This is the name of a doo-wop band we should start here at the seminary.
So this week was a big milestone for me, my first confession. Confession is called the rite of Reconcilation in the Episcopal Church. Reconciliation is the key for me, to understanding sin in this day and age. For a long time, 32.5 years, I wasn't really sure what sin was/is. The prayer book isn't much help here:
Q. What is sin?
A. Sin is the seeking of our own will instead of the will of
God, thus distorting our relationship with God, with other
people, and with all creation.
Here we are given a definition that presupposes knowledge of another thing, namely, the will of God. It's like answering a question with a question. What is sin? Well, what is God's will?
I think that most thoughts on sin come from a misreading of the Old Testament. A literal reading of the OT would have us see sin as obeying rules and the violation of said rules lead to repentence and ritual satisfaction, i.e. purity laws. The Hebrews actually saw these rules, this Law, as a gift from God. Following the law equaled walking with God, closeness with God. Breaking the Law was a seperation from God and the community. This is were my new understanding of sin comes in (from Paul Tillich), sin as seperation. Sin is seperation from ourselves, our human community (neighbors), and our seperation from God (experienced subjectively).
So with an understanding of sin as seperation, can we back-track and develop what God's will is? If sin is seperation, maybe God is connectedness, intimacy, LOVE. A quick aside: God is love and intimacy. But God is also personal. While it is good and fine to be in love with the universe (as New Agers might say), the universe doesn't love you back, or love you first!
But sin and God are not polar equals. God always wins, God's mercy perseveres. I am one of those wacky people who think God's love wins the day, the last day, no matter what. Demons, devils, Dick Cheney, and even that most hallowed god (free will) cannot resist God's love. Sorry.
The great satirist Terry Pratchett hit the nail on the head in his book Carpe Jugulum:(This is an converesation between a man and his grandmother and is best read in an English accent).
"There is a very interesting debate raging at the moment about the nature of sin, for example."
"And what do they think? Against it are they?" [said Granny]
"It's not as simple as that. It's not a black and white issue. There are so many shades of gray."
"There's no grays, only white that's got grubby. I'm surprised you don't know that. And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself. That's what sin is."
"It's alot more complicated than that--"
"No. It ain't. When people say things are alot more complicated than that, they means they're getting worried that they won't like the truth. People as things, that's where it starts."
"Oh, I'm sure there are worse crimes--"
"But they starts with thinking about people as things..."
Amen and 'nuff said.