On Tuesday I wrote this on my Facebook wall: “I want all my Facebook friends to know that as a committed Christian I deplore the political hijacking of my faith by ignorant, intolerant, racist and misogynistic extremists.”
As of this morning I have received 34 “likes” and about a dozen approving comments. But I was uneasy about it. Those of you who know me know that though I rant pretty easily about this and that I do my best to avoid self-righteousness. And part of what I deplore these days is the tone of political discourse, and I worried that my frank cry of the heart was yet another ideology-driven screed.
I am no happier when liberal Christians become “the left wing of the Democratic party at prayer” than I do when evangelicals become “the right wing of the Republican Party at prayer.”
I was also pleased to see that some of my “likes” came from conservative evangelical friends. And many of them came from young adults in my children’s generation. That is heartening.
My sister-in-law Annette, a faithful Roman Catholic, wrote this comment:
I gather that you love the sinners but hate the sins of willful ignorance, intolerance, racism and misogyny. But do we really love these sinners? And what do we do, as faithful, for or with these sins? We are sinners, too, by other measures. I’m feeling confused. It’s Lent and I’m breaking this down for my daughter with an intellectual disability and some things don’t add up when I look at the fundamentals.
She got right to my uneasiness, because I know myself to be a sinner as well, and not only by other measures, but even by the very sins I deplore in “the extremists.”
“Love the sinner, but hate the sin” is the proper Christian admonition, but here Annette is savvy, too, as she knows how hard this is to do with any consistency.
To keep such self-awareness from becoming a counsel of despair I find comfort in the Reformation insight simul justus et peccator, that we are at the same time sinners and justified by God. “Redeemed sinners” is the way I like to think of it.
And something I had to learn in three decades of pastoral ministry is that there are some people who are just plain unlovable, so you have to turn them over to God who does love them.
But where I come down in the end is that just because we know we are sinners too, and perhaps share in some of the same sins, we are not exempt from speaking out about the things we deplore.
And I would assert that intolerence, racism and misogyny should be deplored by all people of good will, religious or otherwise, liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat. And the use of these sins to raise fears for political gain is a double sin.