Welcome to my heresy

So at our baptism service last night, we had a sermon on sin. Which is sort of central to Christian teaching. I do realize that. How we should take it seriously and repent of it and… try harder.

All of which I believe in.

Sort of.

I mean, I believe that we should take sin seriously, but I also believe we tend to get riled up over the least important sins and tend to be most proud of the least important virtues.

I believe we should repent of sin, but I also believe most of us have confused repentance with self-loathing and shame.

I believe we should try harder… sometimes. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure Jesus said he was here to give us rest not programs for self-improvement.

Call it the express train to heresy, but I’m tired of hearing Christians tell me that people fall into sin because they’re lured by the excitement and glamour. That sin is DELICIOUS and oh-so fun.

The thing about that belief is that you have to narrow your definition of sin down to, I dunno, particular forms of lust maybe before that theory makes any sense. I could be wrong, but I can’t think of anything SUPER glamorous about envying your neighbor’s salary raise. In my experience, envy happens when you’re feeling insecure about yourself, and it’s never a fun experience. And who goes cruising through their day and thinks: you know what would make this day REALLY fun? Berating my coworkers in a fit of rage! Awesome! Can’t wait to get started on that!

I don’t know anybody who sins because it’s fun. People seem to sin because they’re trying to figure their lives out, trying to protect themselves, trying to meet their needs. People steal because they think material things will make them feel better. People lie because they desperately want to be liked—or at least envied. People wound others because they are wounded. People fall into addictions because it’s the only thing that “fixes”—or at least masks—their pain.

So when we insist that people are sinning because they’re weak-willed folk addicted to the pleasures of this world, you know what that’s called, right? That’s called shaming people.

Religious folks are really good at shaming people.

People who are, in my experience, generally pretty reasonable, pretty likable, and trying pretty hard to be “good.” Whatever their creed, the majority of people I’ve met actually want to be good, to be safe, and to be at peace. And sin is incredibly logical. Sin is incredibly normal. Sin is anything that separates us from God, so sin is nothing more colorful or titillating than trying to figure life out apart from God.

I know.

That’s so boring, right?

The problem is we’ve spent so much time as a church trying to reference and prioritize and cross-index sins that we’ve ended up splitting the sin atom—divorcing the behavior from the state of being—and focusing exclusively on the behaviors as the real problem.

I mean, sure. Keep an eye on your behaviors. Be aware. That’s all good.

But the idea that we can fix our sin problems by self-denial or willpower or a program of serious Bible study is sort of ridiculous in my opinion. Not to mention short-sighted and doomed to failure, since most people are sinning in order to fulfill their legitimate needs and will go on sinning until they find a better solution to getting their needs met.

The best willpower can ever do for you is buy you some time to realize that your real problem isn’t that XYZ looks super fun, it’s that need U isn’t being met and you don’t believe God cares enough or trust him to actually do anything about it so that means XYZ is now your best option for meeting need U.

Like I said, maybe that’s heretical.

I don’t know.

But I’ve had to spend years trying to detox my soul from all the shaming stuff that goes down in Christendom, and it blows me away that otherwise insightful people still imagine the real problem with the church is that we don’t take sin seriously enough.

Are you kidding me?

Being obsessed with identifying or condemning sin is no more healthy than pretending it doesn’t exist and hedging whenever the question arises. They’re two sides of the same coin.

They are both works-based programs designed to make us look better.

Thanks, but no thanks.

I’m pretty sure if the church wants to have any influence in the world today it doesn’t need to take sin more seriously. It needs to take grace and compassion more seriously.

Call me crazy.


6 thoughts on “Welcome to my heresy

  1. I like your kind of heresy.

    Really well-written post. Never really thought very hard about the “sin is fun, righteousness is sober and sometimes boring but important” argument before. Makes me chuckle now that you take it apart like that.

  2. I agree with you completely. I think, that sin never made anybody happy.
    And I think our sin is not trusting that God wants our best, but going our own way and living as if He didn’t exist. All the other “sins” are spin offs of this.
    My picture of God is that in the prodigal son, where a father longingly waits with open arms for his erring child to come home.
    And one of my favorite verses is: God has not given us a spirit of fear (or timidity), but of power, of love and of a sound mind (or in a different translation, self discipline). 2. Tim.7
    God gives us what we need to follow him and wants us to follow him boldly. HE encourages us! And He is waiting when we fall to comfort us, forgive us and help us to move on.
    Of course, He knows what we need and might sometimes take us out of our comfort zones and demand something from us! But all of this bring us further and help us to grow.. We are all the time surrounded by GRACE, we are not slaves but children of a loving father.

  3. For me, it all comes down to worship. Who or what am I worshiping? Every need we have, every desire, every drive to be free from pain, or to be loved, or to have enough, or to be valuable, all of it was designed to be met by God. And that is the root of worship. The thing I worship is the one thing that I must have to be OK. If that one thing is God, then I will not sin. As soon as I get an inkling that that one thing is anything else, I am already sinning, even if it’s just in my mind. I will yell at my kids if I think I need peace and order above God. I will envy my friend’s house if I think I need a vintage farm above God. I will gluttonously indulge my flesh in sweet baked goods and junk food if I think that I need momentary comfort above God.

    You’re absolutely right that it’s not about trying harder. Trying harder fixes nothing if I’m still worshiping the wrong thing. If I worship peace and order, it does me no good at all to try and lacerate myself into not yelling at my children for their messy, childish rambunctiousness. I will be miserable, and it won’t work anyway. Eventually, I ‘ll crack under the pressure, get mad, and then try again to try harder. The solution is to worship God. It’s not that sin is fun and God is not. God is the only genuine, quintessential, completely satisfying, perfect fun in the universe. He is the only way out of our pain, the only One who can actually meet our needs instead of just making it seem easier to deal with them for awhile.

    If I had to pick a life passage I’m pretty sure it would be this one.

    Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods? but my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit.  Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith the LORD.  For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water (Jeremiah 2:11-13).

    Sin is the hewing out of broken cisterns to slake very real thirst. The solution is not to try harder to stop hewing out cisterns. We’ll still be thirsty, and it’s only a matter of time before we take out our chisels and hammers again. The solution is to return to the Fountain of Living Waters.

  4. I so agree with you! I am struck by the fact that God actually looks (measures) only at one, or better two things: how much do you love Him and how much do you love your neighbour. I think sin find’s its place if you follow this kind of measurement.

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