Sinners in the Hands of a Non-Judgmental God

Pal Jesus

 

 

We live in a time of cheap grace where forgiveness is not requested but demanded by miscreants.  Exhibit A is Mark Sanford who disgraced himself as governor of South Carolina and destroyed his family by his lust for his Argentinian mistress.  Now Sanford is the Republican candidate for Tim Scott’s, newly appointed Senator from South Carolina, old House seat for South Carolina 1.  He is opposed by Democrat Elizabeth Colbert-Busch, Stephen Colbert’s sister.  (No fiction writer could make this up.)  Sanford is touting that he has been forgiven by God and the people of South Carolina should also forgive him.  In a very good column in the New York Post NAOMI SCHAEFER RILEY looks at the American impulse to embrace an endlessly forgiving God.

Only 31 percent of Americans believe in what the two call “an authoritative God,” a deity who is both engaged in the world (caring about human affairs, no pun intended) and judgmental. The rest believe that God is either disengaged or simply benevolent. Or they’re atheists.

Listening to these politicians rattle on as if they’ve had a sit-down with God and come to some kind of mutual understanding makes one long for some old-fashioned God-fearing.

Our European brethren think of us as puritanical; if only. These men — whose sin begins with infidelity and then travels through public humiliation of their wives and children and then ends with an inability to remove themselves from public life — might benefit from the recitation of that great sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”:

“The wrath of God burns against them, their damnation does not slumber; the pit is prepared, the fire is made ready, the furnace is now hot, ready to receive them; the flames do now rage and glow.”

Maybe Mark Sanford should try thinking about that next time he’s on the “Appalachian Trail.”

And not just him. A recent study in the academic journal Theoretical Criminology found that criminals often use religion — and even God’s forgiveness — as a way of rationalizing their behavior. “God has to forgive everyone, even if they don’t believe in him,” one 33-year-old enforcer for a drug gang told the interviewers.

In the first few centuries of the Church, penances would go on for many years in regard to serious sins before absolution was granted.  The penances would be public in nature, and would make clear that the penitent had committed grave sins.  Now, most people assume that God forgives any sin automatically, that penance is unnecessary and that the forgiveness of God absolves them from the consequences of their sins.  I recall one child molester stating at a conference that God had forgiven him, so why couldn’t everyone else?

We live in an age of non-judgmentalism where the mercy of God is celebrated and His justice completely forgotten.  Thou Shalt Not Judge!  is a new unofficial eleventh commandment. Other ages have made exactly the opposite error and recalled God’s justice while forgetting His mercy.  This passage from The Screwtape Letters summarizes the problem quite nicely:

The use of Fashions in thought is to distract the attention of men from their real dangers. We direct the fashionable outcry of each generation against those vices of which it is least in danger and fix its approval on the virtue nearest to that vice which we are trying to make endemic. The game is to have them running about with fire extinguishers whenever there is a flood, and all crowding to that side of the boat which is already nearly gunwale under. Thus we make it fashionable to expose the dangers of enthusiasm at the very moment when they are all really becoming worldly and lukewarm; a century later, when we are really making them all Byronic and drunk with emotion, the fashionable outcry is directed against the dangers of the mere “understanding”. Cruel ages are put on their guard against Sentimentality, feckless and idle ones against Respectability, lecherous ones against Puritanism; and whenever all men are really hastening to be slaves or tyrants we make Liberalism the prime bogey.

In regard to forgiveness too many people today recall this admonition of Christ to the woman caught in adultery:  Neither do I condemn you, while forgetting the rest:  Go and sin no more.  A necessary part of absolution is a true repentance and a desire to amend one’s life.  We delude ourselves additionally if we believe that forgiveness relieves us from the penalty of Purgatory for our sins in the next world, or the consequences of our sin in this world.

10 Responses to Sinners in the Hands of a Non-Judgmental God

  • Forgiveness doesn’t necessarily mean people ought to vote for him. If Sanford is really sorry for what he did, he should be willing to stay out of elective politics for the rest of his life as a fitting penance.

    But if he is elected, that’s the fault of the electorate and the GOP as well.

  • The rest of his life, as Greg says, may be appropriate. But there use to be a ten-year rule. A person didn’t try to rehabilitate his name for at least ten years after his fall. The last person I saw who lived up to it was Gingrich, who accepted that if he was going to do anything in politics following his scandal, it had to be behind the scenes until a sufficient amount of time passed. The end of the rule, in my estimation, was when Spitzer lined up his new career as a pundit seemingly within hours of his resignation.

  • This is in contrast to British government Minister John Profumo who in the early 60s was “found out” to have had an affair with a prostitute who was also involved with a Russian Diplomat. He lied to the house, but later confessed, resigned and spent the rest of his life in restitution, in charity work in the East End of London.

    His lovely wife, the actress Valerie Hobson, stood by him.

    Those were different days!!

  • Interesting point about how the Europeans view us. They really do believe we are puritanical and radically right-wing both in morals and politics. I’m wondering why they think that.

  • “This is in contrast to British government Minister John Profumo who in the early 60s was “found out” to have had an affair with a prostitute who was also involved with a Russian Diplomat. ”

    Didn’t JFK have trist with an East German spy?

  • If God can forgive and forget when we receive absolution after confessing our sins why must we put ourselves in the seat of judgment of others? This issue of Sanford’s fall is between Sanford and God. None of us have any idea what is going on in Sanford’s mind or heart. Let’s leave the punishment in God’s hands. By the way, the caricature of Jesus that you use to bring home your point is very offensive.

  • It is supposed to be offensive Mary as it represents a false conception of Jesus as ever forgiving pal that is very much in vogue today. Sanford is the one who chose to put himself back into the public lime light after disgracing himself. If the voters in his district wish to be represented by a man of no character that is their choice, and it is my choice to comment upon it. Turning a blind eye to manifest evil behavior merely allows that evil behavior to flourish and become normal, something that no one should object to. We have been down this slippery slope now for some five decades, and it is time, past time, to stop.

  • Meanwhile, Anthony Weiner is considering a run for NYC mayor.

    Sigh.

  • A follow-up (that no one will ever notice unless they see it on the “recent comments” list):

    Sanford has been accused of trespassing on his ex-wife’s property, and is scheduled for a court appearance on May 9th, two days after the special election. If he has done something wrong, this should help to remind us that sometimes “private” sins indicate character problems. If he hasn’t done anything wrong, it should serve as a reminder that political baggage doesn’t come and go on your schedule. Either way the Republicans are looking at a loss or a handicapped office-holder.

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