DiNovo's Wrestling Match With Sin
Pete's comment on this entry about political smearing in my Parkdale-High Park riding got me reading NDP MPP candidate Cheri DiNovo's sermon from October 2, 2005. Pete's comment was "Well I think she's screwed now after saying Karla Homolka is being treated by the media as Jesus was by the Jews when being persecuted. She should know better in a Polish (mostly Catholic) area. She just shot herself in the foot for good. Race is over!". I had to read for myself how Karla Homolka was being linked to Jesus Christ. Here's the controversial sermon from the Radical Reverend in its entirety.
'Love the Sinner Hate the Sin' is Not Christian
Reverend Dr Cheri DiNovo
I think, more than any other topic, the word 'sin' conjures up about two thousand years of really bad preaching and really poor theology. So I'm going to wrestle with 'Sin' today.
Martin Luther once said, "Though we commit adultery a hundred times a day and as many murders, nothing can separate us from the love of Christ Jesus." He also said something else, bad boy of theology that he was, "Sin boldly and love Christ more boldly still."
Did you know that the saying, "Love the sinner, hate the sin" has absolutely nothing to do with our faith? It is not to be found anywhere in the Bible. It was said by Mahatma Gandhi on one of his not so good days and it has been used to beat people up. It has been used to do violence to people ever since. Something Gandhi would never ever have wished. When I was sparring with the person who helped organize the rally against same sex marriage at Queen's Park a couple of weeks past, I heard those lines from his mouth. So that's why I thought we should talk about them. He said we should hate the sin, meaning in this case, homosexuality, but we should love the sinner.
Now in the Bible there's no place for that kind of noise. In the Bible there is no separation ever between the sinner and the sin. You can't separate them out. When I heard this gospel passage from Jesus I remembered that when I first heard it, I heard it this way and your probably did to. Jesus saying the Pharisees, they're okay, they don't need me, they've already got their act together. The sinners, the poor ones, the sick ones, that's who I'm really here to help.
That is not what it says! And that is certainly not what he meant. What Jesus is saying in that passage is that those Pharisees, the ones who think they are righteous, don't have a clue. They will never be able to 'see' me or experience my ministry. Only the ones who know they are sinners will be the faithful ones, will be the ones able to experience my ministry, experience the divine in their lives. Only they will get it! Why would he say something like that? If you already know everything you can't learn 'nothing'. If you know that you know nothing, you can potentially, learn everything.
What does 'sin' mean biblically? It doesn't mean 'bad'. It doesn't mean 'bad things'. Sin means, and there are two main words for it, a Hebraic word for it, 'chatta't' and there's a Greek word, 'hamartia'. Hamartia and chatta't mean, approximately, separation from God. Hamartia is an archery word. It means that you let the arrow go and you miss the mark. The arrow goes astray. Somehow all of us have taken a wrong turn, a wrong path. We've taken a wrong road. We've turned our gaze from the divine, the source of all love and become embroiled in all sorts of other 'stuff'. That's sin.
The opposite of sin is not purity or goodness. The opposite of sin is faithfulness. When we turn toward the divine we are saved. Now, you heard Paul talking about the 'Law' and he talks about the law throughout his writing, the law of course we know as the Ten Commandments, the law of Moses, the law of the Torah. What are the Ten Commandments about? They're about this, a checklist for everything we all commit every day of our lives. That's what they point out to us. The Ten Commandments are a way of saying from God to us, "Everyday you practice violence in your heart. Everyday you commit adultery or lust. Everyday you have idols before me etc. Everyday all of you do all of these things." And it's only in turning to God and God's giving of God's self in Christ that all of that is taken away from us. We'll never be able to do it on our own. We can't even attempt it. We can't even walk the first step along that path without the assistance of the divine. Luckily we have the divine with-in and with-out us. Luckily if we turn we can walk that right path but we can never, never take credit for it. We can only ever give credit to Christ. This is all very Pauline.
Another quote that I like is from H. G. Wells. He said, "Moral indignation is just jealousy with a halo around it." And you know , most of the Christian world is engaged in moral indignation most of their days. So we're going to vow to stop that moral indignation, that jealousy with a halo around it. We're going to vow to do what Christ called us to do, which is to love our neighbour as ourselves and to never, ever, ever, judge them. So that saying, "Love the sinner, hate the sin" has no place in any Christian theology ever.
Now I don't know about you but I am absolutely appalled by what I see in our newspapers lately so I'm going to rant about it for a moment. Every day we are subject to what I consider a kind of sadistic pornography. Now I know it sells papers but every day we pick up the Star or the National Post or the Globe and we see the picture of Karla Homolka on the front cover. I can only imagine what this does to the families of the victims. I know what it does to me. Here's what it does to me, trying to follow Christ. What it does is detract from the news on the 8th page in much smaller type and smaller headlines that says things like '800 People Have Died Since the Iraqi Elections' It detracts from headlines on page six that talks about what's happening in Cuba at the American detention camp in all of our names. It detracts from the news on the fourth page about the horrors of what we have done to our Islamic brothers and sisters. That's what it does and it allows us to create a scapegoat, remember Jesus was a scapegoat, and just pour all our hatred and frustration on this one woman. How sick is that? What it prevents us from doing mostly is to look in the mirror at our own sinfulness/separateness from God and do something about that.
I did a wedding a couple of weeks back and one of the musicians sat down and told me that a sex offender had just been released from prison and was going to take up residence on her street and she was saying, "I've got a twelve year old daughter." And I said to her, "You know that sex offender is probably the least likely person in all of Canada to do anything to your daughter." Karla is the least likely person in all of the world right about now, to do anything to anyone. She going to be dogged by paparazzi everywhere she goes. She's going to be hunted like a wounded animal. It's going to be sick. She's not going to be going anywhere and doin' nothin'. Who is, meanwhile? The people most likely to abuse children are in the children's own house, relatives, stepfathers, people they know. The second most likely people to abuse children or to hurt someone are people in positions of respect, that's right, doctors, priests, ministers, lawyers, people that families turn to and trust. Isn't it weird that we focus on this one woman's image and we forget all about that?
"Judge not" said Jesus. He also said, "Blessed are the peacemakers." He also said "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and mind and soul." And he also said, "Love your enemies." "Love your enemies." What does that look like? It looks like this, "Love your enemies." The greatest enemy is the one we look at every day in the mirror every morning when we attempt for one more day to turn our gaze from the ways of the world to a different kind of world, a different kind of being, a different kind of spirituality and a different kind of Christianity and that's a Christianity that follows Jesus Christ. Not the Christianity that you hear about from pulpits that preach, "Hate the sin and love the sinner." But the kind of Christianity that says, "I came for the sinner and you're all sinners." The kind of Christianity that says, "We're the greatest sinners of all." The kind of Christianity that says, "I will never cease to be human but I can look toward God." The kind of Christianity that advises us to "Love our enemy" and "Judge not."
It brings to mind one of my favourite Mahatma Gandhi quotes, a saying that should be headlined in every paper, every day and that is, "An eye for an eye just makes the whole world blind."
Those with political motivation can easily isolate shocking parts of this sermon and present them out of context. I've read it three times and I don't find it minimizes Homolka's accountability or presents her in any way as Christ-like. The controversial linkage comes as she warns us of scapegoating and follows that up by reminding us that Jesus was also a scapegoat. It never gets any stronger than that.
When the polls close on Thursday, I fear Pete might be right. The average voter may be scared red by the mere mention of Homolka and Jesus in the same paragraph. The average voter will read the Liberal Party headline that DiNovo "compares the media's treatment of Karla Homolka to the persecution of Jesus Christ" without reading the complete sermon. The average voter might play it safe. That's too bad.
At Emmanuel Howard Park United Church, DiNovo delivers some radical sermons. She's on the edge, reaching out, preaching from the heart. Isolating certain phrases from these sermons and using them politically is unethical and unfair. Hearing a politician who doesn't sanitize everything in ambiguity is as refreshing as a cold shower on a hot summers night. She still has my vote. In fact, for the first time in the eleven years I've known her, my wife is strongly considering giving her vote to a party other than the Liberals. That alone is a miracle.
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