I’m not a sinner. I’m a person.
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.