Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Speaking of Sin

Lately I've started to think about Barbara Brown Taylor's book, "Speaking of Sin." I don't have a copy of it here, it's at the office. And, I haven't read it for about 5 years....(guessing here, like I said I don't have a copy so not sure when it was printed).

The point is, as I recall from her book, she argues for the necessity of a language for sin. She says that we have become a society that brushes off sin, ignores it as a reality and writes it off. People don't want to go to church and feel "bad" so let's don't offer a confession and absolution.

I remember this topic in a conversation at seminary, lo some 12 years ago. I think I argued, then, for confession, but not at everyone of our daily Eucharists. I thought it would be good enough to have it once or twice a week, so it wouldn't become rote and meaningless. Others wanted it less, while others wanted the confession included in every Eucharist.

Not sure if I would argue it the same way, now. But that's beside the point. What I am thinking about is, how do we name sin? And how do we teach it to people, especially our children?

My kids just roll their eyes when I use language like, "sin." So I have to describe their behavior in other words....words about justice, respect, accountability. My hope is convey what sin is even if they don't like the word.

Another thing, as a I recall, that BBT says in the book, is that forgiveness is important and so is reconciliation. These concepts are important for human well being - in a real, deep, way. I can't recall how BBT unpacks this, but I remember that I thought is was right on.

My daughter is now 20. I think she has grown up understanding the concept of sin and reconciliation even without the language. She has a fine sense of justice, honesty, and accountability. Some days I stand in awe of her strength and integrity.

Now, my son, who is 16, is another story. He, currently, is living with the impression that the world needs to adapt to him, not he to the world. It makes it complicated to teach him accountability....

And, it is leaving me feeling impotent and unable to parent.

But I don't think it is just about me and my son. I think we are a reflection of our society, our world. People who have lost the ability to speak of sin and then understand what to do....and our society is crumbling under that loss...crumbling from denial, from pushing things under or away, and pretending that each of us is entitled to what ever it is we think is right.

Yes. I chose to write a public confession of my failure. It's true. I have. My hope is that accepting my failure (not that I am a failure, but that in areas of my life I have failed) accepting it and confessing it, I can seek ways to reconcile it. I trust that the forgiveness is there, but that does not relieve me of my responsibility to reconcile...

That is, with God's grace.


Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

I respect you for being so honest in this post. I think we have all had relationships in which we felt we failed. Some people prefer to find others to blame for that failure, but the responsible thing is to at least ask what part we played in it.

I'll say a prayer for you and your son.

Presbyterian Gal said...

I hear you! My skin is covered with sin compost! I try to teach my 9 years old in terms of choices and consequences. So far so good. But then, he's not a teenager yet.

Kievas said...

I think I was probably that way at 16...

Crystal said...

i think you've hit an important issue. on one hand we talk about sin and yet when many of us talk about the things we do that are wrong there is a big hesitation about calling it sin. when we hear (read) sin, it seems to either feel terribly heavy or doesn't mean anything at all.

i struggle with the confession thing--we do it every week now. i find it very powerful but i worry that it may be too shallow or rote. does it mean anything if we do it every week?

peace to you.

Mary Beth said...

I never considered how it would be NOT to confess every time we take communion. I will be thinking on this much.

Your grief is palpable. I am holding you in my heart's arms.

Brighter days will come. But for now, I am sorry.

Barbara B. said...

'Sin' is one of those words with a lot of baggage.

It's difficult and challenging being a parent... (((mompriest))) All we can do is give it our best effort.

Keeping you in my prayers.

RevDrKate said...

Oh dear. It sounds like such a painful hard thing. Wish there was something more to offer but my concern and prayer....but that is surely yours. ((MP))

Sherry said...

Wow, a big idea expressed here. I have difficulty with use of the term "sin" and find it counter productive, given our culture war mentality with the ultra right using the term over extensively. It tends to hit a nerve with me.

I guess I'm more comfortable with a phrase like "failure to live up to the standards I believe God expects of me." I don't know if others find "sin" an outmoded and perhaps fundamentalist term, but I certainly do, and wonder if that is why we are so quick to avoid examining ourselves.

While I am loath to shift the fault of the economic crisis away from the business interests whose greed undoubtedly created it, we as individuals bear responsibility as well, by our dogged refusal to become informed. You can take the "they told me I could get a mortgage" only so far. I think that as a nation we are loath to accept our sin for the conduct of our country, and in the end, it is ours.

Thanks for such a thought provoking post.

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