Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sin, Bingo, and Love

I'm a Christian, and I can walk on water.

Don't be too impressed. I live in central Minnesota, where folks drive trucks to their ice fishing houses during winter. Once in a while someone drops into the lake, but that doesn't happen as often as a person might expect.

Ice fishing houses on Sauk Lake, Sauk Centre
Ice fishing houses on Sauk Lake: Sauk Centre, Minnesota. December 2005.

I'm no more able to walk across open water, on my own, than Peter was. (Matthew 14:22-33)

"I am Doomed!" (But Keep Reading)

As for assuming that I'm so 'saved' that I don't need help getting into Heaven? I feel like Isaiah fairly often. Which doesn't mean that I think Seraphim make regular flights to Sauk Centre, Minnesota:
"4 Then I said, 'Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!' "
(Isaiah 6:5)
I do, however, recognize that nothing is impossible for God; that I am a created being, dependent on the Almighty; and, happily, that God is merciful. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 208, 268-278, 396, and Job, for starters)

Sin and the Tax Collector

Maybe you've run into someone who acted like the Pharisee in this story:
"He then addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else.

" 'Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.

"The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, "O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity - greedy, dishonest, adulterous - or even like this tax collector.

"I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income."

"But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, "O God, be merciful to me a sinner."

" I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.' "
(Luke 18:10-14)
Or maybe you know someone who acts as if he or she is the worst sinner in the world: and that anyone who doesn't feel the same way is damned.

My guess is that some of the world's billion or so living Catholics sincerely believe that they're 'holier than the Pope,' or that wallowing in exaggerated guilt and self-hate is a virtue. Like I've said before: Sincerity does not guarantee accuracy.

Scaring Folks Silly

Jonathan Edwards' "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" made quite an impression back in 1741.

Edwards used colorful imagery and Biblical references to convince folks that Hell is real, and sin is a bad idea. So far, so good.

By the time my generation came along, it was fairly easy to assume that at least some varieties of Christianity involved scaring folks silly: then asking for money. Not, I think, what Edwards had in mind.

About a half-century back, quite a few folks in America got fed up with 'angry God' assumptions: understandably, I think.

In my youth, 'Christian' radio's steady drumbeat of guilt, anti-communist rants, and perennial end-time 'Biblical' prophecies, led me to appreciate rock music: and eventually to become a Catholic. And that's another topic. Topics.

Goofy About Guilt

I've run into folks who seemed to make assumptions close these extremes:
  1. Sin doesn't exist
    1. At all
    2. Except for
      1. Corporate greed
      2. Pollution
      3. Hurting animals
  2. Sin exists
    1. We're all saved
    2. I'm saved, you're damned
    3. We're all damned
Assumption 2A is, I think, particularly pernicious, and I've discussed Holy Willie before. (January 4, 2012) By the way, "sin" doesn't mean "stuff I don't enjoy or can't do." It shouldn't, anyway. Actually, I shouldn't enjoy sin - yet more topics.

After my exposures to 'kill a commie for Christ' zealots, I think I can understand folks who decided that guilt, and religion, are psychiatric diseases. But I that's not what I believe.

Reason, Truth, Right Conscience: And the Alternative

The Catholic Church's definition of sin includes things folks decide to do, and what we decide to not do.
"SIN: An offense against God as well as a fault against reason, truth, and right conscience. Sin is a deliberate thought, word, deed, or omission contrary to the eternal law of God. In judging the gravity of sin, it is customary to distinguish between mortal and venial sins (1849, 1853, 1854)."
(Catechism, Glossary)
Since I'm a Catholic, playing cards or Bingo is okay. But gambling so much that I can't meet my needs, and those of others, isn't. (Catechism, 2413)

A little closer to home for me, the Catholic Church doesn't have rules against 'demon rum:' but does say that drunkenness is wrong. (Catechism, 2290) My household is 'dry,' but that's because of my personal history. You guessed it: still more topics.

The "Vatican Secret Archives:" An Old Office Library

The Catholic Church has a reputation for being run by control freaks who think salvation depends on wearing a particular style of clothing, shunning 'evil' music: you get the idea.

I can see how that idea gets traction. The Vatican's office archive has about 85 kilometers of shelving, at last count. And it's "secret," which turns out to be much less exciting than it sounds.

The "Vatican Secret Archives" aren't filled with rules about where hemlines should be, or whether it's okay to use long-stemmed glasses. It's a collection of letters sent or received by Popes; diplomatic papers; internal documents; that sort of thing. (April 20, 2012)

One or Two Simple Rules

The rules are basically simple:
Those rules are simple.

Following them isn't necessarily easy, though: which may explain why the Church has spent so much time explaining why loving our neighbor doesn't include cheating our neighbor. And that's another set of topics. (September 26, 2011)

Love That Works

We're expected to actually do something about loving our neighbor. Again, that isn't necessarily easy. It's also another topic. (February 5, 2012, September 13, 2011)

Getting a grip about:

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