In a church service the other night, since I can’t feel like I can sing along (partly because I didn’t know most of them), I thought about the songwords instead. The focus on what we were without Christ is relentless. It is undeniable that the Christian Church makes a lot about humans being sinful beings. Sinful beings need a saviour and that’s what Jesus died on the cross for. That’s the doctrine in a sentence. It permeates most teaching, it is in most of the songs sung, it is in front of mind of those evangelising.
Unfortunately, when you’re trying to reach the unconverted, you usually first have to explain to them what ‘sin’ is. Then you can offer the ‘solution’. I have a couple of friends who have not been raised in the church and I know they would puzzle at this idea of ‘sin’. The doctor who has prescribed what is ‘wrong’ also has the exactly right medicine. I’ve mentioned this before.
The constant re-reference of sin is annoying, but the language is also imprecise. Is the sin done away with once and for all? After all, Jesus’ sacrifice happened at a single point in time. It’s not like he does this on a weekly basis. Yet the unwashed come to the church “in a sinful state”, thousands of years after this sacrifice. And converts are taught they must “stay vigilant” against sin, as though it can taint you once again. That introduces us to the idea of being continuously saved. Again and again and again.
Please note I am not trying to tease out exact meanings. That’s not my point. I’ve been through various iterations of “being saved” over the years and of being exhorted to do my best to stay sin-free. For a religion that says it focuses on faith over works, this is, well, an awful lot of work.
One of the things I walked away from over a year ago was the idea of the Christian Guilt. That’s where every good Christian is guilt-tripping every other Christian about constantly renewing their saved status for sins newly committed. Whilst it is a conscious act, I doubt it’s truly deliberate. It is the result of the doctrine the church has settled into over hundreds of years.
But I am not part of that game. Listening and reading the songwords the other night showed me something new. I left my Christian “sin” behind when I walked away from the Christian Guilt. It was done once. It is not something to do every day. That was left behind in the fenced compound the church maintains – and I’m outside of that, finding Yahweh in new and interesting ways.