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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Hate is, well, hate.

My apologies. Today has been a bit of a whirl.

Tonight promises to be a veritable tornado. I'm scurrying as I write this.

What I did have time to write today, was this post on HOB/D - that's House of Bishops/Deputies listserv - an internet communication tool of bishops and deputies elected to General Convention.

A wee bit of context: We've been having a discussion - believe it or not - on the scintillating topic of "Hate the sin, love the sinner."

No, I'm not kidding.

One of the more air headed of the conservative members of the list started us off. He annoyed me by referring to HOB/D as a "chat room."

No, I'm not kidding.

Another of the 'good ole boys' chimed in with quotes from CS Lewis on the matter.

We were then treated to guesses about possible scriptural source until we learned that the source of this quote came from the root of all thoughts about (sexual) evil, 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."

The phrase has become more famous expressed as "Love the sinner but hate the sin" or "Hate the sin and not the sinner" (the latter form appearing in Mohandas Gandhi's 1929
There followed other posts by otherwise intelligent people citing how it was, actually, possible to "hate the sin" but "love the sinner".

About 35 or 40 posts into this "chat", my last, poor tired nerve got pulled.

Here's what I wrote.
Oh, for Pete's sake!

It's summer, people. Can we give it a rest?

First of all HOB/D is not a "chat room". Oh, I suppose, in the strict definition of the ever-evolving language of the Internet, this is a place to have "light conversation". But, this topic - as are many of the topics on this listserv - is not "chat" - light, polite, fairly meaningless social banter.

There are people's lives involved here. Human lives. Human lives with hearts and minds and souls.

Mine. Yours.

Yes, yes. "Hate the sin, love the sinner," is solid Augustinian theology.

Yes, yes. It has many applications which ring true for many of us on this listserv.

I would bet my favorite fiercely guarded recipe for freshly brewed Summer Ice Tea (given to me years ago by a Southern woman and everyone knows that every Southern woman has her own brewed Ice Tea recipe), that those who might embrace this particular modern version of his ancient aphorism would leave his theology of sexuality in the dusty annals where it belongs.

Those of us who are LGBT know from our own lives that "Hate the sin, love the sinner" has been used as a club to beat us down and keep us "other". Less than fully human. More sinful than the rest. Even if that's not "really" what you mean.

It's the difference between "intent" and "impact."

Now that you know that, why do some of you persist on using it in the strict application?

Women have said, "When you call me, 'baby' or 'tootsie' or 'girlie' and you don't know me (especially if you are in a position of authority over me), it hurts because it makes me feel less that a adult human being. Please stop." And, we have.

People of color have said, "When you call me the n-word, it hurts because it is a word that has a painful history and makes me feel less than an adult human being. Please stop." And, we have.

Why is it that when LGBT people say, "When you call me 'faggot' or 'dyke' or use the words 'Hate the sin, love the sinner', it hurts because it has a long history of hurtful discrimination and makes me feel less than an adult human being. Please stop.", some people feel they can continue to say these things with impunity?

Why can't some on this list hear that? And, stop?

Maybe you don't have anything better to do? Perhaps staying inside, "chatting" on the internet while the AC is on is a good way for you to avoid the summer heat? So, you crank up the heat on the "chat", target a group of people, and make it uncomfortable and unbearable for them.

Are we not Christians on this listserv?

So, if you are feeling the urge to engage in idle chat, why not call a friend? Brew up some of your own special blend of Ice Tea, and sit on the deck or porch or stoop or lawn chair in the back yard where you can catch a breeze and "chat" to your hearts content?

Or, what if you went to where other people have no AC and "chat" with them about their lives - bring something cold with you to drink and share it with them as you "chat"?

Here's a great summer time activity, especially suited for the apparent maturity level of some on this list: Set up a lemonade stand and sit under the shade on your front lawn and invite some of your friends to "chat" with you while you await your next sale.

Could we just stop this? Now? Please?

It hurts.

Now you know. Now you have a choice.

No matter what you choose to do, even if someone deems it 'sinful', we'll still love you.

How does that sound?
All these many hours later, I still feel good about what I wrote.

The airhead conservative and his cohort who originally started the "chat" have stopped chatting. Well, they've at least stopped posting.

Sometimes, I despair for the state of the church.

Other times, I think there's no greater time to be a Christian, or an Episcopalian.

If 'the glory of God is (hu)mankind, fully alive", then God is surely glorified by these times "fully alive" times.

Off I go then. Talk amongst yourselves.

I'd love to know your thoughts.



My thoughts?

Joie said...

I had to delete my whole inbox today because I couldn't face the "chat." Glad you posted your response here. I have similar feelings of despairing of "Christianity" on the one hand and being so hopeful on the other.

Anonymous said...

My thoughts. Hmm, not sure they're worth anything, but you said you'd love to hear them.

I returned to the Episcopal Church after thirty-some years apostate at almost the same time as Gene Robinson was consecrated. I thought at the time, "What a mess to come back to". I even wished he had stood aside "for the good of the church", another time-worn phrase generally used by people who have only their own interests in mind.

Having since become a better Christian, although still not a good one, I've come to realize that the sexuality of my brothers and sisters has little to do with their faith, and nothing to do with mine. That's one of the things on my mind when I say, just a little bit louder than the rest of the creed, "I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church".

Folks have a right to ask that others stop using words and images when those words and images have a history of being hurtful. I think "Dixie" is a lovely melody, but I understand why it can't be played any more.

Lerewayah said...

"leave his theology of sexuality in the dusty annals where it belongs."

That's just the problem, they don't want to leave anything in any in anyone's anals.

OK, just in case, I'm being tongue in cheek. Oh, never mind. Have some tea like Elizabeth said.

MarkBrunson said...

RE: solid Augustinian theology.

That's not a selling point.

Let's say you were a layperson on a vestry, or a bishop, and I came to you and said:

"Okay. I'm a wealthy lawyer who has been living a really hedonistic lifestyle, until very recently, when my mother nagged me to start coming to church. Here's some reflections I wrote about what Christianity really means, which you outght to take very seriously, and I'd like to be a priest, please. 'Kay. Thanks!"

What would your response be?

Mine too.

Augustine the Hippo-sized-ego don't cut much ice with me.

As to the primary question: hate the sin, love the sinner is nonsense. Humans are emotionally-complex, and hate needs a tangible object. Sin is not tangible, the sinner is. It is not possible to generate hate without projecting it onto a person, animal, or thing.

Wormwood's Doxy said...

I've said it before and I'll keep saying it until people stop using that odious phrase...

Saying "Hate the sin, love the sinner" allows Christians to say the word "hate" and feel clean.

But "feeling" and "being" are two totally different things...


Brother David said...

That is disgusting Lerewayah. Someone please yank him off the stage! Quickly!!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I guess that's the problem with writing for one audience and reprinting it for another. Augustine was one of the "selling points" on HOB/D, so I was responding to it. That's all. But, your point is well taken.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Doxy - or, as Louie Crew says, they are mean people who blame God for their meanness. TYVM, Doxy.

David and John said...

As a HoB/D "kibitzer" I have kept up with the entire sordid thing. Thank you, Mother Keaton, for standing up and saying what needed to be said. Maybe this will calm the listserv...until the next conservative extremist throws a bomb out to keep the pot stirred.

Paul said...

I have commented elsewhere when this topic came up that I was raised in a fundagelical world where this was a common phrase. It always came across as an emotional impossibility and there was never any question in my mind that the sinner was "loved" with varying degrees of condescension and disgust. I was guilty of this falsehood and have been a victim of this falsehood. It just does not work and if you are deemed the sinner you know in your gut that your are not loved by the person quoting or operating out of this phrase. It is not the kind of love Jesus embodied.

Raven~ said...

right up there with "bless her heart" ... jes' sayin'

harvey said...

It's so awful that you need to say what you did, but you did say it so clearly and prophetically. Thank you.

the cajun said...

Your response? Subtle, as usual my dear.

Oh, and haven't we been 'discussing' this subject since before listservs, before the Internet, and hell, before telephones...

Indeed, if there are no NEW suggestions to offer, yes, please, give it a rest. A nice long rest.

MarkBrunson said...

Sorry, Elizabeth.

I just get set off by Augustine.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

No need to apologize, Mark. Augustine sets my teeth on edge.

MarkBrunson said...

You know, I think that's why I so despise C. S. Lewis?

"I've been absolutely dead-set against all this Christianity until very recently. Now that I'm newly-converted, I'm going to tell you exactly what faith in Christ really is, and you'd better listen 'cause I'm great!"

Truthfully, every theologian setting out to write "theology" has to have an ego the size of a planet. The only real theology I've ever found was in poetry, personal musings, and parable, generally told or written by those with little expectation of being published.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Oh, I'm so glad you said that, Mark. You're the first person I've heard speak in at least disparaging tones about "the late, great" CS Lewis. Everyone else speaks in hushed, reverent tones, as if he's a saint or something. I think a great deal of his theology STINKS. I mean, goody-goody for him, and he makes his points eloquently, but that's not how I think of God. I love the Chronicles of Narnia but not necessarily for its theology.

Thanks, Mark. You just made my day.

Wormwood's Doxy said...

Mark and I have this friendly argument frequently. ;-)

Augustine gets up my nose--his Manichean background is so apparent in his approach to the body and sex. I agree with the Eastern Orthodox, who believe that the Western Church went badly wrong by embracing Augustinian theology (including his theology of atonement).

But I always feel compelled to stand up for my friend "St. Clive." :-)

I agree that he was sexist and homophobic. I agree that he has that annoying habit of stating opinion as fact (his status as an academic is SOOOOOO apparent!).

But he wrote "The Great Divorce," which delivered me from my fear of hell and started me on the path to universalism. After a lifetime of agonized terror of hell, I was freed from my fundamentalist enslavement to that pernicious belief and freed to love a God worth worshipping.

For that, I can forgive him for his smug convert's certainty. ;-)


David and John said...

Don't say that on the listserv, Elizabeth+. A word against the late Mr. Lewis would result in one of the usual condescending rebukes beginning with "Well, Golly..."

Paul said...

I want to note that my feelings match Mark and Elizabeth's on C. S. Lewis. Not impressed with his theology though I also love Narnia.

rick allen said...

The question then becomes, what sort of emotional response is a Christian to have to things like war, torture, genocide, and the like.

Me, I hate them, and I think that's the correct Christian response. Surely we aren't to love war, or be indifferent to genocide. Our hating such things does indeed involve us in the risk that we will hate those who perpetrate them, and Jesus has certainly commanded us that we cannot hate anyone. But if we learn to love or tolerate, say, the carpet=bombing of enemy cities, and the subsequent burning to death of thousands of innocents, we also run what I would say is a greater risk.

Most ordinary people, I think, can distinguish between hating a person and hating what is done by a person.

To take a random example from our recent history, I am not reluctant to say that I hate what Dick Cheney did to this country--I am thinking specifically of his success in bringing back torture of enemy combatants. I know that this does not justify hating Cheney himself, and I try not to do so (and its not as if he and I exactly move in the same circles in any case). But, again, I don't think it's wrong for a Christian to hate a hateful thing.

I think, in fact, most of the time when people criticise the old "hate the sin; love the sinner" maxim, the real conflict stems from a difference about whether the behavior is in fact a sin--the much contested areas of sexual behavior.

As a footnote, I'm sorry that Augustine continues to be so little thought of. I don't think, by the way, that he ever sought to be a priest. If I remember right he was drafted.

MarkBrunson said...

Well, Doxy, it's not really an argument. I'm glad you got that out of The Great Divorce, but I don't think that's anything to do with un-sainted Clive Staples.

It's you and God speaking to you. I've known people get the same sort of thing from Ghost Rider comics, or Batman.

So, I thank God for your conversion, and Clivey doesn't need my thanks, 'cause he thought enough of himself for both of us.

MarkBrunson said...

You're welcome to all the Augustine of Hippocracy you want, Rick. Here, take mine, too.

rick allen said...

"You're welcome to all the Augustine of Hippocracy you want, Rick. Here, take mine, too."

Mark, Augustine was never a lawyer, neither a pleader in the courts nor a jurisconsult. He was a teacher of grammar, then rhetoric, and at most some of his pupils may have become practitioners.

I don't know whether he would have been considered wealthy. If I remember right, he left Rome for Milan in part because so many Roman students took off without paying their fees. In any case, after his baptism he sold all his personal property and gave it to the poor, and lived in community.

It is my hope that much of the common disdain for Augustine stems from the common misconceptions that attend his life and work.

Kirkepiscatoid said...

I have sort of the same attitude about Augie that I do St. Paul--a love/hate relationship.

With both, there are parts I am like, "WOW! I totally get it! I am right with you there!" but some other parts? Well, it's more like "Why the hell did you go and say THAT. We'll be cleaning that mess up for the next 5000 years, you pompous, bigheaded ass."

As for your bumper sticker at the top of the post, I think I've told you the #1 question I plan to ask when I first behold the face of Christ is, " tell the truth. Were you expecting a new religion, or were you really shootin' for Jew 2.0?"

MarkBrunson said...

My disdain for the alleged doctor of the church stems from his incredible ego in making pronouncements that, as Kirkepiscatoid puts it, we'll be cleaning up for the next 5000 years.

He was a teacher of rhetoric for the imperial court at Milan - I'm sure he was terribly, oh-so-terribly, humble and impoverished.

His theology is largely neo-platonist garbage.

Welcome to it, if it works for you, but stop trying to peddle it to the rest of us as worthwhile. Like almost all "doctors of the church" he had more ego than insight, and foisted a personal philosophy as universal truth.