Friday, June 15, 2007
Warning: Friday Rant
Oooo. I have one of those "I think my head is going to explode" feelings. Thoughts re: sin and salvation and Christianity's take on it and how that relates to Jesus' take on it and Buddhism's take on it and Judaism's take on it and the Tao's approach ... swirling, swirling, swirling. Perhaps a thoughtful post will emerge soon. More likely just some incoherent journal entries.
In the meantime, here's my rant for today. It's not sin I have a problem with. Sin seems self-evident to me. (Read newspaper or watch current administration for examples. But then, I am a Calvinist, so I do read through that lens. Whose post today referred to Ruth Bell as "Staunch Presbyterian" and then thought that phrase might be redundant?)
Anyway, it's judgment that's the problem. Not the fact of sin, but the response of judgment. And in Christianity the two so often go hand in hand that they get conflated and confused. So, for example, while we Christians love the stories of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15) and the Woman at the Well (John 4), when we try to apply that philosophy to real life, we get squeamish. I mean, we really can't just let people's behavior completely off the hook, eh? Don't we need a little side dish of judgment to go with that mercy entree? Doesn't one need to clean up one's act before serving God?
Pema Chodron has been so helpful to me in recent months.* She teaches about the Buddhist concept of "maitri" or "unconditional friendliness with oneself." It is an incredibly nonjudgmental practice. It's not about "pampering our neurosis" but about "sticking with ourselves when we feel like a loser." At moments, I've wondered if this concept was compatible with Christianity. And then I get these great big "DUH!" moments. Hello!! Ever read the gospels??
Here's what the church preaches on Sunday morning: the prodigal son returns to find a party; the wanton woman makes the best evangelist.
Here's what the church practices: well, of course God loves you, dear, but you really do need to spend a few years feeling very, very bad about how you've behaved.
(Mary Oliver's "Wild Geese" comes quickly to mind: "You do not have to walk on your knees/for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting." But I digress.)
What came to me on a run through the rain today is that there are very, very few things that I would actually give my life for. My son's well-being is one of them. Another is this fact: God welcomes the prodigal with a party -- immediately. No repentence required. I know this because I have experienced it. And no amount of theology or church policies or anything else will ever take that truth away from me.
Why is it that my Buddhist and Taoist friends get this so much more easily than my Christian ones?
*highly recommended: "When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times" by Pema Chodron.