In Idabel, I loved walking among the trees near my home. Tall
pines felt like older siblings watching over me as I walked on a carpet of needles
and cones. At the right time of year,
pecan trees left a snack on the ground for me to munch. Others offered full leaves to shade me in the
summer and dazzle me with their colors in the fall. In the winter, they showed their bare forms
like not so shy maidens disrobed for their men’s admiration. In the spring they
garbed themselves with colored blossoms.
I lived among trees when I was a child but was soon taken
to live in the plains, where I spent most of my life. Once I was back with them
I realized how much I missed them.
In the politics of my southern culture, “tree hugger” is
a disparaging term, but I think I really am one of those people. I know for
sure that trees have held and hugged me.
When I was little, I would play among them and climb into the crook of my
favorite to read a book.
photo by D. Mercer
What if all things, animate and otherwise, are connected
spiritually? Science tells us that there is a constant exchange of atoms and molecules
in which we all participate, sharing unseen particles with each other right now
as well as with those of the past and future. What if connection goes even
deeper than that and we are actually a part of each other? I may walk among
trees, but I am also a part of the trees and the trees are a part of me. Jesus once prayed for oneness: “I in thee, and
thee in me, and they in us.” Would that oneness include not only persons but
also the trees, soil, air, sea, and stars?
It’s such a great thought and I love entertaining it. But
if it’s true, why do we get so lonely? Is it possible to simply change our
state of awareness so we can enjoy oneness with everything?
In my journals which I've written all my adult life, one of the things I said repeatedly since the beginning is how lonely I was.
If I was once your minister, please don’t feel guilty.
You didn’t know and you didn’t cause this. I’m telling it now because I hurt people
when I left the ministry and I feel that I owe them some explanation. Also, perhaps it will help people understand
the systemic problems of church that cause pastors to be lonely. Believe me,
I’m not the only pastor who feels this way.
First, we have to move frequently. We don’t have
time to form bonds and if we do, we have to leave them behind when we go to the next assignment.
Second, small town pastors are always outsiders. We didn’t
grow up with you. We don’t share your history. We’re not your family. If you
are nice enough to invite us to your house during family gatherings at holidays,
we’re uncomfortable. Additionally, we often don't have the time or resources to visit our own families.
Third, it costs too much to be friends with the pastor. If you
had tried to get close to me you might have gotten hurt by church politics. Someday I’ll write at length about that but for now I’ll just say that most of the few friends I’ve made along the
way… they don’t go to church anymore.
I always said that loneliness is just part of the
job that a minister endures. But as I got older I became
unhappier and lonelier, and I just couldn't endure it anymore.
I had no one to talk to. Every week, sometimes twice a
week, I slipped away to talk to a counselor, which helped a lot but not enough
to make up for the isolation. I couldn’t
tell anyone of my personal problems. I couldn’t talk about my theological
struggles. I couldn’t talk about my problems at work.
I don’t have mystical or psychic abilities but I
possess qualities that would identify me as an empath.
At church, when I greeted people, I surveyed their faces.
Was there sadness or fatigue in the eyes? Were there worried frowns behind the
smiles? Or were they masking everything over? When I shook their hands, I noted
the strength in the grip, the temperature, and whether they had a wedding band.
If I hugged someone I gauged their vitality and shared some of mine with
them. I listened to the tone of voice
and I paid attention to the nuance of their words. I did a quick survey from
head to foot. I saw tattoos, jewelry, and state of dress. It's not that I cared how well they dressed--I was
looking for signs as to how they were.
I did this outside of church, too, at restaurants and the
grocery store. There were often many
encounters within a short amount of time.
Once, someone accompanied me to the Walmart and commented later, “Within
fifteen minutes you met with eight people, all of whom told you significant things
about themselves.” That was normal for me.
I absorb people’s feelings. I feel their sadness and
pain. I enjoy their happiness, too, but mostly I feel the angst. When I visited the hospitals, I often felt
their symptoms while I was with patients.
Sometimes, especially at funerals, I'd get overwhelmed when I stood in front of a crowd and felt their collective vulnerabilities and it would all slam into me as I gathered my thoughts.
I’ve done this all my life and it helped me be a good
minister. Nobody forced this on me. It’s
who I am and what I do. But there were
periods when it all bore down on me like a great weight, and it would feel like
any minute my knees would give out and I’d crumble to the floor. I don’t think people
noticed except maybe other empaths. I could hide it because I was cheerful and talkative, but inside I was wearing out.
During this last year, I’ve rested and
reevaluated, and I’m learning to develop the ability to protect myself so I can continue to function. Additionally, I’m finding things that replenish me.
I stopped just after I entered through the door. The
emergency room was bustling with nurses and patients. I turned around to leave but then I stopped
again. I was still standing in the
entrance when the attendant at the counter noticed me.
“May I help you?” she asked.
“I… don’t know if I really have an emergency,” I stammered.
“What’s the problem, sir?”
“My chest hurts… and…” And then I started crying and
It became a blur at that point. I remember a nurse came
and guided me to a room. She spoke softly as she took my blood pressure, pulse,
and temperature. Then she pasted a bunch of electrodes all over my chest and
back. She left the room saying the
doctor would see me as soon as he could.
She came back to check on me a couple of times.
It wasn’t my heart. It was an anxiety attack. I’d been having them often, only not as
severe. Before I left my job at the church I had one every Sunday morning
before people arrived for the service.
My chest and head would pound, I couldn’t breathe, and I’d get dizzy and
nauseated. I knew it was anxiety so I tamped
it down by focusing on the people in front of me. But that weekday the pain in my chest came
and wouldn’t go away. In fact it became
worse which is why I went to the ER.
It was embarrassing. I hated telling anyone that I was
panicking when there was no emergency. On
the other hand, I guess I was having an ongoing emergency and my heart was in pain as I faced major
changes in my home and career.
Late in the afternoon they took all the electrodes off me
and told me to go home and relax.
That next week, a young couple who didn’t attend my
church asked me to perform their wedding.
They came to my office and we discussed the particulars of the ceremony. When I asked what they did for
a living, the woman surprised me when she said she was a nurse at the ER.
“Did you see me when I was there last week?” I asked.
She nodded. I felt the embarrassment and I didn’t know
what to say. I was the pastor giving
advice and instruction yet she had seen me as a blubbering mess.
“Are you comfortable,” I said, “with my doing your
She smiled and said, “Sure, if you are.”
We continued the session.
A few weeks later I performed the wedding. As I had her repeat the
vows, my memory came back and I realized she was the nurse who actually took care of me.
After the service I hugged her and said, “I didn’t
remember you until just now.”
If I were still a minister I might tack on a verse or
spiritual observation at this point.But
really… I got nothing.I wrote this so
people would understand how bad I was feeling when I left. But I also wrote so
I wouldn’t forget that a person I was assigned to help had already helped
“Don’t take this the wrong way, man,” the middle school
student said, “but you talk Spanish like a Gringo.”
“That’s okay,” I said. “I talk English like a Texan… y’all.”
In Orlando, we have many cultures living next to each
other. People from Puerto Rico, Cuba,
Venezuela, Haiti, France, England, Vietnam, Korea, China…. And then there are all those strange-talking
foreigners from the north like New York, Chicago, and Idaho (hey, if you’re not
from Texas you’re a foreigner to us).
Kidding aside, it’s a splendid place to live where the
cultures weave themselves in a vibrant tapestry. But it’s complicated. I try to pay attention
but I don’t understand everything I see and hear.
The other day, I was substitute teaching in a rowdy
class. One kid started throwing a
partially filled water bottle into the air, trying to get it to land right side
up—a popular physics experiment repeated over and over in schools. I politely asked him to stop. He looked at
me, smiled, and gave it another toss. I
became less polite and yelled at him and he looked at me like I’d lost my
mind. I was sure he’d lost his.
There was no lesson plan for the class. I didn’t even
know the subject. In fact, it was several minutes before I figured out that none of them
spoke English. I then realized that the
boy hadn’t understood my directive and he didn’t know why I yelled at him.
When I had a moment, I went to him and asked, “Hablas Ingles?”
photo by David Mercer
He shook his head.
I pointed to the water bottle, put my hand on my chest,
and said, “Lo siento… I’m sorry.” And then he really
looked bewildered. But it was the best I
The class was a disaster complete with kinetic mayhem
along with screeching and a fight.
I didn’t get around to taking roll until the end of
class. It was a laborious task with names difficult to pronounce and the kids
weren’t answering me anyway. But the boy
to whom I apologized came and stood next to me. He helped me read the names and
together we got the job done. I thanked
him and he gave me a terrific smile.
It gives me pause.
A Texan who can’t speak Spanish and a Puerto Rican boy who spoke no
English found an opportunity within a misunderstanding to be gracious to each
other. It turned a bad day into a good memory.
“I don’t think any of us knew how tired you were,” my friend said after I moved away. I didn't realize at first how right he was.
When I arrived in Orlando, I
thought I’d find a job right away, but in fact I stayed inside with
the lights off and couldn’t move for days which turned into weeks. And I cried
The secrets wore me down. I didn’t dare discuss my
thoughts and doubts with anyone. I hid how unhappy I was. I called on every ounce
of strength to present myself the cheerful, energetic preacher. I didn’t always
I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say I’ve been tired
most of my life.I was always able to
mentally move aside the fatigue and move on but it took its toll on my health
as I got older.
Now, Sylvia takes care of me. She fed me good food and
took me to hear good music. We went to the beach and I walked on the shore where
the cool water washed my feet and the waves established a new rhythm inside me.
I’m better. My health issues are fading. I’m able to rest. For the first time in years I
sleep through the night.
I reflect a lot on what led me to this moment even as
I begin living again. I still cry every day but it doesn’t last as
I had to leave because I was exhausted and because my beliefs
changed. But I didn’t leave because people were mean to me.
Idabel FUMC, photo by David Mercer
At some point, I want to discuss the unhealthy
dynamics of religious culture, but first I want to speak of the last church I
served before I left ministry. Plenty of
churches behave poorly in extreme times, and I’m sorry to say that it’s quite
true that they “shoot their wounded.” But the church in Idabel was different. When I got divorced, people expressed their
love for both me and my ex-wife, which is unusual. When I told them I needed to
leave the ministry, they were kind and generous.
We weren’t perfect in our church.
We had our conflicts. But we did
good work together. And when I needed it
most, they were there for me.
I will always love the First United Methodist Church of
Faith is not an either/or proposition. People often have
powerful faith without sensing the presence of God—that’s why they call it
faith. People can speak of light yet
feel they’re in darkness. People have doubts but they continue to live in
service to a God who may not seem real.
Are they hypocrites? Was I?
I felt like one at times. However, I tried to stay
truthful in my ministry. Occasionally, in the classroom and the pulpit, I
shared my doubts and struggles. I taught from the scriptures. I represented the
church doctrine. I helped people as often as I could. And I did it as a
follower of Jesus.
Can a person struggle with doubts and be a minister at
the same time? A lot of them do. After Mother Teresa died, her letters and
journals revealed that although she was a highly regarded religious leader who
led the cause to feed the hungry, she did not feel the presence of the God.
That’s how I felt, too, although no one is clamoring for me to be declared a saint. But to the very best
of my ability I pushed aside my doubt and did the work.
People who are deeply spiritual have often endured the “dark
night of the soul,” a condition where God seems to disappear. I think some eventually rediscover a holy
presence, but the light just never came back for me. Or for Mother Teresa, who
persevered in her service until death.
I feel like I died, too, only I’m still breathing. However, I
also feel that I’ve gained a new life. I’ll
be speaking of that soon.
I finally admitted to myself that while
I prayed constantly, God never answered back. No words came to me. The feelings
I experienced were my own. And the
events that happened after I prayed had only the meaning I attributed to
It was painful. I
had poured out my life in service to someone who did not find me worthy of a
Friends tried to encourage me, saying that perhaps God is
so great that I simply could not understand his communication. I accepted this thought
for most of my life. But I came to the
conclusion that if God was all powerful, surely he could find a way to get
through to me. (BTW, the story of God sending his Son is not direct
In one of my final one sided conversations with this
unseen, unheard entity, I said “I will continue to care for people and do the
things I assume are important to you because they’re important to me, too. If
you decide someday to talk to me about that, I’m right here.” As usual, I got no response but I quit
expecting one and I went about my work.
I still prayed publicly for the sake of my people. I reflected their thoughts and hopes. And I relied on the liturgies written by
others. But my personal outpouring stopped.
I loved being a
minister. The job fed my soul and drained it at the same time. I don’t think I can go back. I
want to try to explain but it’s going to take some time. The following is just one of the reasons I’m
The minister helps people cope with death. I’ve been at scenes where death occurred
violently and I’ve also stood in dark houses or hospital rooms and watched people
slip away while loved ones cried and kissed them. More than once I heard
someone sing softly into the dying person’s ear. Another time I heard a woman scream at her
man not to die on her but he did anyway.
I was often present when someone found out that a loved one died. I actually delivered the message
on a few occasions. If the loss was sudden such as in an accident, the message
would have to be repeated three times before it sunk in.
I visited the homes before the funeral service, often
just watching as family members came in from out of town. Fast decisions had to
be made. Errands had to be done. At some point, I would interrupt the activity
and gather them together to talk about the service and I would ask them for
memories of their loved one. Often, they
didn’t know what to tell me so I learned to let them talk to each other and I
would listen to them trade their stories.
Funeral dinners at the church were uncomfortable for me because while
the family ate and visited, I usually sat out of the way at a separate table. It’s
not that I was disliked or unwelcome. I just wasn’t one of the family.
Often I avoided eating altogether by being busy with setting up the service.
At a funeral, if everything goes right, there's a certain progression. Friends trickle in and take their seats. I have them stand and watch the family enter and sit down. The music plays, the tears flow, and people
reach across the pews to touch each other. I speak words that I hope will comfort
them. Sometimes the message is effective enough to help the people reach inside
themselves to find their strength. As I
help them review the life that had passed I realize that I have missed out
on someone special, and I feel the loss even if I hadn’t known the person
At the end when the
people filed past the casket, I shook hands or hugged them, trying not to
look like a politician cultivating votes. The hardest moments were watching the
family members say their final goodbyes to the body. They’d literally hold each
other up as they sobbed.
My office was usually quiet after the service and most of
the time, I would simply pack up and go home. My family wouldn’t know what I had
experienced and they would go about their activities while I sank into my chair
or lay down on the bed. I’m not sure I actually processed the events. It’s more like I
let it all settle quietly into my bones.
After thirty-five years, sometimes it feels like all of
their sobs and wails echo in my mind.
“God so loved the world that he gave his only son….”
The older I get, the less I can accept this idea. When my own sons were born, I discovered a depth of love that I didn’t know I had and I went a little crazy thinking about how to care for them. They’re grown now but I would still fight tigers, armies, and hurricanes to protect my sons. I have cried in frustration and shame when I failed to care for them adequately.
How am I supposed to respond to a heavenly father who hands his child over to be sacrificed and says he did it for me?
Child sacrifice. It's an old concept where cultures thought it would protect them from disaster or perhaps give them a good harvest. Butcher a child, sacrifice a virgin, throw someone into the mouth of a volcano, and the village would be saved. Nowadays we know better and we understand that human sacrifice is reprehensible.
Except when God does it. For some reason, we don’t say it’s awful. Instead we say it’s beautiful—a gesture of God’s love and we sing lovely songs about it.
We especially sing of the blood of Jesus spilled on our behalf.
There is a fountain filled with blood. Are you washed in the blood? What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood. Oh, the blood of Jesus!
But wait, there’s more! We have a special ceremony, a commemorative meal, where the bread is his body and wine is his blood. Some Christians say it miraculously changes to actual flesh and blood as it enters us. “Take this body, take this blood,” we say, "remember what was done for you and be grateful.”
Mark’s gospel is the earliest account of Jesus’ life, and includes details left out in others' accounts. However, it comes to
an abrupt end.
Two days after Jesus was crucified,
three women went to the tomb to attend to his body. When they arrived, they saw the stone rolled away
from the entrance and a young man waiting for them. He told them Jesus was not there and that he
was alive again. The last sentence of Mark's gospel says that the women left the tomb bewildered and afraid.
That it. That’s where it ends. An empty tomb.
Evidently, people were dissatisfied so two
different endings were attached at later times. One was short; the other was
longer and more detailed. Take your pick. There's been much discussion but most scholars think the endings are not part of the original text.
The writers of the later gospels changed the ending, too. Instead
of one guy at the tomb there are two angels. John says Mary Magdalene returned to the tomb and actually saw Jesus (she even hugged him). Then Jesus appeared to disciples in different places for the next forty days. A handful of those disciples watched him rise into the air and disappear
into the heavens with a promise to return.
But not Mark. The earliest account ends with fearful women
looking at an empty tomb. If we look through the whole text we can see that it’s
his style to end a story abruptly, leaving the reader to ask, “What happened? What does this mean?” I
think he meant to challenge people to find answers within themselves.
You’re looking at an empty tomb and a stranger saying
Jesus has risen from the dead. What do
A lot of preachers say, “Here’s what really
happened, and this is what you should believe about it.” Many of them also say,
“Everything is pointless until you agree that it actually happened.” If they
refer to the later gospels, picking the passages carefully, they may find
something to back up their assertions.
But it boils down to this. A story is told that a long time
ago, there was a great teacher who worked miracles. He was executed and became a
martyr. But he didn’t stay dead and the evidence of his resurrection is an
Did any of it happen? We don’t know. Did Jesus rise from the
dead? We don’t know. Is Jesus a deity worthy to be worshiped? You get to decide.
A lot of people have insisted it’s all true, including the parts
that are added later. They have the
right to believe it. They also have the right to speak up and say they believe
But they don’t have the right to force others to believe it. They
don’t have the right to insist that it be taught as history in our schools. They don’t have the right to legislate belief
in any form. Even if they did have the right they still wouldn’t have the
power, no matter how hard they try, to force someone to believe.
preach. Teachers can teach. Parents can read it to their children at
bedtime.Movies can depict the story
with stirring music and graphic detail.But none of that makes it true and people don’t have to accept
it as such.
However, if you want to believe it, by all means do so. It’s
In recent years, this would have been a big week for me. Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good
Friday. For a few years, the town’s
musicians, especially the high school students would do a Dixieland Jazz style
concert on Saturday at our church. And
then there was Easter Sunday with a Sunrise Service, breakfast, Egg Hunt, and Sunday
School. Then we had the big worship
service where attendance would be high and we’d wear our best clothes and play
our best music and I’d give my best effort at preaching.
This year, I thought I’d quietly skip the whole thing. But I can’t.
To begin, Good Friday is problematic for me. It has been for a while but I couldn’t
articulate what agitated me.
Tonight a few preachers will give graphic descriptions of
Jesus’ physical suffering, turning it into a CSI episode. I hasten to say, however, that most preachers will
be more restrained in their presentation.
Nonetheless, people will weep, often tapping into recent, more personal
grief. Many will also tap into the
general guilt and anxiety most of us carry within, and they’ll find themselves
feeling personally responsibility for Jesus’ suffering.
Our doctrine encourages that.
I ignored my inner conflict and I played my part. Some years, I
played the part of Jesus in church musicals and reenacted the crucifixion scenes. Most years
for Good Friday service, I’d have someone bang a hammer against metal to make
people think of the nails driven in Jesus’ hands and feet. Or I’d have people
come forward and hammer their own nails into a cross. But my last group was too sensitive for that
and it caused them too much pain. So I modified the ritual and had people come
to the cross simply to touch it—that was powerful enough.
Nowadays, I’ve become clearer in my objection to the “Atonement
Model,” as some theologians call it. It’s the explanation that Jesus died on
the cross as the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of the world. This concept goes back to the priest Martin Luther. Before him was the monk
Anselm, and earlier still was Bishop Augustine. Most of their thoughts are
developed from Pauline passages of scriptures.
I understand how Paul, who reportedly murdered people for their faith,
would be comforted by the thought that his sins were forgiven by the atoning
sacrifice of Christ.
But I have a problem with it.
If God required a blood sacrifice to mollify his rage… well, it isn’t
forgiveness, is it? I also have a
problem with making everyone take responsibility for the actions of a murderous
mob, some corrupt religious leaders, and
two cowardly politicians of the day.
I have done some bad things for which I take responsibility but
I did not murder Jesus, and I won’t carry that burden anymore. Nor will I put that burden on anyone
else ever again. I’m not telling any
more children that it was their fault. I’m not telling decent people who work
hard and do good things, that they should carry such a monumental
burden of shame.
As a minister, who has been formally trained in theology and biblical texts, I've been sucked into the conflict between these two disciplines innumerable times and I'm sick of it. Anyone who insists that we should get our science from the Bible doesn't really understand the Bible, much less science. Anyone who discounts the Bible because it does not measure up to scientific discovery also does not understand the Bible.
Science and theology are two different disciplines pursuing two different directions. There is no competition between the two although occasionally we might see some overlap in topics.
For hundreds of years, we’ve been pitting faith against science and it has been a colossal waste of time, distracting us from doing actual good. Could we please go fight some real battles like famine, human trafficking, loneliness, violence, sickness, poverty, and ignorance?
We could use both disciplines to make things better. Want to be a scientist? Be a thorough, honest one and quit spending time fighting the theologians. Are you a Christian? Then for Christ’s sake, do Christ’s work and stop trying to bully science with your religion.
Hope lies within us. It
is part of that soulful mix that weaves the events of life into a
tapestry that can be beautiful. It’s a tapestry of our making. It isn’t waiting for us to discover
it. It has to be composed with the raw elements of reality, using our
creativity, optimism, and determination to make it meaningful.
Hope doesn’t passively wait for life to get better. It’s an
active ingredient within the person that makes life good.
The little boy clenched his fists as he took on an unfamiliar fighter’s stance. His opponent was unworried, more experienced, and a LOT bigger. The little guy swung wildly. The big boy blocked it and countered with one hard blow to the belly that put his opponent down. The young crowd that had gathered to watch were shocked into silence at the fast brutality.
The boy lay in a ball, face buried in the dirt to hide his tears while his chest heaved silently. He refused to get up until the rest of us left. The big boy left first, laughing.
I didn’t know either of the boys. I never learned the context of the moment. I only encountered the conflict because I was on my way home from school. But forty-five years later I still feel the heat rise within me when I think about it.
The next day I sought out the bigger boy and taunted him, suggesting he fight me. He demurred since I appeared to be a more formidable adversary. I challenged him several more times over the school year but he never accepted. I think he was honestly puzzled at my hostility. I guess maybe I am too.
He didn’t have to hurt the smaller boy. He was big enough that a simple shove would have finished the match before it started. He didn’t have to laugh, either. I was just a kid but I could see the angst in the little guy. He was in pain before he ever got hit. I wonder what he feels now when he remembers that moment.
I think I also feel ashamed that I let it happen. I know it wasn’t my business but if I had thought quicker perhaps I could have intervened. I didn’t like being a spectator and then walking away just like everyone else.
Over the years, I’ve had occasion to be of help, to intervene in a crisis, or at least help someone who was down. But often I still feel that same helplessness as I watch everything that goes on around me: violence, injury, sickness, and loss. And sometimes the aggressors are also victims so in addition to the anger and the shame, I feel confusion.
Now, after so many years in ministry, I feel something else.
I posted this on Facebook and received some powerful
reactions. My minister pals responded with
gentleness and support. Other friends,
though they were kind, equated my statement with total rejection of the Christian doctrine
and it confused them to hear this coming from a pastor. Some
cheered me on even as they poured out their stories of having been rejected by
their Christian communities.
Is it really so shocking that I insist I am a whole person
complete with conflicting attributes? And excuse me if I sound guilty of the
sin of pride, but I’m pretty damned
interesting. I can be brilliant, dumb,
generous and petty. I sing, whisper,
yell, and mumble. I laugh loud, wail
inconsolably, burn with rage, and love with passion. I work hard and
occasionally I struggle through the minutia to accomplish big things. I’ve also
helped people throughout my life.
All these things count.
I won’t exclude them all and focus only on the bad stuff.
But let’s think this through. Am I a sinner? I’ve searched myself all my
life like a good little Christian to ferret out all my inner evil and I’ve
enjoyed about as much of that misery as I can stand. But if I must, I’ll give myself one final
quickie—oops, using that word is probably a sin. But let’s move on.
Have I hurt others? Yeah, so okay, those are sins. Additionally, others have said I have hurt
them and they expect me to hang my head and feel bad. I can’t argue because
that would probably be a sin, too. On the other hand, I’ve avoided the
biggies—murder, robbery, tearing labels off mattresses. But it’s a sin to brag about the bad things I've avoided. Also, I’ve done some
pretty good things, but thinking about how good I am is a sin, too.
Then there are the sins of omission—the endless list of things
I am not doing but should be. Also, my
inner thoughts of the bad things I wish I could be doing—they’re sins too. And then the feelings—jealousy, fear, anger,
sexual desire, grief—I shouldn’t have them so those are also sins.
Finally, we say that sin is anything less than
perfection. So as I sit here with imperfect
posture, my fingers using the backspace key while I type in my flawed thoughts,
I’m supposed to agree that there’s never a moment when I’m not sinning.
Fine. You win. If we exclude every other fact about me, we
can call me a miserable, scum sucking, stinking sinner. And so are you. And so is everyone.
It’s probably a sin to say this is crazy. But it is.
Quote a Bible verse or two, or a hundred, but it’s
doesn’t make it less crazy. Weave your
thoughts into a weird doctrinal narrative and call it “God’s love,” and that
makes it more crazy. Shout it from ten
thousand protestant pulpits and the craziness grows. Teach it lovingly to the
children in classrooms and we’ve elevated it to wickedness.
So I want to say sincerely, I’m sorry but I’m not a sinner. I’m sorry I ever believed that I was. I’m sorry I told others they were sinners. I’m sorry I preached it in the pulpit and
taught it in the classroom and shared it to families in their living rooms.
I repent. I take it back.
Condemn me for it if you must, but I’m not a sinner. And neither
are you. We are persons.