We should always love the sinner and hate the sin . . .
Yeah, yeah, yeah. We’ve all heard it. Over the past decade we’ve heard this trite little phrase uttered ad nauseam. Of all the simplistic Christian clichés, “love the sinner, hate the sin” ranks as one of the worst. It has long outlived its welcome. Maybe at one time it was a compassionate attitude to cultivate toward the “sinners” you were trying to evangelize, but now it has become a trigger-phrase which causes the Evangelized to turn his back and hope you disappear like Freddy Krueger.
The most irritating thing about this platitude is that it’s one of those things people say that on the surface is correct, but masks unhealthy attitudes or needs further clarification. Originally it comes from St. Augustine. Actually, St. Augustine said we should proceed “with love for mankind and hatred of sins”, which isn’t exactly the same thing*, but the bastardized version is far simpler and easier to wrap your head around, so that’s the version that stuck in everyone’s heads.
Though theoretically it could be applied to any and all sinful behavior, it has become increasingly more associated with Christian teaching on homosexuality – usually spewed forth whenever the lavender mafia accuses an orthodox Christian of homophobia. In and of itself there is nothing wrong with loving the sinner and hating their sins, but if there’s one thing the secular world is good at it’s sniffing out hypocrisy and boy do they see right through that.
Theoretically, of course, we love all people, including those with immoral lifestyles, but in practice how often does this actually happen? How often do the “love the sinner” crowd invite gay folks to Church or show them actual, down to earth, friendship, rather than just love in theory. The same people who preach “love the sinner, hate the sin” are the same people who are scandalized by depictions of gay relationships on television, or throw a fit if they find out their child goes to school with a kid whose parents are of the same sex. Those on the other side of the culture war (can we just declare that absurdity over, for God’s sake?) are hip to the fact that “love the sinner, hate the sin” is just a political slogan to deflect charges of bigotry and hatred. I think it’s time we jettison this unhelpful and mean-spirited sentiment.
If we’re going to say, “love the sinner, hate the sin”, it’s time we actually back it up with real actions.