All of our Sin

We have this way of looking at our own world as the most messed up and decadent.  We often look at past generations and think “Things were so much better then.”

As I read through the book of Judges and make my way into the book of Ruth in the bible, I’m getting this really interesting picture.  Things, for the Israelites, they just get worse and worse.

There are occasional bright spotds.  The judges bring about times of peace and prosperity.  But these times are increasingly rare.  The last of the judges finds himself in this compromised position where he is seeking revenge after being betrayed by the woman who loves him.  He dies a blind prisoner.

From here, things go from bad to worse.  Scripture takes up the refrain, “In those days there was no king and people did as they saw fit.”  The end of the book of Judges would give Hostel or Saw a run for its money in terms of how grizzly things can get: a women is raped and then chopped up.  The pieces of her are sent all over the country as a way to rally the troops.  Genocide, ensues.  The book ends with the remaining women being snuck up upon and basically abducted at swords’ point to become the wives of this other nation.

The book of Ruth takes place in the middle of all this.  It is this really amazing story of two womens’ friendship and struggle to survive.  The central figures of this book are incredibly moral people.  Yet, Ruth is forced to encourage her widowed daughter in law to go sleep with a rich man for them to survive.

The whole thing has me increasingly convinced that sin can be collective and systemic.  Societies can sink so low that people are left with no choice but to do things God is not pleased with.   But God’s displeasure, it does not only sit on the people who are forced into these decisions.  God’s displeasure lands on all those who are a part of these corrupt systems.

Wow, it sure is a good thing that there is no corrupt system today, forcing people to make immoral decisions!  (He said sarcastically.)


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

2 thoughts on “All of our Sin”

  1. I love the book of Ruth.

    I read it more as the story of Naomi since she’s the one who has the biggest “change” in her life and usually the character who goes through the biggest change is the “protagonist”.

    We should talk about this more because I have a lot of thoughts on the situation!


  2. A lot of fine thoughts here and, yes, sin can be collective and systemic, else why would the righteous have had to be deported along with the unrighteous in Babylon?

    The only point I would like to make is, that though systems may arise in which one is forced to make immoral decisions (as in Soviet Russia or mainland China or North Korea even today, or the US for that matter in some circles), one is never absolutely forced. In other words, when such systems arise, the people of God who follow Him without compromise will suffer: ostracism, persecution, torture and even death.

    There is no system on earth, and there has never yet been, where the conditions have been met to absolutely control an individual’s moral choice.

    When that day comes, so will have arrived another Day—the Day of Judgment.


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