Soulforce, an LGBT advocacy group, will be on our campus this week. In light of the visit, I was reading an article--"Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin" And Other Modern Day Heresies--by Dr. Patrick Cheng, an ordained gay minister.
In the article Dr. Cheng argues that the mantra "hate the sin, but love the sinner" is wrongheaded, both biblically and psychologically, a kind of modern day heresy:
As an openly-gay Christian theologian and minister, I believe that the slogan of "Love the sinner, hate the sin," no matter how well-intentioned, is theologically unsound. Not only is this an unbiblical concept, but it is also not workable in practice. In fact, when it comes to LGBT sexualities and gender identities, I contend that this slogan is actually a modern-day version of gnosticism, which was condemned as heretical by early Church theologians such as Irenaeus in the second century.Here's a bit of Dr. Cheng's argument that the "hate the sin, but love the sinner" formulation is unbiblical:
First, "love the sinner, hate the sin" is an unbiblical concept. Many people think that this is a divine command, but it actually doesn't appear anywhere in the Bible. Although God clearly "hates" sin in the Bible (sane in Hebrew and miseo in the Greek), God never demands that we carry out this hatred on God's behalf. God is perfectly capable of addressing the sins of others without needing our third-party intervention. Those who truly believe in "hating sin" probably should focus more on hating their own sins (i.e., first taking the log out of their own eyes, as Jesus says) instead of hating the sins of others. (See Matt. 7:5 and Luke 6:42.)My take is that people might quibble with Dr. Cheng's biblical argument. More interesting to me is the psychological argument, that the "hate the sin, love the sinner" notion is just psychologically a nonstarter. Empathy and moral outrage tend to work at cross purposes:
Indeed, Jesus Christ did not subscribe to "love the sinner, hate the sin" when it came to his own actions. He simply loved the sinner. Period. Throughout the gospels, Jesus loved -- and indeed hung out with and even broke bread with -- sinners such as tax collectors and sexual outcasts. He physically touched those people who were considered too unclean under the Levitical laws to come into contact with "normal" society. In fact, Jesus was roundly criticized by the "respectable" people of his day for welcoming sinners into his circle of followers. He upset the religious and political authorities so much that they eventually arrested him and put him to death.
Second, "love the sinner, hate the sin" simply does not work in practice. It may sound appealing to love LGBT people while also hating their sexual practices, but it is rarely -- if ever -- possible to separate the act from the person. Despite their best intentions, most Christians who "hate the sins" of same-sex acts or transgenderism inevitably end up hating LGBT people as well. Period. The rhetoric of "loving the sinner" is precisely that; it is often nothing more than a wink and a nod that gives people permission to commit brutal acts of spiritual and physical violence against their LGBT sisters and brothers.I've actually thought a great deal about these dynamics. One of my published papers--Spiritual pollution: the dilemma of sociomoral disgust and the ethic of love--tries to puzzle through the psychological dynamics in play.
So, any opinions on this? Two issues seem to be on the table. Is "hate the sin, love the sinner" biblical? Is "hate the sin, love the sinner" psychologically possible?