On Easter, I did something very unusual. I went to a Christian church. It’s been a long time since I attended a mainstream Christian service, as opposed to some DIY hippie-pagan let’s-celebrate-being-horny-in-the-springtime festivity that counted as “Easter” for me. Plus, I was raised Mormon, which is arguably Not Christian, although such theological discussions essentially bore me. So let’s move on, pausing long enough to acknowledge that a few weeks ago, at the invitation of our neighbors, I attended a Baptist Easter Service.
It ruined my whole day.
A couple grumpy hours after the service, I said to Taryn, “Sin-and-forgiveness is a paradigm that really bums me out. It’s like, even though I was raised to believe in sin, it’s so far away from how I experience the world now that it really rattled me, hearing all that stuff about being delivered from the pain of sin. I kept thinking, ‘What pain? I’m not feeling pain. Maybe I’m not a sinner.’” We laughed, and my mood lifted slightly.
Sin-and-forgiveness have become so removed from my adult consciousness that I barely recognize them anymore. It’s astonishing, really, when I think back and realize how much sin-and-forgiveness defined me for the first half of my life. As a kid, I knew I was a Sinner and that I could be Forgiven and then I wouldn’t be that Bad Girl Who Liked to Have Orgasms With Herself. But to be Forgiven would mean that I couldn’t have those orgasms anymore, and I found that possibility to be absolutely unacceptable. And so I persisted as a Sinner, a Bad Girl. Happily for me, I am reaching into my mid-thirties, so those first seventeen years, living in a religious/sin-and-forgiveness paradigm, becomes a smaller and smaller fraction of the sum of my Life. Hooray for that.
So although I am not religious now, I feel generally supportive of other people’s religious and spiritual practices, as long as they don’t harm others. (Yes, I know that’s a fine line since arguably the repression inherent in many religions is harmful to the individual practicing it.) I’ve been glad to see some high-profile Christian entertainers come out publicly as Queer and not denounce themselves with ex-gay rhetoric and gesticulation. I’m thinking of Tonéx, Ray Boltz, and most recently, Jennifer Knapp. And so, while in the midst of my angst over the Easter sin-and-forgiveness sermon, I was especially interested in Jennifer Knapp’s take on sin during a Larry King interview in which another guest on the show told Jennifer she was going to hell.
“If I am a sinner and homosexuality is a sin – let’s go on that premise for a moment – then what separates that sin from maybe, I’m angry, or mad, or I cheat….what separates that as so grievous to you that we have to sit here and have this conversation?”
You can see clips from the interview here.
Ugh, the sanctimonious sputterings about sin, especially “sins” that are sexual, are painful to hear. I feel angry about it, wondering how many people hate themselves for being “bad,” just like I hated myself for being Bad. As far as I’m concerned, sin is just one more way to Other, to cause a separation, to create distance where there wasn’t distance before. The repression of sexuality and desire has horrific consequences, as we see with the pedophilia problems in the Catholic Church. But the Catholics sure don’t hold the corner on repression problems. Joe.My.God prepares This Week in Holy Crimes, and each and every week, there is no shortage of news of abuse, molestation, fraud, stalking, murder – all by members of the clergy.
I can’t help but wonder what our world would be like if the very concept of sin was jettisoned, if certain taboos weren’t driven into subterranean caverns where they fester, if communication was promoted instead of thwarted. I imagine, if that happened, we’d live in a better place, a place where sin-and-forgiveness aren’t given the weight to coerce and repress and abuse, a place where we can find freedom and liberation in our bodies and our spirits rather than the control of someone else defining our behavior as Sin and then offering Forgiveness for a price.
And next spring, I look forward to a raucous pagan wineparty for Easter, where I feel connected to Nature and the glorious pleasures of the flesh.