Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin, Part 2

Yesterday I began this discussion by talking about the origin of the phrase, what I believe to be its intended meaning, my personal history with it, and the backhanded way it's often used today.

Today I want to alter the perception of the phrase to hopefully give it a more positive application.

I have a friend that I've known and been close to for a long time. We basically grew up together, and we've shared our troubles, joys, and passions. We are like brothers.

We have one major wedge between us: the left/right wedge. I lean toward the progressive side of things, while my friend is much more conservative. Vocally so, in fact. He would often share conservative talking points in Facebook, as well as the occasional "reverse racism" image.

I know some people who would see those things and decide to distance themselves from that friendship, if not outright end the relationship. Same for the other friend who came out as an Men's Rights Activist, or that uncle who spreads conspiracy theories.

Given my history with these friends and family, though, I'm more than willing to see past these views and actions I don't agree with. I don't imagine I'll be able to convince them toward my view, and generally I'm not going to try (unless I see some severe misconception being propagated, heh). Rather, I'll simply focus on the places where we come together instead of focusing on our differences.

This is easier to do with family and friends that you've known a long time. We forgive each other our differences, and I think this is the case for many people. And this, to me, is the basis of "love the sinner, hate the sin," except in this case "sin" is a violation in your own eyes rather than in the eyes of a God whose will we can't seem to agree on, if we believe in a deity at all.

Curiously, though, if we take that perspective we actually end up with far more cases in which the maxim would apply. I believe that we are personally offended by far more things than any religion might dictate. Everything from seeing someone be rude to a cashier to changing the UI of an operating system can count as offensive to us.

There are two alternatives to "love the sinner, hate the sin," neither or which seem constructive to me.

First, you can remove the first part, leaving you with simply "hate the sin," which basically amounts to, at best, dismissing a person outright for any slight, disagreement, or offense. Or, perhaps you have a threshold: after X amount of grievances against this person, then you feel okay eliminating this person from your life. Perhaps even X number of grievances, weighed against X number of redeeming qualities.

In any case, though, I'm not inclined to dismiss anybody outright, regardless of our differences. Perhaps it's naivety, but I'm generally humanist. I believe if we can stop dismissing each other, if we can be open and hear each other out, we can at least learn to tolerate each other. And I believe that tolerance is the first step toward acceptance, which eventually leads to progress. Thus, I can not remove the "love the sinner" part of the maxim.

And so we get to the other alternative: removing the "hate the sin" part.

This is where redefining "sin" as a personal violation rather than a religious one is important. If you don't think that something qualifies as a "sin," then it doesn't make much sense to hate it. The concept of "hate" in general is exhausting and destructive, and it doesn't make sense to ask people to spend that kind of energy against something they're not opposed to.

However, I'm not inclined to simply accept the things I disagree with, either. The alternative to "hate the sin" is, at its mildest, "tolerate the sin," which I'm not really okay with when "sin" in my eyes is things like "perpetuating rape culture" and "racism."

So, I believe the whole thing needs to stay intact. I believe it's possible to stay friends with somebody even if you don't like some of the things they do. In fact, I'd argue that it's important to do so, because in times like this when there's so much hate, vitriol, and dismissiveness going around, it's important for people to come together and see past their differences and have a conversation.

And that's all I have to say about that. So far.

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