Last night, in the parking lot of the temple of organic food, I saw the following bumper sticker:
God Bless the Whole World, No Exceptions!
I’ve seen in before of course, but it only came to mind then what it really meant:
There probably isn’t a God, but even if there is, then there is still no sin.
Thus sayeth the driver of the green Subaru Outback in parking row #7. And perhaps President Obama, since his smiling face was on the bumper sticker right next to it.
I was thinking earlier about how all of us fallen human beings are really not that different from each other. We don’t like the effects of the fall (rightly so), and set out to do something about it.
The fundamentalist tries to get rid of sin by changing everyone’s behavior.
The liberal tries to get rid of sin by redefining sin so that it (almost) doesn’t exist.
(My wife pointed out that the Buddhist tries to get rid of sin by not thinking about it. This is an odd mix of acknowledging it and not.)
That’s what I thought at first. The I realized it’s even more straight forward then that:
The fundamentalist tries to define sin very exactly. Then he tries to get everyone to stop behaving sinfully, beginning with his children, then his neighbor’s children through education, and then the whole nation through laws, prohibitions of behaving sinfully and punishments to go along with that behavior.
The liberal tries to redefine sin so that it almost doesn’t exist. Then he tries to get everyone to stop behaving as if sin still exists beginning with his children, then his neighbor’s children through education, and then the whole nation through laws, prohibitions of daring to make others feel guilty and punishments to deal with those accusations.
Both these groups have problems of course. The first accusation leveled at the fundamentalist is that he can’t be trusted to change everyone else’s behavior if his own life is still full of “sin”. This is a just accusation, but does nothing (as the accuser wishes it could) to remove the definition of sin. Secondly, if the fundamentalist succeeds in gaining control of the nation, his own remaining sinfulness will be amplified and he will find that things are not all that much better as he had hoped. For details, see Iran, where the Mullahs will have a woman beaten for refusing to wear a veil, and throw a man in prison for daring to hold a soccer match.
The liberal has even more trouble though. He starts out strong, since it takes little effort to believe that what you are already doing is not sinful. He is above reproach. Then he moves on to training up his children, except he has to skip this part since he can’t be bothered with having any of those brats in the first place. So he moves quickly on to indoctrinating others’ children by removing all traces of sin definitions in education. Here again, he runs into a snag. The school is filled with children of parents who COULD be bothered to raise them, and those people probably believe sin still exists, in some fashion. They will resist changes to their school. So he must skip that step for now and go straight into politics. Once control is gained there, laws can be used to remove all trace of sin in the schools. Finally, the laws will be loosened so that the only evil that remains is guilt.
Christianity did not spread from a small village in the middle east to the whole Roman empire in just 100 years be being either one of these. It did not continue to cover the whole earth by being either one of these either. I am not smart enough, nor well-versed in history enough to sum up for you how it DID come to cover the earth. See N.T. Wright for details.
Back to the bumper sticker. God does love everyone, no exceptions! (Except for maybe Esau, whom he hated). But we are a twisted race. Fallen from our original design. If our hearts return to him (He is kind, patient), then we wil see him more clearly. In doing so, we will be more aware of the awful potenency of sin. Let us hope we also grow more aware of the incredible potency of forgiveness.