The Rev. Casey dunsworth

serves as Associate Campus Pastor to the Belfry, the Lutheran-Episcopal Campus Ministry to UC Davis

and as Program Director for LEVN, the Lutheran Episcopal Volunteer Network.

Sin, I guess.

Today in History of Christianity we were talking about St. Augustine, so obviously we were talking about sin. For the fortunate non-Augustine-scholars out there, Augustine was a monk who was obsessed with sinfulness, particularly his. He wrote a book called "Confessions" where he basically lists everything he ever did that he is ashamed of and can't get over. Mostly he chronicles his sexual misdeeds, which I'm totally not trying to read about. My favorite, though, is when he goes on for pages about this incident in his childhood where he and some friends threw pears at pigs. And how he feels SO BAD about it and how it was SO SINFUL and it makes you want to hit him over the head with his own book.

Our conversation got a lot more interesting than Augustine's stupid confessions, though. One of my classmates raised the question as to why we got rid of the "degrees" of sin that Catholics have -- venial and mortal. Venial sins are like white lies -- nothing major, but still not awesome. Whereas mortal sins are seemingly the ones you go to hell for. Unless you confess them, of course. Mortal sins are the ones concerning "grave matters" (according to the catechism), and you have to know it's against the rules and do it anyway, voluntarily. So, mortal sins are definitely worse. But we Protestants were like, "Sin is sin, man" and moved on from that point. My classmate was upset that someone who shoplifts and someone who tortures a child in the basement (her examples) are sinning equally.

Under the United States Constitution, those people are not committing equal crimes. They will suffer vastly different consequences. The thing about God is that she is the great equalizer. Where one person sees justice, another sees injustice. That happens. But God sees all as equal, and works it out in her own way. We get in these arguments because we, as humans, want to see other humans punished. This validates all the times we have been punished. But when it comes to God's forgiveness, I'd like to see others forgiven, in order to assure myself of my forgiveness. So it's sort of the opposite.

I think that Lutherans have a much easier time with this whole sin idea, because our foundation is in grace. Our foundation is not in works-righteousness or in guilt. It's grace freely given, without our even consenting to receive it. That rules so hard. We can throw pears at pigs all we want and never have to write books about it.

Hallowed be thy name above all names.

Sometimes I can't believe this stuff is homework.