For the Sin

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2013-09-05 – For doubters like myself, it pays, once in a while, to acknowledge the good side of religion. So much of what we hear about the so-called faithful are stories of intolerance and hatred. But no system long exists on hatred alone.

So, the other day, I found a blog on the Huffington post by a writer named Christian Piatt called 10 Things Christians Should Say More Often. Here, briefly, are the 10 things (click the link to read the whole story): (1) “I’m sorry;” (2) “How can I help;” (3) “I don’t know;” (4) “I could be wrong;” (5) “What do you think?” (6) “I love you;” (7) “Tell me more…” (8) “That just sucks;” (9) “Let’s give it a try;” and (10) Say nothing at all.

Public Christians don’t talk like this much. But I’m sure private Christians do. And it really struck me how the attitude expressed in this blog corresponded to the Jewish season of atonement that starts today with the Jewish New Year Rosh Hashanah. I particularly have in mind the confessional that Jews say on the Day of Atonement—Yom Kippur—which will come a week from Saturday.

The Jewish confessional, which is said publicly by all in each congregation, is called Al Khet—For the Sin. It lists a number of sins and sinful attitudes. You can read the whole confession here. Christian Piatt’s 10 Things Christians Should Say, seem to be very Jewish antidotes to a number of sins found in this confessions. Here is how I see it, each of Piatt’s statements, followed by the corresponding confession:

  • “I’m sorry” – “For the sin which we have committed before You by false denial and lying.”
  • “How can I help” – “For the sin which we have committed before You by a begrudging eye.”
  • “I don’t know” – “For the sin which we have committed before You by foolish  talk.”
  • “I could be wrong” – “For the sin which we have committed before You with proud looks.”
  • “What do you think?” – “For the sin which we have committed before You in passing judgment.”
  • “I love you” – “For the sin which we have committed before You by causeless hatred.”
  • “Tell me more…” – “For the sin which we have committed before You by the prattle of our lips.”
  • “That just sucks” – “For the sin which we have committed before You by hard-heartedness.”
  • “Let’s give it a try” – “For the sin which we have committed before You by scoffing.”
  • Say nothing at all – “For the sin which we have committed before You by a haughty demeanor.”

Okay. The matches aren’t perfect. But it’s pretty close, don’t you think?

Here’s what I find interesting about this.

Religions, as communities, have much to say about others that is hurtful. But within, they have much to say that is good and kind. The hurtful parts—of all faiths—drive people apart. They are sectarian. They are about allegiance: those who belong are saved. Those who don’t belong are damned.

The good and kind parts don’t work that way. What is good and kind about your religion is pretty much the same as what is good and kind about mine.

But here’s a question: If we get rid of those hurtful sectarian parts of religion, won’t you stop being a Christian? And won’t I stop being a Jew?

To my Jewish friends and readers: Happy New Year.

To the rest of you . . . Happy New Year.

L’shana tova.

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