Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A Facelift for Sin

In the past few days, the moral concerns of some major denominations have undergone a shift. On Monday,"a group of Southern Baptist leaders said their denomination has been "too timid" on environmental issues and has a biblical duty to stop global warming." Unlike previous attempts from Southern Baptists to make the environment a moral issue, this statement calling for environmental action was even signed by the president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

The Roman Catholic Church has also just updated its list of sins. "Now, the Catholic Church says pollution, mind-damaging drugs and genetic experiments are on its updated thou-shalt-not list. Also receiving fresh attention by the Vatican was social injustice, along the lines of the age-old maxim: "The rich get richer while the poor get poorer.""

""If yesterday sin had a rather individualistic dimension, today it has a weight, a resonance, that's especially social, rather than individual," said Girotti, whose office deals with matters of conscience and grants absolution."

I have long believed that if the Church is going to define sin as an act (which Lutherans do not), actions with larger social consequences should be right at the top of the list.

However, as religion columnist Claire Hoffman writes:
"As an agnostic who has already spent years feeling guilty for, despite my best efforts, destroying this beautiful earth, I worry for these new converts to environmental shame. Can they handle this sin? It's one thing to feel bad for the sea gulls and the oceans. But if questions of heaven and hell get tied up in recycling and polluting, I fear it could turn this whole green movement upside down. Will pollution become like other sin, something secret that one does and takes pleasure from? Will desire for a large carbon foot print swell now that it is verboten? Will governors suddenly be caught on wiretaps discussing their littering fetishes?

What happens when the mundane daily shame about trash sorting is elevated to sin and conscientiousnesses about green house gases becomes biblical duty? The track record, not so good."

But then, that's why Lutherans define sin as the heart curved in upon itself, and not as a specific action on a list of dos and don'ts.

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