Monday, April 7, 2014

What's a Sin?

When I was studying chemistry in college, I walked through the biochem labs one day and saw my friend Ruchira chopping up and blenderizing a very large heart. "Chira," I said, somewhat stunned, "is that a cow heart?"

Ruchira nodded. "I can never tell my mother," she said.

Ruchira's family is Hindi. Cows are sacred to them. Blenderizing cow hearts is, to them, a sin.

In pony club a few years ago, when we were making plans for the food for our end-of-the-year party, the mom of two of our members reminded us that they kept Kosher, which meant, in addition to no ham, no shrimp or other shellfish.  Eating ham or shrimp is, to them, a sin.

I grew up in a county with a high concentration of Amish people. They'll ride in a car if someone else drives it--say, to get to the downtown hospital, where there's nowhere to park their buggies--but to own a car, or drive it, would be a sin.

I'm Catholic. A few weeks ago, as I was driving a vanload of pony clubbers to quiz rally on a Friday evening, I told them we had to go to dinner somewhere I could get a decent vegetarian meal. I'm not a vegetarian, but on the Fridays of lent I don't eat meal; to do so would be a sin. We went to Ruby Tuesday's, where the Christians in my van who weren't Catholic--which is to say, everyone but me and my daughter, cheerfully ate non-sinful steak and turkey burgers while my daughter and I ate fish.

If I, a Catholic, marry via the justice of peace, my marriage is invalid in the church, although perfectly legal, and the relations I have within it are as sinful as if I were unmarried.  My atheist friend can be married beside a river by her best friend from kindergarten, and it's perfect okay.

I could go on.

I got some hate mail recently on the blog; it was, predictably, about my views on homosexuality. I understand that not everyone agrees with me, and I actually welcome conflicting views except when they're expressed with venom and hatred.

One person, instead of writing, "Kim Bradley, I disagree with you," wrote, "Writers must be unable to think." Really? All writers? Another--who may have been the same person, I haven't figured out how to tell--claimed that all gay people were "Tyrannical fascists."  Hmm. Some gay people, certainly. Every single one?

I could never tell you what All Gay People think, any more than I could tell you what All Straight People Think. I will point out that the Christian friend who reminded me not to judge Fred Phelps harshly is gay. I will say that my gay great-uncle was widely felt to be the kindest, most loving person in my family.

My husband called me out on doing the same thing recently, when he said that I was using the word Evangelical in my blog as though all evangelical people thought and acted the same way. He's right, and I'll try not to make that mistake again. One of the great things I've gained from working at Faith in Action is an understanding of how people of different beliefs can be united in Christ, not just divided by their differences. I don't know what doctrines Vic subscribes to, where he stands on gay marriage, transubstantiation, infant vs. adult baptism, predestination, or forgiveness of sins. I know Vic has the openest heart of anyone I've ever known, and I would never feel anything but love for him. I know that sweet Jackie, a Baptist, really does believe homosexuality is a sin, but also would never bring herself to condemn or judge another human being, not even me when I pointed out snarkily that Leviticus forbidsalso the eating of bacon. Jackie giggled, and said, "Well, I'll never understand it all," and that was the whole truth, so far as I could tell. We will never be certain. We will worship cows or avoid pigs or do whatever we feel we are called to. What we can't do is hate everyone who disagrees with us. You may believe something is sinful. I am not required to agree. We will not discover which of us is correct this side of heaven. ("For now I see as though through a glass, darkly, but then I shall see face to face.") I'm learning to be okay with that, and I hope that you are, too.