems to have a way of escalating -- particularly if those we are "lecturing" on their sinfulness don't agree and don't "repent" to our liking. This model for the church (judging rather than forgiving) seems again to be contrary to what Christ taught; and part of the problem with it is that it shifts the hope for action onto others: they have to change to please me. But I have no control over others' actions -- only my own. Much as I might want others to repent, I can't make them do so -- but I can repent myself, and forgive. That seems to be what Jesus is teaching.

Second, and like to it, is the question, "What does hate accomplish?" What fruit does it show? Does it really help, or bring others to repentance?

Thanks to all for the input.

*Christopher said...

It has been my experience that when that phrase is bandied about, it is used to justify oneself as pure. A solid understanding of Sin doesn't allow such a move, but denatured Reformed notions tend to conflate Sin and sins and the danger ends in moral crusades or campaigns. We have not justification of our own, God justifies us by grace, and being so justified, we'd do well not to try to lean on ourselves again by smoting others in the plucking out of their splinters while motes sit in between our own eyes.

John-Julian, OJN said...

Tobias, this is too long an essay. Edit it or omit it as you wish.
JJ+

The Jewish moral tradition differs mainly from the Christian moral tradition in that (at least in most instances) it recognizes the sinful nature of an act itself – even if that act is committed unknowingly or unintentionally. A Jew sins by breaking one of the 613 commandments of the Torah – even if s/he doesn’t know it! (Note the Psalmist asking forgiveness for “unknown” sins.) For a Jew, for instance, eating pork—even if the diner has been assured and believes that it is beef— is still counted as a “sin”, a breaking of the commandment. (Admittedly, your point on the non-act of coveting is well taken as an exception.)

In the Christian discipline known as Moral Theology, things like intention, circumstances, ignorance, limitations on one’s free will, etc. must taken into consideration in determining sinfulness. (These distinctions still exist even in our secular and civil law, e.g., manslaughter, first, second, and third degree homicide, etc.) Following your good argument, this means that traditionally for Christians “objective sin” (i.e., an objective act commonly condemned as sinful) may not always be sin (e.g., just war, self-defense, etc.).

Following Aquinas and many other others, our blessed Julian declares that “sin has no substance”; it is not a “thing”; it has no objective reality; it rather a blankness, an absence of goodness. And how can one “hate” what has no objective reality? It seems to me that sin can be “hated” only in its incarnation, in its actualization, in its “act”. And the act in order to be sinful requires the action of the will of the “sinner”. In Christian moral theology, sin can only happen when one decides to do what one believes in one’s own informed conscience to be inherently wrong—not what someone ELSE believes is inherently wrong. In order for there to be sin, one must choose to sin, and it is that voluntary choice, that act of will, which “creates” sin. [A passing note: to “create” sin is to offend against G-d’s own creation in which there is no sin.]

My point is that sin can never exist independent of a sinner: they are inseparable. Sin has no independent existence that can be “hated” in and of itself alone. I suppose one can say, “I hate the act of your will in choosing to sin”, but the “act of will”, the “choosing to sin”, is not separable from the chooser. What is actually being said is, “I think you were wrong in making that choice.” and the critic is judging the sinner her/himself to be wrong (sinful). Only a person can sin and becomes a “wrong person” in doing so. Abstract sin cannot be hated; only the sinful person can be criticized or judged or despised. And, in traditional moral theology, no one but G-d can actually know if a person is, in fact, culpable of sin.

“To hate the sin and love the sinner” is an insupportable oxymoron. In fact, what it is saying is “I love you….except for the action of your free will” but that free will is, in fact, an inseparable dimension of the very nature of that person. It is as silly as saying, “I love you….except for the way you are.”

rick allen said...

It is true that "love the sinner; hate the sin" can be used self-righteously. So can "I forgive you" be used with a wrongful condescension. That a holy directive can be bent to an unholy purpose doesn't, I think, discredit the commandment.

What I am hearing here is that sin is so much a part of who we are that to hate the sin is necessarily to hate the person, that such a movement is not a weakness or an error but a necessity based on our true identity. It strikes me as more a Jungian conception of human identity than a Christian one.

Nicholas not the Wonderworker said...

Re Aquinas and "hate the sin":
In the Summa Theologiae (IIa IIae, q.25 art.6) Thomas finds this distinction embedded in the great tradition in which he wrote. He was trying to make sense of Scriptural verses like Ps. 119:113 where the Psalmist says, "I hate those who have a divided heart," in the light of the Lord's command to love our neighbor (a category, as Augustine pointed out, that includes the folks with a divided heart). As part of his analysis Thomas quotes Aristotle's remarks on how we should treat our friends when they do something with which we disagree (love the friend, hate the action). I think Thomas takes the distinction from Aristotle and uses it to explain the apparent contradiction between the Evangelist and the Psalmist.

Getting back to Tobias' essay: I think that saying that Jesus does not deal with sin apart from sinners is extremely helpful. As a matter of fact, Jesus does not seem to have been much of an abstract thinker by preference. His focus seems always to be on doing rather than thinking. From all reports, on the Last Day we will be not asked what our understanding of atonement is.

The Lord's commands to love our enemies and to forgive without limitation are hard to take and seem to go very much against the grain. Rather than working to love those with whom we disagree, we make a distinction between the people and what they think. We then purport to ignore the people and deal only with their errors, which we have no obligation to love. As a way of going forward, this is much easier than having to love the people, which is messy. We would do better to ignore the error and to focus on loving those who hold it.

I think Christopher is right, there is an element of pride and self-justification in the kind of thinking that allows us to focus on the correction of the sins of others. We should instead try to have the mind that is in Christ Jesus and empty ourselves.

It is so easy to forget: "Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven."

Mark J. said...

For what it is worth, I don't think there's anything wrong with hating the way someone behaves, or the result of behavior. But I do agree with the original post: Jesus did not promote this. So... If you're going to hate murder, fine, but don't do so out of religious convictions (i.e. my faith demands I hate the sin).

I preached a sermon this week aimed at all those people who walk around carrying signs that say, "God Hates __________" (pick your minority). That is one of the most absurd concepts I've ever heard. God is Love. God may weep when someone does something wrong, I can't know. But I'm pretty sure that the God who gave His only Son to die for us... Doesn't hate.

I can't help but wonder if expressions like "Hate the sin, love the sinner" contribute to all this. Somehow allowing hate to creep into religion, until we begin attributing it to God.

Ann said...

This came as an email tag in a note from a friend:
"The days are too short even for love; how can there be enough time for quarreling?"
-Margaret Gatty

Jon said...

The one concern I have in advocating against hating sin is that it can be taken as saying that sin isn't a big deal no matter what. The problem is that there are sins that need to be opposed in others, and one's own sins are probably even more important to pull up by the roots.

Jon

Mary Clara said...

Hatred is not an ethical standpoint but a negative emotion by which a person or group becomes possessed. I am 65 years old and I have yet to see it produce any good fruits. There is no basis whatsoever for encouraging people to hate anybody or anything! One cannot be an effective moral thinker or an effective worker for peace, justice or ethical behavior while in a state of hatred. Hatred blinds.

When we see something destructive and immoral going on, it is natural enough to feel revulsion, horror, anger and perhaps even hatred for the perpetrator. But in order to move forward constructively, to solve the problem, restore peace or bring the wrongdoer to justice in the proper court of law, one has to get past being possessed by horror or hatred. Any officer of the law is rendered ineffective by hatred and is likely to commit legal and ethical violations in that state. Equally, any citizen or church member under the sway of hatred (whether of a person or a 'sin') is ineffective and in a state of sin. Hatred simply has no ethical value. I'm with Tobias: Enough of hate!

Anne Kennedy said...

Tobias+,

I have an 18 year old friend with bone cancer. It is far along and will likely end her life. It is deep within her and cannot be gotten out. I hate that cancer with every fiber. But I hate that cancer because I love her.

Jesus command to forgive does not at all mean to make peace with sin whether it be inborn or actual. It simply means that we love people anyway in the same way that we love ourselves anyway. I hate those impulses within me that rebel against God and, even more, I hate those actions I commit that diplease him. But I hate these things because I love myself. And I forgive them because I love myself. This is precisely the sort of love called for in the gospel toward others.

matt

Grandmère Mimi said...

John-Julian, if you're still lurking about, I have heard good things about your book on Julian, and I will look further into getting a copy.

I used the version of Julian in the old language, because I could not find a modern translation that was in the public domain. My abridged copy of Julian's works did not have that quote in it.

Tobias said...

Dear Matt,

As a cancer-survivor myself your analogy strikes close to home. I would still suggest that the idea of hate is very hard to find in the Gospel -- most particularly hate directed against others -- who they are or what they do. The gospel message appears to be the call to overcome hate with love.

At the same time, and perhaps closer to the analogy you use, Jesus does say we are to cut off that part of our own anatomy that is leading us to sin. As I say, this kind of rigorous introspection and self-critique is a deeply Gospel value. The moral problem, as Jesus frames it, appears to arise with the tendency of turning this valid self-critique out upon others. Obviously we are not to love our own sins, or make peace with them. But it seems to me that Jesus is very, very clear about the danger of directing that gaze of judgment against others.

thomas bushnell, bsg said...

rick seems to offer us a dichotomy: if we do not hate the sin, we must be ok with it. what is there to forgive if sin is not hateful? etc.

i think in one sense, that it doesn't even make sense to speak of hating sin. fundamentally, hatred is only something you can have for a person, just as love is. when we say we "hate disease" or "love pizza" or "hate war" and "love peace", we do not use those words in the same way as when we hate or love a person. to hate someone is to wish them harm; to love someone is to wish them well (at least, as the beginning of what "hate" and "love" mean, if certainly not the final word).

this is why "hating sin" so easily becomes "hating sinners", because the more we try to make that hatred of sin really hatred the more it has to attach to the person, because, strictly speaking, it is only possible to hate or love a person.

what i find problematic then in rick's question--and it's a very good question still--is that the question assumes that i must have some attitude or other to "sin" in the abstract. it is this, perhaps, which must be rejected.

as regards myself, i quite properly do detest my own sin, and this leads me inevitably either to despair or faith, in the movement which Kierkegaard describes in Sickness Unto Death.

but as regards other--which is where this little quote is most used--i am not called by my Lord to have any attitude towards my neighbor's sin. it is not appropriate for me to love it or to hate it or to struggle against it or to do any of those other things, for i am not my neighbor's judge. to judge my neighbor's actions is to judge my neighbor, and i am not the judge. Period.

what i am called to do is to love my neighbor, and to forgive whatever wrong against me i perceive them to have done. part of that forgiveness is to regard their hurt of me as no longer determinative of our relationship. but i cannot do that and at the same time fret about my proper way of understanding what they have done; for the proper understanding is to say "this is not going to be of importance between us". to fret about the question "should I hate it?" is to have not yet forgiven it.

rick allen said...

"...when we say we "hate disease" or "love pizza" or "hate war" and "love peace", we do not use those words in the same way as when we hate or love a person."

I think you are entirely correct in that. We use the term equivocally when we apply it to persons or to sins. So you are entirely right that we do not hate war in the sense that we may hate a person.

Still, I don't know what other language to use--we don't have a separate vocabulary for negative judgments proper only for acts or categories of sin. That's my only point, I think: I don't know how else to express a detestation for murder, or oppression, or comtempt, or whatever other sins one may have in mind. If we are constrained to use ordinary language, how do we convey even elementary ethical ideas?

Interestingly, even in the Summa Theologica, I notices that St. Thomas has two separate articles on "hatred" (whether the terms are identical in Latin I don't know). One is in the treatise on passions, the other on the virtues, recognizing that hatred is, on the one hand, an emotion, a passion, not itself sinful or virtuous, but an inner movement often not subject to our control. In the other article he discusses hatred as a vice opposed to love, where he has note the difference between hating people (in one sense the worst sin, as the most directly opposed to the imperative to love) and hating sins (which he, like you, notes is entirely separate).

thomas bushnell, bsg said...

Still, I don't know what other language to use--we don't have a separate vocabulary for negative judgments proper only for acts or categories of sin.

Quite right. But we are not called to make such judgments, so what does it matter that we lack the vocabulary to make them?

If I say that so-and-so murdered a family, and I add that this caused them tremendous pain and suffering, what more do I say by adding "oh, and that's a sin, and I hate sin" if not to level a judgment against so-and-so?

rick allen said...

"But we are not called to make such judgments,"

Here, though, it seems to me that you are failing to make the distinction you rightly point out above.

When Jesus tells us not to judge others, he is surely talking about something directed to persons. He can't be telling us to disregard the different between right and wrong, to refrain from determining what is in accord with his command to love and what opposes it.

I'll apologize as I've probably gone on far too long with this and am beating a long-dead horse. But it seems to me that the admirable admonition not to judge others ought not to be be allowed to excuse us from the obligation to inform our consciences to conform the law of love so central to the message of Jesus.

Tobias said...

Rick, no apology needed as this is a meaningful discussion, IMHO. Two quick things, as the day is drawing to a close:

1) the knowledge of the difference between right and wrong, the old, old story tells us, brought with it the curse of death. That is something to think about.

2) By focusing on love rather than hate, one can build up rather than tear down. As none of us can ever be completely free from sin, is it not better to concentrate on the good rather than simply to bemoan the bad? My sense is that the more we practice "loving our enemies" the more we will find it unnecessary to judge them. It is a school of charity to which we are called, that love which Paul so eloquently described as bearing all things; and in Christ we have the ultimate example of this "bearing." I don't know if you read my sermon posted here, but it expands on this theme a bit.
All the best,
Tobias

thomas bushnell, bsg said...

rick, i do not think Jesus cares for us to answer abstract questions about what is right and wrong. you are entirely correct that the way i have been talking (and i think my brother too) would make it impossible to do this in the usual way. this is not an accident.

i can certainly still address questions about what it is right and wrong for me to do, but i lose the ability to talk about abstract questions or other people's behavior in these terms. yes. exactly the point, and i'm glad it's coming across.

you say "When Jesus tells us not to judge others, he is surely talking about something directed to persons. He can't be telling us to disregard the different between right and wrong, to refrain from determining what is in accord with his command to love and what opposes it."

when you say "he can't be telling us..." i think that, in fact, this is exactly what he is telling us--except in the single case of my own self and my own actions. he is saying precisely that it is not my concern whether my neighbor's behavior is in accord with Jesus' command to love.

Anonymous said...

What a great exchange!

As I see it, there is only one sin that underlies all sins. That sin is unbelief. If I don’t believe God is totally there for each of us, I will try to protect myself and others by doing whatever seems right. Peter tried that with Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane.

/s/ Diane

What could have Peter done that would have been consistent with Jesus’ teachings? What can we do in such situations? It seems to me that if we start with radical belief in the one true God, faithful actions will follow.

Tobias said...

Recall that my original point was that this statement "Jesus said, Hate the sin, love the sinner" is false. Jesus never said that. I don't think he would have said it -- at least about other people's sins. (He said you could be as hard as you like on yourself, even up to the point of amputation!)

Historical review: The principle goes back to Aristotle, and was incorporated by Augustine in his letter to a convent of sisters, hence became a part of the Augustinian Rule. It was also advanced, in its modern form, by no one less than Mahatma Gandhi.

It is one way of doing ethics; but I would argue it is not Jesus' way. In fact, I would observe that there is more than a hint of dualism at work here when you look at its proponents -- a kind of disincarnational approach: as if one could separate the sin from the sinner.

Ultimately, hate is unhelpful. It is unproductive. It draws us to our own emotions and attitudes and blinds us to our own failings, for if we are busy focusing on the things done against us, we are less likely to see the wrongs we do ourselves.

rick allen said...

"...as if one could separate the sin from the sinner."

So (to put the question as starkly as possible), what is your attitude toward the unity of the person of Adolph Hitler and what he did? Love 'em both? Hate em both?

As Bonhoeffer wrote:

"Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession....Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner."

Tobias said...

Rick, I guess I don't understand what you don't understand. So let me try to answer your stark question. I think Adolph Hitler did many terrible things. But I don't see how my (or anyone else) "hating" those things -- or him -- accomplishes anything. I think the most loving thing would be to try to get him to stop doing those terrible things, not only for the harm being done to others but the harm to himself. I think hate would get in the way, as hate causes blindness. When we dare presume to deal with another's sins, we had best be as aware as possible of the risk we take, and hate will not help us to do right.

I don't see anything in the quote from Bonhoeffer about hate. Hate would be, in one sense, the "cheap" way of dealing with another.

I hope this helps.

rick allen said...

Perhaps it is only a quibble about words. To me, to hate a sin is not to be blind, but to see precisely its effect, and to appreciate in ones very bones the horror of its effects.

I have given as an example the hatred of war. How can we not hate the mass killing, the unimaginable suffering, the destruction of whole communities, the blighting of hope of whole generations? I simply do not see a detached general benevolence as the only appropriate Christian attitute. Is this not a repudiation of the whole prophetic side of the Church's proclamation? Do we abhor the message of Amos?

"Hate evil, and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the LORD, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.... "I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and cereal offerings, I will not accept them, and the peace offerings of your fatted beasts I will not look upon. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream."

Perhaps I am conflating this post with your later insistence on the wrongness of insisting on repentence. To repent, I think, is to deny and break that unity you seem to insist on between the sinner with the sin. To repent was the first message of Jesus. It assumes that one can, in fact, move "in a Godward direction," by a constant striving to overcome one's sin, which is not who I am, but which is the very thing which obscures my true identity. If I and my sin are inseparble, how am I to be reconciled to God and my neighbor?

Too much, perhaps. But I fear a tendency to boil the faith down to "You're OK just as you are." If it is true that God loves us--and it is--what is it that he can possibly be asking us to change, other than something in us, something we embrace, which is not ourselves, something which poisons us, and our relationships, and or life, which we call sin? And what is God's attitude to sin, and how should the Church address it, and how must we look on that which is in itself thoroughly hateful?

Tobias said...

Dear Rick,
It is abundantly clear to me from your latest comment that you do not understand what I am proposing. I am not saying we should not call to repentance, or in fact repent. I am not saying we should not oppose sinful behavior, or even criticize it. I am talking about "hate" -- which is an emotional attitude.

I do not, for example "hate" war. To take a better example, something that really bothers me, torture. I do not "hate" it -- but I think it is very very wrong, and it makes me angry to hear people try to justify it. I try to control my anger, and address the issue with all my power.

Repentance is turning away from our sin. The good news is that God comes to us "while we are yet sinners" -- though God wants us to repent, God also is the source of the grace to repent; and God also forgives the sins of which we do not repent because we don't see them as sins. And I have found that hatred of others (or their sins) is an excellent blinder to ones own sins. This is why, I think, Jesus told us not to hate even our enemies.

I realize that is hard. The natural human thing is to hate those who hurt you; by extension to hate those who hurt those dear to you; by further extension to hate things you think are wrong even when they don't affect you directly. But Jesus calls us away from that, for he knew how much it blinds the hater to his own sins, actually making it harder for him to repent himself.

Prior Aelred said...

Re: Gandhi -- (IMHO) his point was that the powerless oppressed people must continue to love their oppressors even though their actions were wrong -- this seems to me to be quite different from the typical current usage which usually means, "I 'love' you in theory, but in reality I completely reject you until you change who you are."
(OCICBW)

Cindi Knox said...

For a while I've been using "Bless 'em all and let God sort 'em out", inspired by "Kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out" ("Tuez-les tous; Dieu reconnaitra les siens." - Arnaud-Amaury, Abbot of Citeaux) and the parable of the Wheat and the Tares (Matthew 13:24–30).

It's not our job to pull up the weeds - there is one far better qualified.