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“First they came for the Latinos, Muslims, women, gays, poor people, intellectuals and scientists and then it was Wednesday.”

 

I saw this tweet last week.  It someone managed to sum up all of my feelings, along with the difficulty of fighting against everything at once.  As Jon Stewart said, “The presidency is supposed to age the president, not the public,” but it already feels like months.

 

Two weeks ago, almost to the day, Donald Trump was sworn in as president, and at the end of the day, I felt like, “Okay, well, we’re all still here, good start…”  The next day I was at the women’s March in Boston.  I had wanted to write a blog post about it, but, you know, life.  It was a great day, though, as a person with a disability, the standing took a toll after about three hours and I never even got to actually march…but I was there and I stood for what I believed in.  I really felt the small children who got to ride in strollers and sleep when they were bored were doing the March right…  I loved how many people came out.  There were people climbing trees in order to see the speakers, and, for all the complaints about protestors, I didn’t see a single person disrespect a police officer or engage in any sort of vandalism.  It was very peaceful.  I do want to note, though, that while I am proud of everyone for ensuring that that was the result, it is a lot easier for things to remain peaceful when no one is opposing you.  The water protectors at Standing Rock are facing an entirely different kind of protest, and it’s important to remember that instead of just patting ourselves on the back for a job well done.

 

So, what has happened in those two weeks?  Well, I could write articles on specific issues, BUT THERE ARE TOO MANY OF THEM and I have a job.  We’ll go through the greatest hits and we’ll do our best to ignore anything that’s just stupid or doesn’t happen to be to our taste (example: I wouldn’t have picked that person for the supreme court, but I have no objections to his qualifications and I’m willing to take an agree to disagree on that one (even though I remain disgusted that, with a year left in office, no one would even vote on the president’s nominee as required by law).

 

In no particular order…

 

  • EPA has been put on some sort of lock down. No communicating with the press.  No renewing grants.  No projects.  In other environmental news, the Utah senator tried to sell off 3.3 million acres of federal land and the House just repealed a regulation banning mining companies from dumping waste in rivers and streams.  I was reading about that this day and…I was just so confused.  So there are people who don’t believe in global warming.  So there are people who believe that there’s too much regulation and government overreaching.  But who really thinks companies dumping waste in our water supply is a good thing?  Where are your children getting their drinking water for schools?  This really just made absolutely no sense to me.
  • Half the federal agencies have gone rogue on twitter what would be really amusing if it wasn’t real life.
  • Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon replaced the chairman of the joint chiefs and the head of the CIA as voting members on the National Security Council. This, frankly, is insane. Neither of these people have any experience or role that qualifies them to weigh in on national security.  I assure you, also, when they’re deciding whether or not to use force, I want the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs weighing in.  When they’re debating whether or not to bomb someone in the Middle East, I want the CIA there giving the best information they have available.  Even numerous Republicans have denounced this move.
  • Apparently we all need guns in our schools to defend ourselves from grizzly bears…. In case you missed it, Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s pick for secretary of education, advocated guns in schools, citing a school that needed to defend itself from grizzly bears attacking the students.  The best part of this story was that when they called the school that was referenced, they don’t have a gun…
  • The House just repealed a regulation that prevented people with serious mental illnesses from buying guns. This again falls into the category of “aren’t there some things that we can just all agree are bad ideas?”
  • Trump announced that we are indeed going to build a wall. And who’s going to pay for it?
  • We have spent a lot of time arguing over things like how many people were at the inauguration
  • He has accelerated the approval of the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines
  • And then we come to the one that caused mass chaos this past weekend: the Muslim Ban.

 

There are numerous issues with the ban, some practical, some ethical.  First of all, the utter airport chaos indicated how poorly thought out and executed this idea was.  It targeted people who already were in this country legally but just picked the wrong time for a vacation.  People detained in airports were denied due process or the right to see attorneys, even when attorneys were provided for them or congressmen and women wanted to help intercede for them.  The ban ended up affecting numerous Christians and Yazidis, the very religious minorities that Trump suggested would not be affected by the ban.  The implication that Christians are the only religious minorities in these countries shows just how clueless Trump is about foreign policy.  If we are going to show favor to religious minorities in the immigration process, does that include Shiites coming from a Sunni-majority country?  No one has been killed by a refugee since the 70s.  Since 9/11, no one has been killed in a terrorist attack by anyone from these banned countries.  The main country that the 9/11 hijackers were from, Saudi Arabia, was not included in the ban (some people have noted that Trump has business ties in Saudi Arabia).  All of these refugees are heavily vetted, in a process that usually takes over two years.

 

But most of all, all I can say is that I felt a punch in the gut as all of this came out.  I am, like all of us who are not Native Americans, descended from immigrants, and mine are within the twentieth century.  More than that, my heart hurt for all of the people, God’s people, who were being shut out, who were being rejected, who were being damaged and ignored by this order.  All I could hear was the verse in Matthew: “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’  They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’”  As a nation, we have rejected God’s people and therefore we have rejected Jesus.  All I can hope is that the religious extremists who believe that the collective country bears the sins of their leaders are wrong, for our country has committed a great sin and God hears the cries of those whom we have turned away from.

 

And so, moving forward, I’m doing the best I can.  I take deep breaths.  I pray.  I work.  I hope.

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As promised, the second installment!

Some basic rules around choosing and giving up something for Lent:
1) Do not compare yourselves to others. You need to do what’s best for you. Something that others might find silly could be a real problem for you. It’s not a competition and you’re not trying to win. This also means that there are things that you might not be able to give up and you shouldn’t feel bad about that. If you have a medical condition, fasting is probably a really bad idea. You can find plenty of alternatives to celebrate Lent, you don’t need to rely on other people’s ideas.

2) Particularly if this is one of your first times celebrating Lent, start with concrete things. It’s a lot easier to modify behaviors than feelings. I know people who have given up things like condescension or procrastination for Lent…admirable, but many of us likely find that unrealistic for ourselves. Try to translate that goal into something tangible. Instead of thinking, “I’m not going to get angry with my kids during Lent” think, “I’m not going to yell at my kids during Lent”. Focus on what you can control.

3) Make clearly defined goals. Don’t leave it fuzzy in your brain. Write down what you what, draw lines and definitions.

4) Adding things in and giving things up are not either or, try to do both. Better yet, find things that complement each other (I’m giving up soda and I’m going to the gym three times a week…I’m giving up TV and I’m adding in board games with the family, etc.)

5) Don’t give up something you know is really easy. I could very easily say, “I’m giving up eating salmon.” Statistically, in the Lenten period I probably would have eaten salmon a maximum of three times. This isn’t something that’s going to be very fulfilling.

6) Be willing to be brave. Challenge your assumptions about what you can live without. Do you really need your cell phone on you all the time? Or do you think you could find a way to rely on e-mail and your home phone? You’ll find your brain will make all sorts of absurd excuses for why you need to keep playing tetris…it helps me relax, I talk to my husband while playing it, I get my best ideas while playing tetris…uh-huh…usually when your brain is making absurd excuses that means a) you are able to give it up and b) you should.

7) If you are giving up something really hard for you, like coffee or cigarettes, particularly if it’s part of socializing for you…try to get your friends and family on board and supportive.

8) You can’t make someone else give something up just because you are. While it is admirable to give up all desserts, you can’t either stop anyone around you from eating desserts or be resentful that they are eating them. This is between you and God, you shouldn’t expect anyone else to join you unless they want to. They have every right to eat that delicious chocolate cake.

9) Don’t half-way give up things if you can avoid it. Sometimes, this is worse than not giving up anything at all. Say, you want to give up facebook but that’s the way that your college sports team communicates. It is a bad idea to give something up except for weekends or “I’ll only do it once a day”. It means that not only are you not giving something up entirely, but you are then focused on it and trying to figure out when you can get it next. It ends up making you miserable because you are without…but it’s still dangling over your head with temptation. Try to find a way to give it up entirely, if you can’t, think seriously about whether this is something you can do. My worst Lents have always been when I tried to give myself these sorts of outs. It was incredibly frustrating.

10) Children can give up things for Lent. Some general guidelines around this. If your child is out of elementary school, they should be choosing what to give up. You can suggest, cajole, but Lent is only beneficial if it’s a willing choice. Also, if you have younger children in the house, it might be good to do something family-wide. It’s a lot easier for a child to grasp that this isn’t something bad if everyone isn’t watching TV instead of just them. Usually children are used to thinking that if something is taken away from them, they’re being punished, you want to make sure that they know that they’re not being punished but that everyone is doing it. It also can be a really good way of fostering a more communal sense in the family.

11) Experiment and do the things that you always feel you can’t commit too. Are thinking that you should read to your child before bed every night? Try it for Lent. If it works for the both of you, keep doing it, if it doesn’t, it’s only 40+ days.

12) Cut yourself some slack. While it’s good to be disciplined, you are not a failure if you forget or if you slip up. That also doesn’t mean Lent is ruined, you get up and you go back to your habits the next day. The most important part is to just keep going.

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It’s Lent!

I get very excited for Lent, it’s my favorite time of the year. I’m certain that a post shall ensue explaining in great detail why I think Lent, which most people associate with dark misery, is one of the best times in the Christian calendar. (I’m pretty sure whenever I giddily say, “I love Lent” my atheist friends think to themselves about how this is just proof of religion’s deep brainwashing because what rational person could like willingly going without?)

However, in the meantime, I’m just going to discuss a few reasons why you should consider observing Lent and some fun tips for doing it.

Why you should give up something for Lent:

1) Lent is not only for Catholics. Catholics have more specific traditions around it, but as Protestant, it wasn’t until I was older that I realized that it was simply a Christian tradition. I’m sure that the atheist or a member of another religion could also benefit from certain aspects of Lent without feeling all of the theology around it.

2) Giving something up doesn’t just have to be something you desperately like (because you think you don’t deserve to be happy) or something you don’t care about (because you think you should do this but you really don’t want to put in effort). The point is not to just take something random out of your life, but take out an aspect of your life that you feel that you place too much value on or is unhealthy for you. Example: a cliché is giving up chocolate for Lent. I’ve done that once, but I didn’t do it because I liked it, but it was easy to cut out, I did it because I had this habit when I was little, of every time I was in the kitchen, of sneaking my hand into a chocolate chip jar. Obviously, this was a habit that it was good to break.

3) Lent is a wonderful time to give yourself extra motivation to achieve goals. Do you want to diet? Take out carbs. Do you want to cook more for yourself? Take out frozen dinners.

4) You don’t just need to take things out, you can add things in! Exercise, reading the Bible, cleaning your room on a regular basis, praying for a set amount of time every night. Get creative!

5) Most people agree that creating goals and breaking bad habits help if you are accountable to someone. Hence the benefit of Lent, you find yourself being accountable to God.

6) While I do go back to many of my less-than-ideal habits after Lent, I’ve found that they never have quite the same hold on me afterwards, and this is one of the most important things that you can get out of Lent.

7) Lent is a time when you can try to decrease the noise that fills your life, take out distractions or habits that you’re embarrassed about (Compulsive angry birds player, binge Netflix watcher, I’m talking to you…), and you find that you have more room in your life for God and for yourself! It also is a time when you can learn that the things you think you “need” are sometimes dispensable, and you are not bound to these habits that you don’t like.

Stay tuned! Tomorrow will be a post on choosing what to give up/add in and for actually living out the goals.

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When I first heard of Arizona’s bill against LGBTQ people, I didn’t pay much attention. Plenty of politicians announce bills that never get to the floor, but are introduced for publicity’s sake. Additionally, Arizona is a competitor with Florida for crazy governmental ideas.

The bill in question gives any business/business owner the right to deny service to any LGBTQ individual on the basis of their religious beliefs. This bill was not only introduced, but has passed and is being sent to the governor.

Before I go into the various ways that this is ethically wrong, can I just ask a practical question?

How are you even supposed to identify your customer as LGBTQ?

I mean, I don’t tend to discuss my sexual orientation while ordering dinner at Friendly’s or when I’m at a clothing store and the saleslady says, “Can I help you with that?” I don’t tend to respond with, “Sure, and by the way I’m _______”. Do two men in a store together now get stopped and questioned about whether they’re just friends? Contrary to the implicit notions in this bill, there isn’t some sort of caricature of an LGBT individual that is easy to spot…

But anyway, I digress.

Let’s start with the simple fact that I’m pretty sure that by any measure, this is unconstitutional. Legally, I really see no difference between this bill and Jim Crow laws in the South. It’s an eerie reminder of segregation and “whites only” restaurants.

Now, as a Christian… I’m a supporter of a level of religious flexibility within rules. I think it’s fine to have religious exemptions so that, for instance, a minister doesn’t have to marry a gay couple if he feels that it’s wrong. People should have the right to exercise those beliefs, however much, as I’ve stated previously on my blog, I disagree with them. However, this is entirely different. Businesses are for the purpose of serving whoever comes through the door and wants to buy your product, nowhere before have we recognized an inherent right to refuse service to someone who we happen to disagree with.

Further, the entire principle violates the Christian faith. Hospitality is a running theme throughout scripture. The Bible states, again and again, that Jesus allowed anyone to eat with him and to learn from him. He ate with prostitutes and lepers and all the people that the rest of society condemned as being unclean or sinful. As Christians, we are called to love everyone and to practice compassion for them, even when we don’t agree with their beliefs or their choices. It’s a cornerstone of our faith, that there is not a litmus test for those whom we treat with kindness and courtesy. There is nothing Christian in this bill. This bill does not defend faith, but bigotry, and most of us who consider ourselves religious see those as antithetical to one another.

For those living in Arizona, write your congressmen and congresswomen. If you are religious, don’t let the politicians legalize discrimination in your name. Open the doors of your businesses to any and all. It’s the Christian thing to do.

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As I’ve talked about in many posts, the outside view of devout Christians has become increasingly one-dimensional, with misconceptions that the loudest members of our very large community are somehow representative of the whole.  In light of the recent debate on creationism by Bill Nye “the Science Guy” and Ken Ham, I thought it was time to make an attempt to discuss faith and science.

 

One of the common misconceptions that non-Christians, particularly atheists, have is that somehow, people who believe in God universally do not believe in evolution and do not accept modern science.  Further, there is often an assumption that Christian or just generally religious scientists will be prejudiced in their research.  Neither of these are, as a rule, true.

 

The debate is not between atheists who believe in the Big Bang and Christians who believe that six thousand years ago God created the earth in six days.  There is a very wide range of opinions within that spectrum.  At this point, a very large percentage of Christians, particularly liberal Christians, see no contradiction between current scientific theories and religious faith. 

 

Let me start with some vocab.  I’d like to separate between the terms “intelligent design” and “creationism”.  Intelligent design tends to refer to the idea that yes, there was a big bang and evolution but all of it was guided by an intelligent creator.  Creationism tends to refer to the fundamentalist opinion that the world was created exactly as described in the first chapter of the book of Genesis and that the Bible represents all of human history.  Frankly, I think that’s a misnomer, because creationism seems to be a word that could be open to a much wider interpretation, but this is how it’s usually used so I’ll follow convention.  Contrary to popular belief, these two are very different theories and are far from interchangeable.  It is inappropriate and inaccurate to lump these two approaches together.

 

First of all, while I firmly believe that God is the creator of our universe, I will admit that I do not buy into the six, twenty-four hour day theory.   Even ignoring scientific evidence, scripture says that God didn’t create the sun until the fourth day.  Given that our concept of a day is defined as a revolution around the sun, it seems clear to me that God was not referring to a day as we know it.  I do not know whether God thinks of time differently, He was using flowery language, this was an analogy (an interesting theory that posits the creation story is an analogy for how we should observe the Sabbath, something that I’m sure I’ll discuss in another blogpost), or whether something got lost in translation, but I do not believe in the six days theory.  However, I do believe that God designed the universe, that He put into place all of the patterns and natural laws that we see around us.  I do not think that science will ever prove or disprove God but for me, and for many other Christians, science is in fact an expression of God.  It is our ability to view His masterpiece and the perfect order that He created.  It’s a chance to see His beauty.  I’ve known people whose faith in God is nourished and encouraged by their scientific studies and research.  The two are not mutually exclusive, but in fact are compatible.  To study science is to study God’s creation. 

 

However, just because these are my beliefs, does not mean that I support teaching them in school.  We believe in the separation between Church and State and therefore, we do not teach one religious theory over another.  What we teach in school is what we can express via facts and evidence.  It is not the place of public schools to debate theology.  A caveat, I do not, however, think this gives teachers’ license to talk about the validity or invalidity of religion, that’s not their place either.  For Christians who don’t agree with evolutionary theories, you have a right to your opinion, but our faith is something that should be communicated and expressed at home, and no one is denying you that right.

 

When I attended a Christian school, my scienc teacher said something that I’ve taken to heart and thought back often on, she said “I don’t know for sure whether the world was created in six days or in millions of years.  All that matters to me is that I know God created it.”

 

This debate, frankly, is one that people use to highlight differences and to stir up arguments.  At the end of the day, it matters a lot less of how we got here than that we are here and we are living together.  Evolution is not trying to destroy religion, intelligent design is not trying to destroy science.  It’s time for both sides to stop treating the other as if they were.

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I’m from Massachusetts. I’m from the state which is right after New York on the “most-likely-to-be-used-in-a-stump-speech-as-an-example-of-liberalness” list. My high school chorus had to change the words to a song to remove any mention of God. We were the first state to legalize gay marriage. I’ve attended a church where parishioners have complained about using phrases like “holy” and “Christ”. I don’t live in the most Christian-friendly state.

Now, I’m not going to be one of those people who is going to explain why Christians are a victimized minority that’s having their faith outlawed. I could write, and probably will at some point, about how being religious in general is becoming more and more uncomfortable for people, but that is not the subject of this post.

This post is about a word. It is a word that is used in many different ways by different groups of people.

Evangelical.

I started this blog because I was tired of being considered an oxymoron. Yes, I’m liberal, no I don’t want to get together and complain about how horrible religious people are limiting abortion and are all crazy. Yes, I’m evangelical, no I’m not going to sit you down and explain that if you don’t convert you’re going to hell. It’s really quite amazing how narrow people think these boxes are. I met a boy once who was unaware that it was possible to be a nerd and Christian (this apparently is not an unusual idea, for some reason, as this has come up multiple times as I’ve tried to explain things like “No, playing dungeon and dragons isn’t sinful”).

Yet, despite the fact that this blog is written around my identity as both a liberal and an evangelical, I haven’t explained much about how I define that, what I mean by that. It’s a word that can be used in multiple ways and which I think is very misunderstood.

Let’s start with the basics. No matter what random “experts” on CNN seem to imply, Evangelism and the Religious Right are two utterly different things. Evangelism is a theological concept. The Religious Right is a political movement. Using them synonymously is just annoying.

Secondly, I’m not going to pretend that being an “evangelical” is purely spiritual, and doesn’t have accompanying social mores and culture. Being evangelical in the United States these days, particularly in subgroups such as non-denominational Protestantism, is cultural. We have music artists that we listen to, we have specific vocabulary, we have social practices. However, this is not what evangelism is. Like any culture, there are as many different values, interpretations, and beliefs (political, religious, or otherwise) as there are people. We are not all the same. Forget that, we’re not all even alike. It is possible, in fact, to be part of that culture and not be evangelical.

That’s because evangelical isn’t a culture or a political sub-group, it’s a spiritual choice. It’s also one that manifests itself in different ways. Evangelism doesn’t require you to hand out pamphlets on the subway or to try to convince your non-Christian friends that their religions have no meaning. It doesn’t even require you, in my mind, to be convinced that the only way to heaven is through conscious belief in Jesus as the Messiah (I’m sure many would disagree with that).

To be evangelical, generally, is to want to and to try to share the ‘message’ of Christianity. Note, I said “share”, I did not say “force down someone’s throat”. Let us not confuse those two terms.

Evangelicals, in whatever intensity, do believe that Christianity is “the best”. It is something that they believe is true and is a good thing. It is a very delicate line, and some of us are more concerned about where we cross it, between believing we are right and insulting other faiths. To evangelize is to share your faith, your beliefs, your values. It means to explain why you believe in them, to explain what they give you. Some people choose (and while I’m not among them, I respect their right to do so) to evangelize by buying billboards or passing out literature. Some people will stop you in the grocery market and ask if they can talk to you about Jesus. Some people will simply say, “You know, my church meets at ten every Sunday, you’re perfectly welcome if you ever want to stop by”. There are lots of different ways to share one’s faith or to invite another person into it.

Here up in the liberal Northeast, evangelicals are not very popular. The polite people just think they’re kind of crazy and ignore them. The rude people go on lots of rants. Even many Christians are very quick to say, “Oh, I’m not one of those Christians”. Evangelism is seen as offensive. Frankly, though, I don’t understand why.

It’s not that I dismiss the fact that no one likes to be told they’re wrong or that everyone deserves to have their own views taken into consideration. However, when you think about it, evangelism, religious or not, is all around them.

“You need to try acupuncture. It changed my life. I’m serious, you have to go.”

“The thing that I hate about teachers’ unions is…”

And so on.

Friends, families, even mild acquaintances, don’t feel at all hesitant about giving their opinions on your lifestyle or of trying to convince you of the veracity of their opinion. Until it gets a bit overzealous, no one finds it offensive if someone is trying to convince you that you shouldn’t vote for _______ or that your view on _________ is illogical. It’s perfectly acceptable these days. I frankly don’t see any difference between political canvassing and Jehovah’s witnesses, or between making a passionate defense of your faith versus a passionate defense of abortion. To make a separate case is to hold to some sort of double standard that we have freedom of expression and freedom to share our beliefs publicly on everything, except for religion.

It’s about dialogue. It’s about sharing and learning from one another. It’s explaining why you think something, what are the benefits of it from your perspective. There is nothing inherently disrespectful about the principle. I further don’t believe it is offensive to evangelize because 99% of the time it is non-coercive, and as long as people have free choice, I simply don’t see the problem.

One of my first posts was about this, I believe. I wrote about how at my Christian school, when I was young, they had us debate whether or not we should read a book that had anti-Christian themes. There were a few classmates of mine who said that we shouldn’t, that it might cause us to question our faith. However, I believe that if a faith or an opinion cannot hold up if it’s exposed to a conflicting idea, it’s not worth having. I don’t believe that it is an affront to human dignity to have someone share with you an idea that you disagree with. That’s why God…or evolutionary processes…or both…gave you a brain, so that you could listen to ideas, critique them, evaluate them, and think for yourself.

While I, like many others, have grown to have respect and appreciation for the new Pope, there is a part of me that has been saddened by the reaction of the world. So many secularists or members of other faiths who talk about how unusual his openness and compassion is. For me, those things are what my religion is about, and the fact that people see Pope Francis as an anomaly, rather than as the norm, is a sign that we Christians are failing in the way that we share our faith with the world. Serving the disenfranchised with compassion, saying “I do this because of what I believe about God” that is the Christian evangelism that I believe in.

I am a Christian and I strive to live my life according to principles. I share my faith with those who ask, by be open and willing to explain and to engage in a dialogue. I share my faith by living it out and letting it be known that I make my choices because of my faith. Evangelism, to me, is simply openness.

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Don’t be afraid of sin.

What is sin?

 

Ah yes, that eternal question.  It’s started wars, it’s led to ostracism, and it’s led to countless fights between parents and children. 

 

In many more conservative traditions, sin is a set of rules.  It is a sin to do X, so you must avoid X.  However, as a liberal evangelical, I take a different view of sin.  Sin is not a list of things to avoid, sin is whatever causes harm.  Everything must be measured against this.  Does having sex before marriage cause harm?  Depends on the situation and the couple.  Does punching someone in the face cause harm?  Yes.  Does punching someone in the face to stop them from attacking someone else cause harm…or does it prevent a greater harm?  Unclear. 

 

I believe that the approach Jesus took in the gospels supports this interpretation.  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus begins to take a different approach on sin, moving from the rule-driven approach of the Torah, to a more philosophical approach.  Not killing moves to not hurting another person.  Not committing adultery moves to not having unfaithful thoughts. 

 

Now, admittedly…rules are a lot easier.  It’s a lot easier to avoid things than to not cause harm.  What very few people talk about, but which I believe, is that sin also is about obligations.  It’s not just about what you shouldn’t do…it’s about what you don’t do.  Do you not care about other people or show them love?  Do you not tithe?  Do you not avoid products that you know were made by people who were exploited?  Do you not recycle?  All of these things cause harm…but very few people would likely think of them as sins.

 

Liberals don’t like the word sin.  It scares us; it seems so judgmental and fire-and-brimstone.  Sinners are murderers, right?  Our world is increasingly trying to turn things into shades of gray.  Things are shades of gray, I don’t deny that, but hurting your friends feelings isn’t something that’s regrettably inevitable, and you’ll try better next time, it’s a sin.  It’s not something to torture yourself about, but it’s something to admit to yourself.  Sin is a beautiful concept.  I don’t find it weighs me down, makes me depressed and guilty, rather, it relieves me from those feelings.  See, the kind of “oh, I shouldn’t really have done that” leaves me in a state of uncomfortableness, some guilt mixed with cognitive dissonance and uncertainty, but a sin…that’s something you can face, and facing it can be a lot more liberating than ignoring it. 

 

I remember a time when I felt like the decisions I was making were in this constant state of gray.  I did not know what was right.  I felt so bad about myself, but I wasn’t sure that what I was doing was actually wrong.  I had an epiphany one day.  Whether or not it was wrong wasn’t the point, but I was doing something that I wasn’t morally comfortable with, I was causing harm to myself.  As soon as I admitted that, I was able to ask God for forgiveness and then ask it of myself.

 

Sin is often a road to peace, because it is a means of being accountable to one’s self, to the people around you, to the people you haven’t even met, and to God. See, the beautiful thing about sins is that once asked, forgiveness is always given.

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