Thursday, May 13, 2004

Sin? Sex? Sin? Sex? Sin? Sex?
Yesterday I was getting ready to write a very angry rant about how deeply I dislike modern fundamentalist/evangelical/conservative Christianity. I'm not sure where my anger came from, but it slowly dissipated as I thought about sin. More specifically, I was thinking about what the fundamentalist/evangelical church has to say about sin. I went to a mega-church during much of high school (mostly to play basketball after church, then because of a girl, but I did occasionally listen to the sermons). For us high school students, the message was about SEX. Sex is bad, bad, bad, bad. Unless of course, you happen to married, then it is good, good, good.

It seemed like the one goal of the youth ministers was to keep us from having sex. However, based on conversations with my friends later in life, I don't think they were particularly successful. Fortunately or unfortunately (depending on how you look at it) I wasn't part of that backslidden, transgressing group. My celibacy, rather than being based on any great sense of morality or faithfulness to God, was more a case of an absolute lack of opportunity. If opportunity had presented itself, then I might have a better sense of my moral fiber at 16, but alas we'll never know.

Anyway, the point of this is that we heard about sin a lot. If you only attended that youth group you'd think that what made Christians different is that they think about sex more than any other people on earth. I never really got any comprehensive sense of what sin was or why it mattered. Maybe they mentioned it, but I was probably so busy thinking about sex that I missed it.

Anyway, here are a couple of loosely connected thoughts about sin from the wonderful world of the internet.

From the blogosphere, Father Jake always has interesting things to say. He describes himself as an "eccentric and sometimes heretical Anglican priest." This quote is from a longer post about tough Biblical passages:

One way to understand sin is to define it as "twisted good." At the root of every sin is something good. The idea that we can cut sin out of our lives is a very damaging image; to do so would require we also cut out a piece of ourselves. Instead, why not engage in the slow process of untwisting it, until we arrive at the good root?

The Upper Room Ministries are a ministry of the United Methodist Church. They have a frequent feature called "Ask Julian" where ordinary folk can write in and ask tough theological questions. This quote is from a question about suicide:

At her best, the Church knows God is the God of Life and for people to choose death in killing others or self is to miss God's hope and purposes for human beings. That missing of God's purpose is called "sin."

Mostly, in the Bible, sin is a word that comes from the language of bows and arrows. It has to do with missing the target. Over shooting. Under shooting. Shooting to the left or to the right. But missing the target.

Finally, this passage is from a sermon by the minister who married my wife and I. Fred Kane is the pastor of Hillsboro United Methodist Church. He is a very wise man and I miss his teaching. I think our current church community is a better fit for us, but Fred is very cool.

There is a wonderful story about a Catholic priest, a much-loved man who carried a burden of guilt about a long past sin. He had committed this so-called sin many years before during his time in seminary. No one knew of it. There was a woman in his parish who claimed she regularly spoke with God and God with her.

The priest was skeptical of her claim, so he said: "The next time you have one of these conversations with God ask what sin your priest committed while he was in seminary."

The woman agreed and went home. When she returned to church a few days later, the priest said, "Did you talk with God and did you ask God what sin I committed in seminary?"

"Yes," the woman said. "I asked God."

"Well," said the priest, "what did God say?"

"God said, 'I don't remember.'"

God does not remember your past which may bind you and constrict you and to which you return again and again. If God forgives, why can’t we? I know it’s hard. It’s hard for me. But, God’s plan for healing relationships is forgiveness.

I really like that last thought. Even though we might bind ourselves to our past (sins), God is not bound. We are healed through God’s grace and in Father Jake’s words, given the opportunity to "untwist" our sin and find that which God loves within us.

Good thoughts, all of them. This sounds like a cliché, but I think the world really does need healing. Forgiveness is powerful and incredibly difficult. I pray that God will help me to forgive and the world to forgive.



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