Saturday, January 17, 2009

Ruminations on Sin

Chalice Chick has been ruminating this morning about sin and how it plays out institutionally in society. Go read what she has to say here.

I've been thinking about it too, though more in the context of social justice. On the bulletin board directly in front of where I sit at the computer, I've written myself a little note (written long ago in response to some of the more outrageous stuff out there objecting to marriage equality). I might have posted it before, but I'll do it again, since I've revised it a bit:

Love is not a sin.
Commitment is not a sin.
Taking responsibility is not a sin.
Being true to your whole self is not a sin.
Sex between consenting adults is not a sin.
Trust is not a sin.

Injustice is a sin.
Betrayal is a sin.
Resentment is a sin.
Being dishonest about who you are is a sin.
Rape is a sin.
Faithlessness is a sin.

Fear is normal, but love casts out fear.

I think fear is often at the root of the actions I would call sin: fear that someone is going to hurt us and therefore we make it illegal for them to do certain things or fear that someone is going to betray us and therefore we betray them first, fear that we are not as capable as we need to be and therefore we resent and undermine those who are, fear that we are not able to have a normal sexual relationship and therefore we force others into sexual acts, fear that we do not deserve faithfulness and therefore we are faithless ourselves.

I've always found it interesting that Unitarian Universalists have a very mixed reaction to the word "Sin", as though none of us would ever do such a thing. When we do something wrong, what do we call it? Sometimes it makes sense to call it a mistake, but when we do something wrong deliberately? Is there a better word than "Sin"?

Sin is something that we ought to feel guilty about! There's another word we don't like---guilt. But it just means feeling disturbed that we did something hurtful to another person and taking responsibility for it. It's the overblown, hyped use of the word that is meaningless---when we obsess about our guilt and don't actually do anything to atone for it.

I'm getting ready to announce to the congregation tomorrow that UUCWI is undertaking what I'm calling "Proposal 2009: Standing on the Side of Love". My sermon is about MLK Jr. and his leadership of the Silent Generation and Baby Boomers into being activists for social change, referring to his statement that "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere". I am going to tell them enough about the plan to help them see its connection to our status as a Welcoming Congregation and our desire to be social activists in our community and then invite them to a conversation next week about its theological underpinnings---Principles One and Five of UUism.

I'm excited about the chance to offer good will and welcome to a group of folks who have been historically mistreated and misunderstood by a society that is afraid of those who are different. A chance to offer love instead of fear? That's the way I see it.


Ms. Theologian said...

Your comment on fear behind sin makes a lot of sense in the workplace. I think people often do the "wrong thing" or sin for fear of being fired or humiliated in some way.

LinguistFriend said...

The idea of sin is one of many Jewish and Christian concepts which are rejected by UUs on a basis which is equivalent to throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Another concept you might discuss is antonomianism.

ms. kitty said...

Ah, but then I would have to go back to my theology tomes and remind myself what antinomianism was, LF. I am not sure whether I want to do that. But thanks for the interesting thought!

plaidshoes said...

I like your comment about fear. It also makes a lot of sense to me. I very much like the poem. I think I will post it in my office, too! Your posts always make me stop, think and reevalute my ideas - thank you ;-)

ms. kitty said...

Thanks, Plaidshoes, for your kind words. And Ms. T, I think you're right on about why people sin in the workplace.

Robin Edgar said...

Is resentment *really* a sin if one is the victim of the sins of injustice and betrayal, to say nothing of other sins that provide the grounds for legitimate grievances?

Mile High Pixie said...

There's an interesting article in the most recent Utne about fear, and it's worth reading. I think that a lot of us--regardless of our political stripe or color or whatever artificially-dividing subgroup of humans to which we belong--are tired of fear. We're ready to do something towards progress, to make things happen. When we move forward out of fear, we end up inadvertently holding others down and/or back. But when we move and act out of love or at least respect, we bring everyone along. That doesn't mean we allow them to hurt us or act "however" they want, but rather we find answers to life's predicaments that are the third answer, as I call it, not one of the two choices that we've been given before that left us stymied.

ms. kitty said...

That's a really good question, Robin, and I don't have as good an answer for it. It may be that there is more than one kind of resentment and that one is legitimately obtained.

However, Pixie's idea that being tired of fear gives us impetus to do something relates to it. I don't think resentment is a healthy emotion, as long as we just are resentful. Getting tired of being resentful and doing something to get past it---that is healthy.

Thanks to both of you for your thoughts.

Robin Edgar said...

I do try to ask really good questions Rev. Ketchum. I think you answered it quite appropriately by acknowledging that some resentment is legitimately obtained.

:I don't think resentment is a healthy emotion, as long as we just are resentful. Getting tired of being resentful and doing something to get past it---that is healthy.

I agree. That is why I have a don't get angry get even, as in obtain justice and *equity* policy. As you know doubt know I can have quite a bit of fun getting even, even boatloads of fun. ;-)