Liberals Need to Embrace a Healthy Theology of Sin

sin.jpg

For many progressive Christians and “spiritual but not religious” liberals, leaving behind all theology feels like breaking free of prison. But throwing out the baby with the bathwater has allowed Western Civilization to grow a prevailing culture of religious zealotry that is cruel and immoral. This article is a sincere plea to all you activists out there: get back in the game and take back the best of religion. Let’s start with restoring the concept of sin.

“Implicit Bias” Used to be Called a “Nature of Sin.”

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? — Jeremiah 17:9

In the 2016 Vice Presidential Debate, Mike Pence responded to a question about implicit bias leading to police shootings of minorities by saying this:

evil pence.jpg

“Enough of this seeking every opportunity to demean law enforcement broadly by making the accusation of implicit bias whenever tragedy happens…”

It’s a pity that such a proclaimed lifelong evangelical Christian doesn’t seem to understand his own theology. According to the Bible, it is our first nature to be unconsciously biased toward our fellow man.

“for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

Liberal academics and activists have been preaching the concept of implicit bias with the same passion they hunt artisan kombucha. This idea that we are conditioned with prejudice and bias on a deep level from our culture, family, and upbringing is undoubtedly novel to many people, but it is hardly new.

The heart of all good religion, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, etc., is that we have a dark side to our nature that we have to first acknowledge, and then seek to understand and gain agency over it. The core of all practical spiritual development is the pursuit of understanding our own implicit biases and then learning to change them.

Sexual Morality is About Consent, Not Genitals

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave[a] nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. — Galatians 3:28

Probably the most infuriating consequence of Liberals casting aside theology is that masses of right-wing cultists are free to self-righteously proclaim sexually moral superiority just because they are born perfectly heterosexual. Meanwhile, demands to address rape-culture and expose abusive relationships are seen as “political.” What the hell?

What religious conservatives forget (or never learned) is that during the time the Bible was written, marriage was about men OWNING women as property. While most Evangelicals would blush or dodge at the notion that “old-time values” means treating women like property, they gladly misquote the Bible from passages written during a time when that was the context.

If you read the Bible in the context of the times it was written, it is evident that it points in the direction of trying to get society to treat women better, not worse. And most of the passages used to condemn homosexuality was actually condemning culturally acceptable rape and abusive behavior.

Walking through this with a lifetime religious conservative would take hours, but for those of you who already know that owning women is immoral, here is the point: Sexual morality is best defined through respect, equality, and consent. Sexual sin, therefore, is about status, power, and degradation.

Few cultures embrace sexuality as a social status symbol more than the religious right. Liberals have a lot of justification to start using the word “sin” when they discuss sexual inequality, and they should.

Greed is a Sin, Full Stop

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you. — James 5:1–6 ESV

There is absolutely no room in the Bible for greed and unfettered pursuit of profit. Scriptures also condemn any status or class systems based on wealth (James 2:1–4). Anyone who says they worship Jesus out of one side of their mouth and then praise men for accumulating wealth on the other is a liar and a hypocrite. Period.

In fact, the majority of commands and instruction in the Bible is written TO THE RICH. When the Bible addresses the poor, it is mostly as encouragement or support. When we are poor, we lack options. As we gain wealth, we now have options and choices to make as to how we use it. If someone is going to carry the moniker of “Christian,” then they can expect to be judged by this standard.

Dear Liberals, the Bible is Your Friend, and Better Yet, a Sword.

Progressives, liberals, and social activists have done themselves a great disservice by shunning Scripture as a reaction to bad religious actors. The more liberals shout “equal rights” and “social justice” the more false Christians yell “but the Bible!” So let’s start reminding them what is actually in the Bible.

The greatest sin, according to Jesus Christ himself, is the neglect of your neighbor and the persecution of the weak. Sin isn’t about who loves who; it’s about lacking love for one another. If liberals can bring the word “sin” back into their dialog, it will pull the floor out from under false prophets and hypocritical politicians.