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Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin (pt 1): Hating Where We Ought to Hate

September 12, AD 2013 21 Comments

“There are things which rightfully we ought to fear, if we are to enjoy and dignity as men. When, in an age of smugness and softness, fear has been pushed temporarily into the dark corners of personality and society, then soon the gods of the copybook headings with fire and slaughter return. To fear to commit evil, and to hate what is abominable, is the mark of manliness. “They will never love where they ought to love,” Burke says, “who do not hate where they ought to hate.” It may be added that they will never dare when they ought to dare, who do not fear when they ought to fear….

“Forgetting that there exists such a state as salutary dread, modern man has become spiritually foolhardy. His bravado, I suspect, will stand the test no better than ancient Pistol’s. He who admits no fear of God is really a post-Christian man; for at the heart of Judaism and Christianity lies a holy dread. And a good many people, outwardly and perhaps inwardly religious . . . today deny the reality of reverential fear, and thus are post-Christian without confessing it.” (Russell Kirk, The Rarity of the God-Fearing Man).

The tendency of the blogosphere in a simple GIF, which actually makes me feel a little sorry for the horse.

I no longer consider it particularly shocking when I hear of the defection of a prominent Republican leader [] to the cause of so-called “gay marriage” []. Similarly, I am not generally surprised to hear that yet another of my Christians friends—Catholic or Protestant—has come out in favor of “gay marriage.” And, of course, there is the recent spate of public defections following the article written by Joseph Bottum for Commonweal, which is, I suppose, the closest thing to a “Catholic case for gay marriage” that can exist []. Others have looked in-depth at Mr Bottum’s defection (or betrayal) and what it means for both sides, and it’s probably old enough news by now that adding column expressing frustration or outrage–or for that matter gratitudeencouragement, hope, or even just sadness and disappointmentwould feel like beating a dead horse.

There is, however, another issue which underlies some of these defections []. Many people, including many Christians in general (who should probably know better) and many Catholics in particular (who should definitely know better) consider our efforts against legal recognition of “gay marriage” to be a waste. This is certain, and it’s been stated. Less certain–but really not in much doubt in my mind–is that many consider the effort a waste because they want to see “gay marriage” become a reality, and not merely because they think the fight is using up political and moral capital which could be better spent elsewhere.

“Elsewhere” tends to be vague: it may be on the very important issues of fighting abortion, or the culture of death in general, or of poverty, or what-have-you. Anywhere else.

Like Mr Bottum, I have had a number of friends–and I do still consider them to be friends for now despite this–who have come out in favor of “gay marriage.” Literally, they want to see gay people getting married in the eyes of the state–and of everyone else. These are predominantly Catholic friends (that I know of), though only, I think, because I have more Catholic friends than anything else. And most of these friends have decided that they will go against Church teachings, despite being professing Catholics.

We read in the Gospel this past Sunday that “Great crowds were traveling with Jesus, and he turned and addressed them, “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:25-27).

The originator of lots of great phrases and sayings.

The originator of lots of great phrases and sayings.

It is from this passage that we may draw the phrase “love the sinner, [but] hate the sin” []. Now, to be fair, the common interpretation is that we must love God with such an all-consuming love that our love for anything else might seem “hateful” in comparison, and that when we find new life in Christ we must come to hate our old life without Him. Actually, these interpretations become one and the same: we must love God above all else, and then our neighbor (parent, sibling, friends, strangers, even enemies) as ourselves. But what does it really mean to “love”?

Many today mistake love as an emotion; others equate it with the willingness to do anything for the other person, to do whatever it takes to make that person content and satisfied, to make him “feel loved.” This second definition is nearer to the mark, in that it might require some sacrifice from the lover for the sake of the beloved, but notice that it still reduces love to an emotion only, albeit an emotional state on the part of the beloved and not the lover. Love is more than this, for to love a person is to desire the good of (or for) that person, and then to strive to help him to achieve it. Hence we say that the vocation of spouses is to help each other to become saints, for this is ultimately the good of a person, to become a saint, to live in heaven with God. The Baltimore Catechism puts it simply by stating that “God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in heaven” (BC Q6).

So what does this love, which desires the greatest good and strives for real happiness, have to do with the “hatred” preached by Jesus in last Sunday’s gospel–or for that matter with the necessity of hate noted by Burke and quoted by Kirk? How, in other words, do we get to the necessity of hating the sin as a condition of loving the sinner?

Hatred, it should be noted, is not the opposite of love, but rather is in it proper context a condition of love. When we love somebody, we begin to hate what is harmful to that person. We begin to hate what is hateful in their sight. But what is it that harms a person? As Christians, we ought to know the answer to this: all three synoptic Gospels record the same saying of Christ’s that it does not profit a man to gain the whole world if he loses his soul. And a soul is lost through sin, and through sin alone, for sin is the rejection of God, and thus also of God’s grace. Sin is the thing which destroys a soul, which ruins it and which, when unrepented, leads to separation from God, and thus from final happiness.

Therefore, if we love the sinner, and hence desire that which is good for him, we must hate his sins, which act only to deprive him of the good. If we love ourselves in accordance with the second great commandment (Matthew 22:39), we must hate our own sins for the same reason. Thus, when the LORD tells us that we must hate mother, father, sister, brother, spouse, and even our own lives to follow Him, we see that this should be read to mean that we must hate the sins of each of these people, as well as the temptation to excuse those sins (especially our own) as “harmless”, or as being somehow “normal” and thus in the final measure “acceptable.” They aren’t, and it is not an act of love to pretend that they are at the risk of endangering the sinner’s soul.

This brings me full-circle to the question of “gay marriage” and of leaving the Church, or (perhaps more commonly) at least of ignoring and even outright rejecting the Church’s teaching, namely that “gay is not o.k.” Now, again, here we look at the difference between the sins committed (e.g. attempting to simulate a sacrament, to say nothing of the lesser sins involved in a “romantic” homosexual relationship) and the actual sinner. As regards the sexual orientation, the Church states only that it is “disordered,” adding that those who struggle with same-sex attractions are deserving our our compassion: it is one more form of concupiscence, ever unique and ever common [].

Image text taken from "What's Wrong with the World."

Often, the Christian ideal has been found socially unacceptable; and left unpreached.

Yet compassion means first and foremost helping the other to rise above his sins, urging him to holiness and thus to real and lasting happiness. “Bear each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ,” St Paul tells us (Galatians 6:2). The day may yet come when we lose the culture war, or at least the front of the culture war pertaining to “gay marriage.” That will be a sad day indeed (especially since a part of that loss will eventually involve the imposition of “gay marriages” on the churches), but saddest (in the end) for those who will then attempt to get “gay-married.” It is saddest for them, because they are the ones who will then enter into a legal institution whose purpose is to promote and celebrate a particular set of sins against which they must struggle. They are the ones who are ultimately told to forget about their sins, and to cease the struggle in favor of embracing those sins as “who they are.”

Loving the sinner is absolutely necessary. But we cannot really love a person if we do not at the same time hate their sins. Nor, it seems to me, do we love God first when we celebrate sins, or tolerate them any more than is necessary for the sake of that kindness which is required by charity. This certainly becomes the more difficult for us when our friends identify with their particular sins, for pride is the deadliest of sins, the one thing necessary for making a sin unforgivable []. When our friends so identify with their sins, loving God (and even loving them) will appear hateful to them, so that it will really seem as if we hate family, friends, and even ourselves for His sake. We may therefore be tempted to turn aside from following Christ fully out of a sense of sympathy for our loved ones who identify themselves so strongly with their sins. This misguided sympathy is not, however, a good reason to waver in our faith or our fight, lest we become “unworthy” of Christ.

 

Footnotes

[] The Democrats are less surprising still. They first filibustered and then voted en masse against a constitutional amendment to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman—and this in the year 2004, when similar amendments passed in 13 out of 13 states in which they were introduced that year, and in all previous state elections.

[] “Gay marriage” is probably the most common term used, but I’ve also heard it called (by supporters): “homosexual marriage,” “queer marriage,” “marriage equality,” and of course “same-sex marriage” (SSM). I will refer to it as “gay marriage.”

[] This is not to claim that he has actually taken the step of breaking with the Church doctrinally on the question of marriage. He has stated that this was never his intention, though his article might be a source of confusion and unintended scandal nevertheless. For what it is worth, a very charitable reading of his article might suggest that he is proposing something similar to both Monsignor Charles Pope and Fr. Dwight Longenecker: neither of whom drew quite the same kind of reaction even from those of us who disagreed with them. This proposal is essentially the separation of civil “marriage” from sacramental “Holy Matrimony.” Perhaps it is the style, perhaps the length, perhaps the tone; or maybe Longenecker and Pope are just more clear in their writing and convey hope rather than despair in their posts.

[] Not just the defections, though. There are some people who have had a “change of heart” as it were on this issue. Others still have long since been privately in favor of “gay marriage” but publicly against it while looking for a reason to come out and switch public sides. Ironically, some of these will eventually use the “personally against, but politically in favor of” line which is (or was) popular in a different debate.

[] Of course, the phrase itself perhaps originates with Saint Augustine.

[] Henri Cardinal de Lubac states in his Paradoxes of the Faith that “All suffering is unique–and all suffering is common. I have to be reminded of the latter truth when i am suffering myself–and of the former truth when I see others suffering.” I think that much the same might be said of temptations to sin.

[] Blaspheming the Holy Spirit is the one unforgivable sin, but it comes in 6 varieties. It seems to me that each of these varieties can be paired with another of the capital sins, but all six also point back to pride. For what it is worth, my pairing is: envy with envy of another’s spiritual well-being, avarice with impugning a known truth, sloth with presumption, wrath with obstinacy in sin, gluttony with despair, and lust with final impenitence. The last of these is the only real stretch, and it’s less of a stretch when one realizes that the daughters of lust include blindness of mind, hatred of God, love of the world, and abhorrence/despair of a future world.

About the Author:

JC is a cradle Catholic, and somewhat of a traditionalist conservative. He earned his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Texas at Austin in the summer of 2014. He is currently a tenure-track assistant professor of physics at a university in the deep south. He is a lay member of the Order of Preachers. JC has been happily married since June of 2010. He and his lovely wife have had two children born into their family, one daughter and one son; they hope to have a few more. He has at times questioned – and more often still been questioned about – his Faith, but he has never wandered far from the Church, nor from our Lord. “To whom else would I go?”
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  • james

    Good luck with the campaign. I think your off the mark with the hating mom, dad,
    wife, children excerpt. I believe it means to literally leave them to dedicate the
    rest of your life to God after you have ( in the case of a householder ) married and reared children. This is supported in the Vedic teachings. I believe you to be one of those Catholics who were disappointed when the church finally descended into true humilty and affirmed that anyone can get to heaven no matter what creed.
    Hope you don’t give up your friends (shun) after finding out you can’t quite reach far enough to take the specks from their eyes. But we do need your stand – as a
    ship needs rudder to keep it from turning to far.

    • “I think your [sic.] off the mark with the hating mom, dad, wife, children excerpt. I believe it means to literally leave them to dedicate the rest of your life to God after you have ( in the case of a householder ) married and reared children.”

      Did you know that there is typically more than one correct way to interpret passages from the Bible? It’s really neat how one passage can mean more than one thing. How did they pack so many layers of (complementary) meaning into such a short amount of space?

      • bjergtrolde

        “But we do need your stand – as a ship needs rudder to keep it from turning to far.”

        Yours too- as a balloon needs hot air to send it soaring.

      • james

        … so everyone can see it and make up their own minds.

      • james

        Truth for all ages – it is a mystery.

    • “I believe you to be one of those Catholics who were disappointed when the church finally descended into true humilty and affirmed that anyone can get to heaven no matter what creed…Hope you don’t give up your friends (shun) after finding out you can’t quite reach far enough to take the specks from their eyes.”

      Thanks for that: I needed a good laugh, even at my own apparent expense.

      • bjergtrolde

        Man, that’s no fun.

  • Howard

    It is possible to tell a lie while only telling the truth.

    For example, suppose you noticed that your hometown newspaper was running a lot of stories about Hispanics being arrested and tried for crimes, but that something was missing: there were no stories about Hispanics doing anything good, and there were no stories about any other ethnicity being arrested. Even if every arrest story is verifiably true in every detail, the overall picture presented by the paper would be a lie — the lie that Hispanics are somehow different, perhaps congenitally criminal.

    Well, I’ve noticed that “professional Catholics” are doing something very similar. I don’t know when the last time was that I read a “professional Catholic’s” criticism of the gay agenda that didn’t include the “love the sinner, hate the sin” bit, but I haven’t seen any articles about how we may hate the use of poison gas against innocent civilians, but we must love the people who use the gas. I’ve never seen an article that said we must hate the abuse of immigrants, but love the abusers. Ariel Castro’s trial and suicide have been in the news, but I have seen no professional Catholic write that while we may hate abduction, torture, and rape, we must love torturers like Castro. (Actually, I *have* seen that, but not for something close in time and space like what Castro did in Cleveland. Do professional Catholics express love for the Muslims who abuse Coptic Christians? All the time. Or for Roman pagans who martyred early Christians? Yes. But only from such safe distances.)

    As with the newspaper example, this selective treatment also sends a message, and that message is a lie: that homosexual activity is not really REALLY wrong. Rape and murder and defrauding the poor are REALLY wrong, we all agree, but the cumulative impression of all these articles is that actual belief of professional Catholics is that sodomy is really not very important — it is more like bad taste and poor manners — only they are not at liberty to say so directly.

    • That’s an interesting point (FWIW, until I read your last paragraph, I
      thought you were about to draw the opposite conclusion). I haven’t ever looked to see how and when the phrase “love the sinner but that the sin” is applied to different issues, but for the sake of discussion suppose you are right. My (sorry, rushed) answer is that there is one critical difference between those who are part of the “gay agenda” and basically all of these other sins: rapists don’t identify themselves primarily with their sin, nor do the people who use poison gas claim that “it’s ok, because that’s a part of who I am!”

      Where I see the actual “love the sinner, hate the sin” idea actually applied best in in a different sin, that of abortion. The people praying in front of the clinics, the people who staff crisis pregnancy centers or volunteer for Gabriel project, etc: these absolutely hate abortion; yet they also very obviously want to help the women (and men) who are tempted by it. I haven’t look particularly thoroughly to see if they also use “love the sinner, hate the sin” in their rhetoric (for lack of a better word), yet this is very clearly what they are doing in practice. I think the big question becomes, how do we do the equivalent with respect to the sin of homosexuality? With respect to the other sexual sins? With respect to any given sin which is widely practiced and widely celebrated in our culture–and for that matter with respect to the sins which particularly affect us directly?

      Just the rough draft of a thought. 🙂

      • Howard

        “My (sorry, rushed) answer is that there is one critical difference between those who are part of the ‘gay agenda’ and basically all of these other sins: rapists don’t identify themselves primarily with their sin, nor do the people who use poison gas claim that ‘it’s ok, because that’s a part of who I am!'” I’m not sure that’s an essential difference. In any case, racists sincerely believe that what you and I and the Church regard as a sin is just their identity. They believe that anyone of their particular race is morally obligated to promote their racial superiority — yet there are very few “love the racist, hate the racism” columns.

        All this brings to mind a passage from one of Chesterton’s Father Brown stories, “The Chief Mourner of Marne”:

        “There is,” said Father Brown dryly; “and that is the real difference between human charity and Christian charity. You must forgive me if I was not altogether crushed by your contempt for my uncharitableness to-day; or by the lectures you read me about pardon for every sinner. For it seems to me that you only pardon the sins that you don’t really think sinful. You only forgive criminals when they commit what you don’t regard as crimes, but rather as conventions. So you tolerate a conventional duel, just as you tolerate a conventional divorce. You forgive because there isn’t anything to be forgiven.”

        I don’t disagree with forgiveness, of which I am very much in need, and I don’t disagree with “love the sinner, hate the sin”; after all, I am a sinner myself. But I was able to guess correctly from the title what this post was going to be about. It should not be so easy. It is quite correct to point out that sodomy is not the gravest of all possible sins, but it is wrong to ever lose sight of the fact that it is nonetheless a grave sin that must be unapologetically condemned.

        As for the pro-life movement, you’re absolutely right. My comments about the use of the phrase really cover only the past 2 or 3 years — the time at which resistance to “gay marriage” seems to have collapsed, and quislings started to profess their sudden “evolution” to adherence to the new creed.

      • “But I was able to guess correctly from the title what this post was going to be about. It should not be so easy. It is quite correct to point out that sodomy is not the gravest of all possible sins, but it is wrong to ever lose sight of the fact that it is nonetheless a grave sin that must be unapologetically condemned.”

        Fair enough, and sorry to seem so predictable. Notice that this is article part 1. I had already written part 2 when this was published, so that will be on Tuesday. The topic will be “misguided sympathy.”

        In the meantime, I have written fairly extensively on this subject elsewhere, and have never said that sodomy was anything other than sinful. For example:

        “while I think that homosexual acts such as sodomy are sinful, and indeed I agree with St Thomas that they may be more sinful than even a variety of heterosexual acts, I also recognize that we are all sinners….the problem [with much of pastoral care] is that [it often] is too light on repentance. That is to say, it meets the people where they are, but then leaves them there. That is precisely what pastoral care should not be about.”

      • Howard

        OK. My complaint was not against you personally, just as it would not have been against any particular arrest story. It’s the pattern that bothers me.

        My favorite verse from “Amazing Grace” is the one that goes, “‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, And grace my fears relieved. …” It does no one any good when people representing the Church try to relieve fears that do not exist. In today’s social climate, it’s hard to get agreement that just about anything other than genocide is really, REALLY wrong. To quote an Isaac Watts, hymn, “Is this vile world a friend to grace, To help me on to God?” Certainly not, and it is not providing the prerequisite fear — not a fear of consequences, a fear of debasing oneself by doing something that really is evil, a fear that is closely related to shame. It need not be (to begin with) the fear of God, but it needs to be felt.

        Let me be perfectly clear that the numb shamelessness that infects society is by no means confined to homosexual behavior, or even to sexual sins in general. The Church MUST be a channel of grace that first teaches hearts to fear, before relieving the fear, but too many churchmen have a different kind of fear — craven cowardice.

        When the contraceptive mandate in Obamacare came out, what did we hear? “It’s not about contraception; it’s about religious freedom.” And, “No one is saying you should not have access to contraceptives, but people should not have to violate their religious convictions by paying for it for you.” What you DID NOT HEAR was a vigorous defense of why contraception is wrong for EVERYONE, Catholic or not, so that yes, it WOULD be best to make contraception unavailable. There was no stomach for a fight that could not be predictably won in a single election cycle.

        Sorry, that’s another example related to sex, but it would not be difficult to find other examples. Take blasphemy. It’s tempting to say that America no longer recognizes that blasphemy is wrong, but that’s not true; it just has different gods these days. You can get away with saying anything you want about Jesus, especially in “comedy”, and you can argue that His birthday should not be a holiday — but THOU SHALT NOT take the name of Martin Luther King in vain, nor suggest that his birthday should not be a holiday.

        But I’m in danger of losing my main point, which is this: Until people accept that sin really is sin, it does them no good to be told that we hate the sin but love the sinner.

      • james

        “But I’m in danger of losing my main point, which is this: Until people accept that sin really is sin, it does them no good to be told that we hate the sin but love the sinner.”

        Sin means nothing and should not be taken seriously unless you can show consequences. Corporeal and temporal paybacks work. Spiritual threats do not. Take
        the ten commandments: thou shalt nots. Take ie: coveting goods. It leads to envy which can cause physiological chnges in the gastro tracts, the brain,
        blood pressure. It can ruin friendships, cause people to go broke keeping up with the Joneses, it can lead to theft for which there are criminal penalties. Take coveting wives. It can lead to murder in certain societies, physical violence for giving someone a wrong look (luist), it can lead to adultry, broken homes and broken children. It is definately responsible for more pain to husbands, wives, friends and colleagues than can ever be recorded. Now
        factor in adultry- murder, violence, hatred, lost friends,
        colleagues, extended family, family, estranged kids
        from one or both parents who in turn affect society with
        their psychotic/neurotic ills. Take bearing false witness.
        it can lead to guilt that never ends, perjury and jail time.
        It can brand you for life, alienate you from friends and
        family and result in vengence/violence. Take not keeping holy the Lord’s day. It can lead to overtime and working on days when you should be with family and
        more important resting as God knew we needed. This
        can lead to stress, heart attacks and lost opportunities
        with family and friends, early death and bonding with
        ones congregation which offers words of support and
        hope and community. Take not honoring ones mom
        and dad. It leads to guilt, broken ties, loss of wisdom
        passed down from generations, it breaks homes.
        Take killing, it leads to a place from whence one can never return. St Paul dealt with this pain all his life.
        Take having strange gods, like money, power and
        fame, it leads to nowhere and all you have to show
        to prove this is the daily newspapaper. Take stealing
        it can blow good jobs for years because of one CORI
        check, it breaks friendships and the loss of trust is a
        tag that will follow one for decades. Take taking the
        Lord’s name in vain. It leads to a break with ones
        higher power and if you lose that you will have big problems for the rest of your life. Real karma for
        real people. You want to scare people. Look up the
        very credible scenarios of reincarnation – coming back
        to learn lessons one didn’t have time for. This is what
        todays generation can understand.

      • Howard

        James, I recognize you from earlier as a troll with his own weird religion that is not Christianity (whatever you may say), so I will only feed you this much: If you believe that the spiritual is not important, you have no business on this thread. Love and hate, sin and forgiveness are all spiritual in their essence, and since you willfully refuse to see that, you not only have nothing of value to contribute, you don’t even have anything of interest.

        Furthermore, there is no reason this thread should have interest to you. I think the whole vampire romance thing about the “Twilight” series is silly rubbish, so because of that I do not hang out on blogs dedicated to “Twilight” and engage fans of the genre as they discuss minutiae that I find utterly without worth. This is how all normal people behave. Go hang out at a cooking blog instead — that’s all about the temporal, corporeal aspect that you value so much, and it will teach you to feed yourself. I will feed you no more.

      • bjergtrolde

        Hey, don’t knock vampire romance novels when talking to james. You’re insulting him, since they have far more to say to us than he does.

      • james

        The fact that you and ole Howie were compelled to read
        all 453 words made it so worthwhile. ( and to think I was almost inspired to do the corporeal and spiritual works of mercy next )

      • bjergtrolde

        Who says I read the whole thing? I got this far before I started to smell the sulfur: “Sin means nothing and should not be taken seriously unless you can show consequences.” I skipped the rest on the basis that it was not worth the read.
        Glad you could validate my hypothesis on that one, champ.

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