Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Loving the Sinner

The vitriol of the left, and of the media elite, continues to amaze me.

Consider this little gem from Alan Wolfe at The New Republic:

It may seem like ages ago but during the Clinton administration, conservative traditionalists were everywhere. The nuclear family is sacrosanct. Women should shun the workforce and become full-time moms. Kids should obey their parents and, if they choose not to, discipline, including harsh measures, ought to be applied. Sex outside of marriage is strictly forbidden. Our culture is spinning wildly out of control, and sexual liberation, the worst byproduct of the God-awful 1960s, is the cause. And, by the way, abortion is murder and should be forbidden.

All that is left, if the Palin controversy is any indication, is abortion. Palin's defenders, far from being traditionalists, are moral relativists. We should not rush to judgment. It is important to understand the pressures that families face. Love is all you need. Forgive in order to forget. People are entitled to their privacy, even, if not especially, in the bedroom. The state should not be in the business of telling people what to do. It sounds like the language of the left, but it has also had long resonance on the libertarian right. When the McCain campaign said that Bristol Palin had a choice, it was correct. These days we all have choices. The fact that we do has always bothered conservative traditionalists. [...]

And that is not all. In rushing to Sarah Palin's defense, the leaders of the Christian right have made it abundantly clear how they define a Christian. We don't care if you sin. We are not bothered if you put your ambition ahead of the needs of your children. If you have lied or broken the law, we will look the other way. It all comes down to your stand on guns and fetuses. Vote the right way, and you have our blessing. If any proof were needed that James Dobson is a political operative rather than a spiritual leader, his jumping on the Palin bandwagon offers it.

Aside from the appallingly poor quality of the writing (tense changes mid-paragraph? That's not style, that's just sloppy!) it is amazing how revealing this little mess of non-sequiturs and snobbish slamming really is.

Mr. Wolfe wouldn't know a moral relativist if it stared at him in the mirror every morning, which it probably does. There is absolutely no contradiction whatsoever between hating sin and loving sinners, and insisting that sex outside of marriage is a sin doesn't mean branding those who engage in it as harlots and lechers, particularly if they appear to be striving to do the right thing in the aftermath, as this young couple seems to be doing:

Discipline is still an excellent thing not just for children but even for adults, who aren't entitled to hedonism and selfishness any more than children are; and the sexual revolution, with the wreckage of divorce, abortion, poverty, diseases both physical and psychological, and other associated traumas it has left in its wake is still the scourge of the modern age.

I think what's really eating at Mr. Wolfe, and others like him, is that they equate moral principles with hatred. Because the religious believers in this country think that homosexual activity is immoral, for example, we must hate same-sex attracted people. Because we stand up for the right of an unborn human being to live, we must hate people who have abortions. Because we agree with the ancient notion that sex outside of marriage in its various forms, including adultery and fornication, is a moral evil and is sinful, we must hate people who commit adultery or people who conceive a child out of wedlock. Because we insist that it is important for children to be raised by loving parents whenever possible we must hate all women who ever work outside the home.

This reaction is similar to the behavior of a spoiled child, who thinks that because his parents are expressing their disapproval of his wild actions and removing his privileges for a time that they must hate him. There could be no other reason, right? Admonishing or correcting a recalicitrant or disobedient child must come out of hatred for that child, and any later proof that the parents instead actually love their child very much despite his temporary moral failings can only be proof of relativism or hypocricy...

...unless you live in the real world, where people don't always live up to their best principles, where the struggle to follow God and avoid evil may be won and lost and won again without in any way diminishing the rightness and goodness of those principles, where the loving hand of support from a fellow Christian to a brother who has drifted briefly onto the wrong path is no more a contradiction than Our Lord's behavior in the story of the woman caught in adultery. Did His refusal to stone her to death Himself mean that God doesn't really care all that much about adultery or other sexual sin? It's a ridiculous notion, isn't it, especially in light of His command to her to go and sin no more. But His example of mercy toward sinners is the standard of Christian behavior when we are confronted by sin; because, after all, we are like the men who drifted silently away from the scene when Jesus said that the one who had no sin could throw the first stone...

What the irreligious left will never understand is that it is the duty of all Christians to fight evil without branding as evil those people who become caught up in evil. It is not for us to sit in judgment upon our fellow men--but that in no way absolves us of the responsibility to call sin what it is, to avoid it ourselves and confess it in penitent tears when we fall into it, to encourage our brothers to turn away from it and to help them by word and example to do so. The evil that is sin can't be approved, applauded, tolerated, celebrated, or viewed as just one more option for people to choose; the broken people who become entangled in evil should be reminded, admonished, exhorted, loved and forgiven as often as they seek to turn away from what is displeasing to God and return to following Him.

But the irreligious left continues to insist that the only reason to oppose evil is because we hate the people who commit it. And that profound and sad misunderstanding is the source of so much of their hatred...for us.


Marisa said...

Oh Erin, this is so good. Thank you.

Coffee Catholic said...

Wow!! This is good!! I'm going to link it on my blog!

Kay said...

Bingo. I tried to have a conversation over at "Alas, a Blog..." once about the difference between someone who believes homosexuality is a sin (in this case, although this would apply to folks who believe it's a question of psychological development) and someone who is actually homophobic. Just couldn't get the point across, even though I cited Tammy Faye Baker or Rabbi Boteach as examples of the former. The idea that people could disagree and yet still coexist without continually being at war, or, especially, continually berating and nagging at each other, just isn't part of their understanding. I honestly wish there were a way, but sometimes it seems that the primary attraction (right now) of being Left Wing is specifically that you get to hate and feel superior to people who diagree with you. I see the same phenomenon is some Right wingers, but not nearly to the same degree.

Bethany Hudson said...

Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you! I feel like I have been going mad trying to say something similar and constantly being misunderstood! You wrote this so well and with such grace. As one Catholic to another: thank you! Finally, someone has something to say without just jumping in line with a politcal party or following the religious crowd. I can tell that you are thinking deeply about the issues without compromising your faith and your beliefs. It is terribly refreshing. Sad that, isn't it?