It’s a Sin

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Sermon #27 (8th April 2018 at Essex Church / Kensington Unitarians)

Here are some preliminary thoughts on sin – and grace – and how these tricky theological concepts might speak to Unitarians today. Last Sunday, over our congregational lunch, more than one person came up to me (having heard about the subject of today’s service) and said: ‘I don’t believe in sin!’ (or words to that effect). And, of course, this response is not unexpected among Unitarians. Many of us have (more-or-less) rejected the concept of sin, perhaps largely because we associate it with the religious right, and other groups who’ve condemned a lot of us (and a lot of our friends) down the years, as being thoroughly sinful in one way or another: our beliefs, our actions, our identity, our very existence perhaps, condemned as wicked, immoral, and wrong.

I can’t help thinking back to my youth, and to the words of Neil Tennant, from his 80s number one hit as lead singer with the Pet Shop Boys. He sang:

‘For everything I long to do, no matter when or where or who,
has one thing in common too: It’s a sin…’
Everything I’ve ever done, everything I ever do,
every place I’ve ever been, everywhere I’m going to… It’s a sin.’

And if that’s the main exposure you’ve had to the concept of sin – this impression that everything you do, have done, or might think about doing in the future, is probably wrong and bad, in the view of certain religious hardliners – with a special focus on pleasures of the body, pleasures these hardliners often regard as sexual sins, which they seem to be particularly (pruriently?) interested in – well, it’s not at all surprising that you might not want nothing to do with that idea of sin. ‘Sin’ can just seem like no more than a religious gloss conveniently overlaid on a bunch of other-people’s-conservative-social-norms as an unwelcome means of social control.

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