Sin never goes out of style

You can say that again. This is in the lead sentence for an article in the Wall Street Journal’s Weekend Journal of September 21. Sin is not only in style, it appears to be the norm. Which is only appropriate, given the fallen nature of our world and of our very selves.

How to deal with sin? The usual: pray, repent, and ask forgiveness of God. Facilitating this? The Catholic sacrament of confession, now often called reconciliation.

We each of us need to be reconciled to God, again, and again, because we all just keep on sinning. Satan’s little Energizer Bunnies, so to speak. And, as luck would have it, we may anger God by our sin, but He surely takes joy in our repentance, and will forgive us if we but ask with a true heart. If only it would stick…

The act of confession is also self-serving — we look to be absolved of our guilt, to be told “it’s ok” from someone who we think has some clout with the Big Guy. Hence the role of a Catholic priest, or, for us who are not Catholic, someone who we hope has God’s ear. From the WSJ:

Some evangelicals don’t need any prompting [to confess]. Joshua Wilshusen, 29, a respiratory care student from Lomita, Calif., started meeting two other Christian men for a weekly group confession two years ago. They gather at a park or coffee shop to ask questions such as “Have you coveted this week?” “Have you been sexually pure?” “Have you just lied to me?” Confessing helps him resist temptations. “There’ve been times when a sin has hurt me all week, when I’ve lusted after a woman or lost my temper at work, and then I confess it and the peace is restored.”

The theory, for true Protestants, is that God hears all prayers, and we have a direct channel to Him. We, again in theory, do not need an interlocutor between us an God. So what’s the problem?

While we may believe that God answers all prayers, and will forgive all sin if we repent, many of us remain Doubting Thomases. We want some proof; a heavenly receipt. Catholics here seem to have the advantage — if they believe Church doctrine that a priest is a stand-in for Jesus Christ. We Baptists and other evangelical Protestants have no such safety net, and beware any pastor who claims to have some sort of a special arrangement with God.

Worse, there are quite a few evangelicals who view anything that even smells like it is Roman Catholic as being suspect, if not downright evil. For now, I fall back on that old saying: confession is good for the soul. Or, as the Bard wrote

Confess yourself to heaven, Repent what’s past, avoid what is to come, And do not spread the compost on the weeds To make them ranker. Wm. Shakespeare, Hamlet Act III, Scene IV.

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