Monday, October 24, 2016

How We Talk about Sin

The NPR show, On Being, had a great episode with David Brooks, E. J. Dionne, and Krista Tippett.  It's the kind of episode where every bit is worth quoting--but for that, you may as well go here to read the transcript or listen to the show.

I was struck by the discussion of sin, and how even in conservative circles, there's an aversion to using that term.  Brooks proposes an idea that he got from Augustine:  "You really can’t talk about 'original sin.' People will just push you away. And so I go to Augustine’s concept of 'disordered loves' which is we all love a lot of things, and we all know some loves are higher than others. Our love of truth should be higher than our love of money, but because of some screw-up in our nature, we get our loves out of order all the time. So if a friend blabs to you a secret and you tell it at a dinner party, you’re putting your love of popularity above your love of friendship, and that’s a sin. And I think, in this world, which doesn’t like to peer darkly into brokenness, it’s easier to swallow the concept of two positive things that are out of order. And that’s a way you can introduce the concept of sin. But a lot of what we have to do now is reintroduce these concepts in a way that people won’t immediately think you’re preaching at them."

"Disordered loves"--that concept may become my favorite way to talk about sin.

My every day way of thinking about sin comes Gail Godwin, particularly in her novel Father Melancholy's Daughter: "A falling short from your totality. . . . Choosing to live in ways you know interfere with the harmony of that totality" (p. 198).

How do we stay in harmony with our totality?  How do we put our loves in proper order?

It's our life's work, these questions and their answers.

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