Thursday, April 16, 2015

Sin, sins, sinners

Interesting article at the Atlantic about the (brief) history of American Christianity with homosexual conversion therapy. This topic is probably at least as sad and wearying for you as it is for me, so I will skip to the part that got my attention:

"According to Kenneth Lewes, in his book,Psychoanalysis and Male Homosexuality, some began to view same-sex erotic behavior less as sin than as a mental-health disorder as early as the 19th century. This was true of other “sinful” behaviors as well—for example, drunkenness morphed into alcoholism and demon possession became schizophrenia or a personality disorder."

This is one of those places where the [presumably secular] reporter starts missing the point. Even if we understand alcoholism or schizophrenia as a disease, the actions which grow out of alcoholism or schizophrenia are still sins. Sin is not just about motive. It is about actions, about deeds. No context exculpates acts of sin. Or put another way, the absolute motives of fallen people are always wrong.

Looks like she couldn't help it!
This is why we ask God to forgive not our sin, but our sins. We need forgiveness for our individual acts of rebellion against Him and our neighbors. It doesn't matter if I didn't know any better when I bashed up my neighbor's lawnmower with a crowbar (because I was drunk or schizophrenic or angry or bored). That act was a sin, no matter what was in my heart, mind, or stomach when I did it.

So we pray in the liturgy, "I, a poor miserable sinner, confess to you all my sins and iniquities . . . ". We do not confess " . . . my totally non-specific and therefore way less embarrassing sin and iniquity." Sin is not abstract. It always take the form of sins, which are real, historical events. If they weren't, Jesus wouldn't have to have been crucified in a real, historical way. This is why Jesus also gives us holy absolution as a real, historical event. I sinned that sin, and I need to hear that that sin is forgiven, not just that I am generally forgiven as a sinner. To be a sinner, to sin, always means to commit individual sins.

To be a Christian is to ask for and receive forgiveness not for sin but for sins, no matter what those sins are, or out of what level of consciousness they were committed.