Paganism with a Modern Flair

A nine year-old girl asked: “Mama, what is sin?” This question brought to her mother’s mind a flood of memories, and not good ones. Her mother, Julia Scheeres, writes:

“Sin. That tiny word still makes me cringe with residual fear. Fear of being judged unworthy. Fear of the eternal torture of hell. Fear of my father’s belt … The notion of sin dominated my girlhood. Raised in Indiana by fundamentalist parents, sin was the inflexible yardstick by which I was measured. Actions, words, even thoughts weren’t safe from scrutiny … God was a megaphone bleating in my head: “You’re bad, you’re bad, you’re bad!” I had recurring nightmares of malevolent winds tornado-ing through my bedroom – a metaphor, I now realize, for an invisible and vindictive god.”

Scheeres goes on to describe her teen rebellion that landed her in a “Christian reform school” where “I learned that religion has nothing to do with goodness and there’s a strong link between zealotry and hypocrisy.” She says, “I lost my faith by fits and starts. The absolute truths of my girlhood crumbled when I watched Carl Sagan’s 13-part ‘Cosmos’ series in graduate school – a program that included an overview of evolution … whose logic made irrefutable sense to me.”

Observation: Parents must present to their children a comprehensive concept of God lest we instill, as this writer’s parents apparently did, the idea that God is a heartless ogre. Yes, God’s laws are inflexible; yes, even our thoughts are open to God’s scrutiny. We are fully accountable to our God. But Scripture is not constantly screaming at us “You’re bad!!!” While it does document our faults and foibles, it extensively tells of God’s love, patience, grace and mercy. Did Scheeres’ parents never read Jn 3:16 or Ex 34:6 or Ps 86:5, 15 to her? Was the message of a loving, sacrificial Lord and Savior never preached? If not, she was shortchanged by her parents and her church. Such a negative, distorted view of God will likely drive our children to alternate worldviews.

She continues, “After years of living a ‘secular’ life, I realized that my notion of sin has evolved. As a girl, my focus was on gaining admittance to heaven. Now I believe that this life is the only life we’ll know; this planet, our only existence. I am no longer motivated by fear of an unproven hell, but by real-world concerns about injustice and inequality … We started taking our kids to marches when the younger one … was an infant perched on our shoulders and (the) 3-year-old danced between the lines of protesters as if it were a block party. We’ve marched for racial justice and for women’s rights. Our church is the street, our congregation our fellow crusaders. We teach our children to respect the earth by reducing, reusing and recycling.”

Observation: This is the “I am spiritual, but I don’t believe in organized religion” mindset. God, the Maker, has been replaced by His creation, much as Paul describes the pagan outlook in Romans 1. This explains the fervor behind so many environmental extremists and social justice activists: they are defending and advancing their religion. God is earth; their apostles are Darwin, Sagan, Dawkins, et. al.; their seminaries are the secular university system; they evangelize via documentaries, magazines, museums; their moral code is anti-discrimination; redistribution of wealth; resource conservation and other temporally-oriented ideologies. Scheeres is more afraid of the gender pay gap than the abyss of “an unproven hell.”

She says, “My daughters make me proud by taking their own actions to confront injustice where they see it – by insisting we keep a box of protein bars in the car to hand out to homeless people at stoplights, by participating in school walkouts against gun violence, by intervening when they see kids bullied on the playground, by always questioning the world around them … I realized that my kids already knew what sin was, without ever having been exposed to the onerous religious weight of the word. Despite being unchurched, they are empathetic, loving and kind. And even more: They are fearless.”

Observation: In Scheeres’ “theology” sin has nothing to do with violating God’s will; it is all about abusing nature or disrespecting one’s fellow man. But this is not truly sin (yes, sin may involve misusing God’s creation or harming another person); sin is lawlessness (1 Jn 3:4). Sin is violating the will and nature of our Creator. It is disharmony with our spiritual Father that results in the decay of the human soul which then produces hatred, envy, lust, injustice, emptiness and other ungodly attitudes that Scheeres laments. She is fighting the wrong enemy; she has the wrong battle plan; she has lost the sense of what the warfare is ultimately about.

Scheeres seems unaware of her own contradiction. On the one hand she says, “Just as my parents’ approach to imparting their values was shaped by an effort to avoid the sins they feared, I am raising my two daughters according to my moral code. To me, the greatest sin of all is failing to be an engaged citizen of the world ...”. But she later says of her daughter, “She did have a moral code – one she followed not from obligation, but from her own desire to make the world a better place.” She can’t have it both ways: she has done to her daughter what she resented in her own parents: she has indoctrinated them with her atheism. Tragically Scheeres adds, “I gazed into Davia’s upturned face and felt a rush of love and happiness. I had raised her without sin.”

Observation: Scheeres’ idealism is fleeting, momentary. It is the mist of a chilly morning that evaporates in the sun’s warming rays. It will be gone the moment a soulless, cruel monster with no fear of God and no love for his fellow man decides to take what he wants by force. And people like Julia Scheeres will have no sound moral basis for opposing him.

The pagans of old “did not glorify … God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools ... who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator …” (Rom 1:21-22, 25). The pagans are still with us. The planet is more important than God; eternal life is rejected for a “here and now” purpose; organized religion is evil; sin is a hurtful word; and evolution makes perfect sense. It is tragic, but this is gradually becoming the ethos of our society.