Christianity has far too easily called individual, private behaviors sins while usually ignoring or even supporting structural and systemic evils such as war, colonization, corporate greed, slavery, and abuse of the Earth. All of the seven capital sins were admired at the corporate level and shamed at the individual level.
.. This left us utterly split in our morality, dealing with symptoms instead of causes, shaming people while glorifying systems that were themselves selfish, greedy, lustful, ambitious, lazy, prideful, and deceitful. We can’t have it both ways. Evil lurks powerfully in the shadows, in our unconscious complicity with systems that serve us at others’ expense. It has created worldviews of entitlement and privilege that were largely unrecognized until rather recently.
.. Only contemplative, nondual consciousness is capable of seeing things like this without also being negative or self-righteous. Once you can clear away the web of illusion you will be able to see that every created thing is still made in the image of God
.. There is no profane place, person, or creature. We can even find the sacred in seemingly secular human endeavors like sex, food, work, economics, and politics, as we’ll see later this year.
.. “Christ is everything and he is in everything” (Colossians 3:11). To see this is to have “the mind of Christ.”
It is not that if I am moral, then I will be loved by God; rather, I must first come to experience God’s love, and then I will—almost naturally—be moral.
.. Unfortunately, the word “sin” in our vocabulary implies culpability or personal fault. In fact, the precise meaning of original sin is that we are not personallyculpable for it, but it was somehow passed on to us and all people share in it.
.. We are not punished for our sins; we are punished by our sins.
It seems that we must fail, and even “transgress,” and then need mercy, forgiveness, and love because of that very transgression. Up to then, all God talk is largely academic and formal. We don’t really know love until we need love.
.. “Her many sins have been forgiven her or she would not have shown such great love,” says Jesus of “the woman who was a sinner” (Luke 7:47). The law-abiding Pharisee is deemed ridiculous while the grasping tax collector, with no spiritual resume whatsoever, goes home “justified” (Luke 18:9-14).
.. It is our mistakes that lead us to God. We come to divine union not by doing it right but by doing it wrong, as we all most surely do anyway.
Why do working-class conservatives seem to vote so often against their own economic interests?
My stab at an answer would begin in the 18th and 19th centuries. Many Trump supporters live in places that once were on the edge of the American frontier. Life on that frontier was fragile, perilous, lonely and remorseless. If a single slip could produce disaster, then discipline and self-reliance were essential. The basic pattern of life was an underlying condition of peril, warded off by an ethos of self-restraint, temperance, self-control and strictness of conscience.
.. Today these places are no longer frontier towns, but many of them still exist on the same knife’s edge between traditionalist order and extreme dissolution.
.. Many people in these places tend to see their communities the way foreign policy realists see the world: as an unvarnished struggle for resources — as a tough world, a no-illusions world, a world where conflict is built into the fabric of reality.
.. The virtues most admired in such places, then and now, are what Shirley Robin Letwin once called the vigorous virtues: “upright, self-sufficient, energetic, adventurous, independent minded, loyal to friends and robust against foes.”
.. The sins that can cause the most trouble are not the social sins — injustice, incivility, etc. They are the personal sins — laziness, self-indulgence, drinking, sleeping around.
.. Moreover, the forces of social disruption are visible on every street: the slackers taking advantage of the disability programs, the people popping out babies, the drug users, the spouse abusers.
.. In their view, government doesn’t reinforce the vigorous virtues. On the contrary, it undermines them — by fostering initiative-sucking dependency, by letting people get away with their mistakes so they can make more of them and by getting in the way of moral formation.
The only way you build up self-reliant virtues, in this view, is through struggle. Yet faraway government experts want to cushion people from the hardships that are the schools of self-reliance. Compassionate government threatens to turn people into snowflakes.
.. a woman from Louisiana complaining about the childproof lids on medicine and the mandatory seatbelt laws. “We let them throw lawn darts, smoked alongside them,” the woman says of her children. “And they survived. Now it’s like your kid needs a helmet, knee pads and elbow pads to go down the kiddy slide.”
.. they perceive government as a corrupt arm used against the little guy. She argues that these voters may vote against their economic interests, but they vote for their emotional interests, for candidates who share their emotions about problems and groups.
.. I’d say they believe that big government support would provide short-term assistance, but that it would be a long-term poison to the values that are at the core of prosperity.
I believe the message of the crucified Jesus is a statement about what to do with your pain. It’s primarily a message of transformation, and not a transaction to “open the gates of heaven,” unless you are talking about being drawn into heaven right now. For some unfortunate reason, Christians have usually “used” Jesus as a mere problem solver, one who would protect us personally from pain later. That kept us in a very small, self-centered world. The big loss was that we missed Jesus’ message of how to let God transform us and our world here and now.
.. Was God trying to solve a problem through what looked like the necessary death of Jesus? Or was God trying to reveal something central about the nature of God? Christians have historically taught that God was saving us from our sins. Maybe an even better way to say it is that Jesus was saving us through our sins. As Paul says with great subtlety, Jesus “became sin that we might become the very goodness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). In other words, Jesus becomes the problem to show us how to resolve the problem.
We are generally inclined to either create victims of others or play the victim ourselves, both of which are no solution but only perpetuate the problem. Jesus instead holds the pain—even becomes the pain—until it transforms him into a higher state, which we rightly call the risen life.
The crucified and resurrected Jesus shows us how to do this without denying, blaming, or projecting pain elsewhere. In fact, there is no “elsewhere.” Jesus is the victim in an entirely new way because he receives our hatred and does not return it, nor does he play the victim for his own empowerment.
We find no self-pity or resentment in Jesus. He never asks his followers to avenge his murder. He suffers and does not make others suffer because of it. He does not use his suffering and death as power over others to punish them, but as power for others to transform them.
The cross is a healing message about the violence of humanity, and we tragically turned it into the violence of God, who we thought needed “a sacrifice” to love us.