Hate the sin. Love the sinner?


I was raised in the evangelical church. (Which may actually explain a lot about me. I mean, sins of the flesh, bring it on!) I read my Bible. In fact, I read the Bible cover to cover probably a dozen times. I know my written Word. And one thing that isn’t in there is this Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin mantra. A brief Googling of this phrase leads me to no answers about who coined it, St. Augustine, C. S. Lewis. No idea. But people love this phrase.

It pops up a lot in debates about queer rights. “Well, God calls us to love the sinners, not the sin. So I love my gay friends, but I won’t let them sin by getting married.” Sound familiar? Or in the abortion debate. “I hate abortion, but I have love for women who have them.”

I hate this phrase. I think it’s a pathetic way to hate on a group of people without hating directly on anyone you know. From the psychology class I had in high school, it’s a tool for resolving cognitive dissonance. You hate the idea of two guys doing the horizontal mamba, but you know someone who is into it, and you don’t hate that person.

Or, publicly, you need to look like you do. When I worked at the abortion clinic, I had far more respect for the people who came out and said they hated all of us, than the people who gave me the I Hate Abortion, But I Stil Love Clinic Workers line. The people who really hate a group of people, but cover their hatred with the “lovin’ the sinner and hatin’ on the sin” song and dance, that’s just pathetic.

How can you separate out who a person is from what they do? Moreover, what they do that makes them happy? I know that’s bad psychology of me, but I’ve strayed from that path long ago. (I mean, one psychology class does not an expert make.) Rather, I think the aggregate actions of a person are part of who they are.

Now, apply this to the sex workers’ rights movement. I’ve heard so many so-called feminist arguments about hating the system of sex work but having nothing but compassion for individual sex workers. It feeds into the adoration of systems that criminalize only the solicitation of sex, not the seller of such sexual experience.

That is not to say I lock stock and barrel support the system of sex work. It has its problems. But I’ve never decried the whole idea of sex work. It’s people who decry the whole idea, but still “love” individual sex workers I just don’t get. Sex work is at least part of who I am. It’s not all of it. I’ve gotten myself into trouble in the past making it my whole identity. But it’s at least a small part of me. Of the wonderful, infuriating, contradictory grey zone of who I am.

Hate the sin? Well, then, I guess you have to hate me.


7 Responses to “Hate the sin. Love the sinner?”

  1. Thank you! That is such a bullshit, false dichotomy, it’s not even funny. Good job.

  2. Well, you’re argument works for abortion and it mostly works for homosexuality, since people there are choosing to engage in sin. When it comes to sex work though, since sex workers are considered to be victims of the system, it isn’t necessary to blame them.

    • It’s not about choice or victimhood (since either purely exists), it’s about the inherent contradiction. I don’t believe sex workers either purely choose or are purely victims.

  3. Sure. I’m merely arguing that the people who feel that prostitution is mostly about being a victim and to a very limited amount about choice (if at all), are (presumable) sincere in their believe, flawed as it may be.

    On rereading your post, I’m no longer sure if you are suggesting that they are not, though that is what I took away initially.

  4. Hey, Jane! Great post.

    If hate is the opposite of love, how can anyone love a sinner and hate the sin? It’s just not possible. And if God is love (which the Bible does say!), how can there be hate in God?

    Thanks for adding me to your blog roll.

  1. 1 Being Amber Rhea » Blog Archive » links for 2009-01-17

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