Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Sin: A Realistic Understanding

Are we always destined to be ruled by fear and hate?

While the church surely trivialized sin into simple categories of misbehavior and moral failings (like drunkenness and cussing), so as to avoid the larger categories of power and abuse and war and greed (which would have upset the Ruling Class of Clergy and Capitalists), the concept of sin needs to be maintained and revived!

For many people, to even mention the word "sin" conjures up images of Medieval Priests, candles, incense and bells ... or at least, sawdust trail preachers whooping and hollering and threatening little children with hellfire and damnation.

Yet ...

The Genesis stuff of Adam and Eve hiding (fear) and Cain killing Abel (hatred) are part and parcel, it seems, of the human story, and we're not likely to get rid of these twin evils any time soon.

If Christians hope to have any voice in today's world, this might just be it. We've got to talk about sin.

To call things as they are ... the great evils of greed and war and class inequality ... things that respond to and generate fear and hate ... as well as the deeper reality, the mystery ... that humanity fears many things that go bump in the night, and we easily come to hate that which inspires fear.

And with enough hate, violence erupts - Cain kills Abel again and again, and the Ruling Classes send Jesus to the Cross.

Slobbering preachers going on and on about the evils of "demon rum" and tobacco, have done great harm to the truth of sin, and when sober society rejects such stuff as nonsense, as it truly does, society sadly denies itself a tool in understanding itself - though "understanding" is always qualified by the reality ever so much larger than our intellectual and spiritual abilities to grasp it.

Sin is a mystery ... in the classic sense, sin is our four-fold alienation from self, from others, from the natural world around us and from God ... four fundamental alienations that cripple the human race and leave a wake of destruction in their path.

Denying these alienations, or at least trying to sugarcoat them, doesn't help one bit.

And continuing to preach about lesser things as sin is even worse ... better to not even mention the whole thing if we're not prepared to come to grips with it for what it is. Though preaching about "getting ahead in life" and "Five Steps to a Healthy Family" doesn't help either. Turning the pew into a therapy couch cheapens those who sit there, and those who preach such nostrums.

We do well to maintain the word "sin" and the mystery it represents ... a deep and penetrating darkness of spirit and mind - best described in the words, fear and hate.

These exist, abundantly.

In all of us.

Rich and poor alike.

No sense denying it.

No sense pretending that:



Bible reading.



Charity and mission work.

Will expunge it from our DNA.

Honest and forthright confession helps: the Jesus Prayer, for example:

"LORD Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy upon me

A Sinner."

And with some such awareness, to keep ourselves vigilante against the perennial forces of hate and fear.

Honest reckoning and clear-headed thinking will help ... and one of the sources of good reckoning and thought remains Christian Theology ... when humbly held and offered with kindness and sympathy.

Christians, at this point, have something terribly important to offer ... keeping in mind how easily it has been corrupted by cheap preaching and shallow thinking ...

Sin ... that which so easily fears and hides from life, and sooner or later, erupts in hatred and violence.

And what parts of it we cannot understand, at least to say, "There is it ... in all of its ugly reality - fear and hate."

For Christians, then, to be reminded of the angels who counsel mortals, "Fear not" and when hatred raises its ugly head, to choose the Beatitudes and the ways of love - with Jesus clearly in mind, "Take up your cross [the truth about sin] and follow me."

It's not easy to deal with sin ... but failing to deal with it only heightens its power to instill ever-greater levels of fear and hatred into our heart and into our life together.

Once to every man and nation, comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, some great decision, offering each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever, ’twixt that darkness and that light.

Then to side with truth is noble, when we share her wretched crust,
Ere her cause bring fame and profit, and ’tis prosperous to be just;
Then it is the brave man chooses while the coward stands aside,
Till the multitude make virtue of the faith they had denied.

By the light of burning martyrs, Christ, Thy bleeding feet we track,
Toiling up new Calv’ries ever with the cross that turns not back;
New occasions teach new duties, time makes ancient good uncouth,
They must upward still and onward, who would keep abreast of truth.

Though the cause of evil prosper, yet the truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold, and upon the throne be wrong;
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above His own.

"Once to Every Man and Nation" - James R Lowell, in the Bos­ton Cour­i­er, De­cem­ber 11, 1845. Low­ell wrote these words as a po­em pro­test­ing Amer­i­ca’s war with Mex­i­co.

1 comment:

Zeke said...

"Christians, at this point, have something terribly important to offer ... keeping in mind how easily it has been corrupted by cheap preaching and shallow thinking ..." jumped out at me. Several years ago, an older lady in our church said that she hadn't "sinned" in years. When I pursued the issue, she said that she equated sex with "sinning". Too many Christians equate "Godliness" with piety,attending church regularly, and not cussing instead of the weightier things of life. I have been called "un-Christian" for opposing the Iraq War and a "Communist" for speaking out against Wall St. greed and corruption! I guess you might want to call it "Priorities"...Thanks for posting!