I made a cameo appearance at church last Friday night. One can deduce that one's attendance is irregular when the pastor greets you with "What are you doing here?"
I am going to assume that he was referring to my showing up on Friday rather than the occasional Sunday.
I don't know. I was interested in the sermon topic. And the finals of the US Open will be on Sunday. So there I was. For whatever reason.
Anyway, Rev. Skarda's sermon series for the next fortnight or so will be on "When Christians Get It Wrong." Or what I would just refer to as Bad Theology. Unfortunately Bad Theology, being easy to grasp and conveniently malleable to fit most prejudices pervades American junk culture.
Rev. Skarda led off Friday night on one of my personal favorites " Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner." I have written about this before. It is right up there with other such foolishness as "God Never Puts More On You Than You can Stand (nobody ever says withstand) and other similar gems. I haven't looked ahead to see what all is going to be discussed. But I bet that God smiting you with a tornado really being within your tolerance level as He, in His infinite mercy, would never lay on you more than you can stand, or withstand if you prefer, will be on the list.
My main personal problem with hating sin but loving the sinner, at least up until last Friday night, is that this notion is never applied to any sins other than those of the sexual variety, for those who are predisposed to traffic in condemnation of such matters. More specifically it usually confined to gay folks.
Having said that I do indeed believe that people involved in prison ministries "love the sinner." They would have to. So I give them a pass from this libel as they are getting their hands dirty doing the work of the Lord with people you and I would rather not deal with.
But you never hear "I hate the armed robbery but I love the perpetrator." Why not? Sin is sin, right? As for me, I could give two hoots in hell about what consenting adults do behind the privacy of a closed door. And I can damn sure come closer to loving that particular "sinner" than the asshole that sticks a gun in my face.
Weak vessel for God that I am, I cannot imagine that I could bring myself to love anybody that assaults me. And guess what? I bet that most of the smug adherents to HSLS wouldn't either. That's where the hypocrisy comes in. All of us are sexual beings, but not all of us are likely to be victims of violent crime, to use my most grotesque example. Insert your own if you like. Let me know how you really feel about embezzlers. It is safe to believe in this notion because it is an abstraction for the most part.
Except that it's not. Sermons can be like baseball. And I'm not referring to the fact that both can be long and drawn out. No. Just when you think you've seen, or heard it all, something new pops up. Here's where Rev. Skarda comes in. He led off with the fact that nowhere in the Bible is this notion mentioned. OK. That much I knew.
He then pointed out something out that I had never considered. When you say that you "hate the sin but love the sinner" you are setting yourself apart. You are making yourself superior. This is the sin of pride which even pedantic gasbag C.S. Lewis held was the worst of all sins. Because narcissism is in the same Area Code. And narcissism is both lethal and abundant in society. By way of example, as I used to say, not all narcissists are batterers. But all batterers are narcissists. I give you the recent news out of the NFL if you need a recent example of the breadth of the issue.
Also, as Rev. Skarda pointed out, Jesus ate with the the tax collectors and the prostitutes, much to the horror of the scribes and pharisees. And probably to the horror of some of the tax collectors and working girls come to think of it. (I added that last part.) He didn't announce he was going to do it. He just humbled Himself to do it. And I like to think that He would break bread today with the sinners that are the objects of such prideful "love."
So what's wrong with "hating the sin and loving the sinner?"
It's narcissistic. It's typically selectively (in my experience) invoked in service of prejudice. And it's impractical. Apart from all that it is right up there with the Doctrine of the Trinity as far as soundness goes.
Sermons are like baseball. Every now and again something pops up that you've never seen or heard before. That happened Friday night.