18 October 2011

Directing hatred at sin is self-defeating

In my previous post, I admitted that I think that God hates sin but I stated that I'm nervous about the use of the word "hate".

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines hatred as:
a) Intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger or sense of injury; b) extreme dislike or antipathy
To put it crudely, is the Gospel message that God wants to punch sinners in the face? Or even that God wants to beat the daylights out of sin?  I don't think so.

For one thing, I think God is smarter than to constantly focus on what God doesn't want. I hold before you Creation for my evidence.  Creation is not a process of negating.  It's a process of of making all things new.  I also hold before you human psychology (we are supposed to be created in God's image, if you'll remember).  Psychologists will tell you that if you constantly tell yourself - for example - "no beer, no beer" what you're brain is hearing is "beer, beer";  ironically, you will be reinforcing the very behavior that you are seeking to stop.

Focusing on sin, even focusing on the destruction of sin, won't eliminate sinning.  It may very well increase sinning. 

This may seem a bit simplistic, but it's true:

If you're worried that this was said by the Buddha instead of Jesus or YHWH, I'll point out that the Great Commandment, is love God and love your neighbor.  Our "Prime Directive" is not about what to hate but rather about whom to love.

And, in God's wisdom, God somehow managed to put this "Prime Directive" into our sense of natural justice.  It's the central tenet in all major religions and altruism (loving one's neighbor) is also considered the highest ethical good by secular ethics.

1 comment:

Ron Johnson said...

Pam, this post and the one before it are examples of why I keep coming back to your blog: because you try to work out your ideas very carefully, paying great attention to the words you use and what those words mean.

It seems to me that this particular issue (about the possible meanings of the word "hate" in reference to God) stems from something very basic in the Bible's descriptions of God: that God is passionate. Those of us who consider ourselves intellectuals are always in danger of making God into a dispassionate onlooker, but the biblical narrative jars us again and again by attributing strong emotions to God (including words like "hate").

I agree with your strategy of focusing on the positive (love rather than hate). Christ seems to offer the supreme precedent here, as suggested in that word I used a moment ago: passion. In the Passion, Christ took the world's hate (and some would say, even God's hate of sin) and transformed it into an act of love... THE act of love for all time. For those of us who strive to be his disciples, that's the right focus, it seems to me.