I’m not able to come to the group tonight but am very interested in this topic (sin, confession, penance and redemption having very real, ritualized meaning for us “lapsed” Catholics) so am going to just leave a few thoughts here:
I loved the quote from Reinhold Neibuhr (p305 of the eBook): “…reaching back at least to Augustine, the “root sin’ is ‘pride,’ hubris, to use the Greek term. Hubris is self-centredness.”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve screwed up by being superficially, glibly over-confident, thinking of myself instead of others, seeing myself as the centre instead of part of things. Making assumptions. As the saying goes: “assume” makes as “ass” out of “u” and “me.”
That Borg puts this together with early life experience is interesting. I wonder what in my childhood might have made me rush to conclusions or act bigger than my britches. Perhaps we all do that early on but some of us just don’t mature perfectly through it.
I also found it inspiring how Borg blends interpretations together, as on p.311:
“The problem isn’t that we have been bad and have rebelled against God (though that may be true), but that we are blind, estranged, lost, in exile, self-centred, wounded, sick, paralyzed, in bondage, grasping, and so forth. Forgiveness doesn’t speak to these issues. But the central images of the Christian life as a ‘way’ do: it is a way to return from exile, of reconnection; it is a way of liberation from bondage; a way in which our sight is restored; a way of having our hearts opened by spending time in thin places; a way that leads from being lost to finding and being found.”
And finally, I was moved by Borg’s view of sin as a social phenomenon requiring a social solution, on p 329:
“Salvation is about life together. Salvation is about peace and justice within community and beyond community. It is about shalom, a word connoting not simply peace as the absence of war, but peace as the wholeness of a community living together in peace and justice. Salvation is never only an individual affair in the Hebrew Bible.”
It is here that for the sake of my (possibly forever damned:) contrarian soul, I want to return to my Catholic roots in search of the redemptive possibilities of confession and penance. To confess is a social act. To my way of thinking, you cannot fully be at peace just apologizing to, or begging forgiveness from God. God is indifferent to our suffering and to us, individually. He is not indifferent to how we are with and towards each other. Isn’t that the whole message of the Christ story?
I’m not saying I subscribe to the Catholic “answer” to this issue. Confession in the confessional to a priest is a little bit too much like whispering with God under your breath even while you’re holding somebody up. Go that route and you end up in a place where nothing is true and everything is permitted.
Okay, so those are my thoughts for now. I really liked the “exercise” Rob devised last week, asking everyone to recount a personal experience of a thin place. It was very moving and brought us closer together. Perhaps this week, Rob will come up with something similar: (something short of True Confessions I hope:)
oh, also, in case there is any doubt that Christianity is “trending” right now (becoming more and more popular), you may have seen this Oscar acceptance speech last night: