Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Damned if you do ...

In Systematic Theology 1 class with (the amazing, the incredible, the terrifically old-fashioned) Dr. Shuster, we were discussing the nature of sin. Dr. Shuster was saying that sins of omission are just as bad as sins of commission.

Someone asked: "Does institutionalized evil fall under the category of sins of omission?"

Shuster replied "No." According to her, systemic evil (as it is normally construed) refers to corruption on a scale so wide that the individual is left with no choice but to sin. So, for example, one may go to Trader Joe's and buy the organic bell peppers, but still be participating in a system which expends large amounts of fuel transporting produce from South America.

Since the individual cannot change the system, he or she can only do his or her best to choose the least harmful option, and try to at least remain aware of and grieve over the evil that he or she is compelled to commit.

This concept does not translate directly, but it is similar to some ideas presented in the class I took on family systems. My loose construal of Carl Whitaker and Augustus Napier's insights from The Family Crucible is that sometimes the interactional patterns of families become so rigid, self-defeating and self-perpetuating that the family members feel compelled to break the cycle with an act of psychological violence--such as starting an adulterous affair.

While such an act is clearly destructive, it may seem like the only way out of an increasingly unbearable situation.

I have become more sympathetic toward this idea in the past two days. I have found myself in a situation where it seemed necessary to say something destructive to a person I love, and yet I do not quite regret it. I find myself caught somewhere between knowing it was something that needed to be said, and mourning over the active role I have taken in the sin and perversity of my interactions with this beloved person.

I know I don't usually write such personal stuff on the internet for (literally) all to see, but I thought this was sufficiently vague to be said in public, and something in me wants to announce to the world (who might not otherwise realize that I am aware of it) I am a sinful woman, and part of a sinful people. Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.


Patrick Lewis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Patrick Lewis said...

Ah Sin and choice- Remember Jesus said what he knew needed to be said and in the process angered the Pharisees and other religious leaders with the things He said.

Jesus does, however, expect His people to be kind and loving towards one another while living in this world. In a loving manner, we are called to respect others and to follow his example of tolerance and compassion

jenzai studio said...

I don't know if this will be helpful to you at all, but something that helps me when I'm debating over whether or not I should say something to someone is to check my motives. What is my objective(s) in telling this person whatever it is I want to tell them? I find it's crucial to go over my motives with an objective 3rd party as well so that I uncover all of them, because it's so easy to hide a bad motive under a good one. (For instance, I might have the other person's spiritual growth in mind, not wanting to be an enabler or something of that sort, but I also might really enjoy the idea of proving to them that I am right and they are wrong.) Until my motives are clean, I find it's best if I don't say anything.

Of course there are those times when I just have to spill, regardless of motives, and occasionally it's worked out better for me to get it all out raw and and ugly instead of clean and sanitized. Or... at least I think it has. That could just be me justifying my behavior!