I want to talk about sin. Everyone else is taking a crack at it, so I don't see why I - who have been around a lot longer than most of you sin-thumpers and therefore am vastly more experienced - shouldn't have something to say as well.
I know from the nature of the notes and emails you send me that you wholeheartedly agree. Some of you have gone so far as to suggest that you wish you could have been a buddy of mine when I was younger.
Following me around, you say, would have been tremendously entertaining and yours truly the very definition of living on the edge.
One has only to catch a glimpse of a photograph of my face I when I was younger to know that's an extremely warped version of the truth.
When there were plays being put off in school and especially university which involved Cherubim and Seraphim, I was always chosen to represent one or the other.
Cherubic was the word most often used to describe me, especially by little old ladies in my father's congregation. I don't recall seraphic being one of those words.
There may have been other adjectives taking its place.
I probably heard a couple of those the day I threw a junk of wood at my grandfather.
One of those words may have even come from me, but I was only a child and my vocabulary not fully developed.
That's also a long time to remember what a little boy said. However, as I recall my aim wasn't bad for a five-year-old.
I was going to talk about sin.
Like kissing, sin covers a wide body of knowledge.
Most of us have our attitudes toward it shaped at an early age, usually as a result of thunder from the pulpit or directives from our parents.
Teachers would say more about it, except they're always scared that their students will find out they know more about it than they should.
My granddaughter, at age 15, confessed after reading my novel "The Seventh Day" that she was a bit embarrassed by the "sexy" parts.
"Come on, Sam," I teased her. "Don't tell me you don't know about all that stuff."
"Of course I know about it," she replied. "I just didn't think you did."
U.S. President Calvin Coolidge came home from church one morning and was asked by his wife what the minister preached about. Cal was a man of few words.
"Sin," he said.
"What did he have to say about it?" Mrs. Coolidge persisted.
Replied Cal, "He was agin it."
That's about as deep as most of our thoughts go.
We are told that the wages of sin are death, but it seems that the working conditions aren't half bad. And when we see many of those who are warning us about the "wages" labouring mightily in those same fields, their words get watered down a bit.
Personally, I think sin is getting a bum wrap.
For one thing, hell's flames are giving sin a bad name. Even the most sinful among us would balk at sending murderers or senators to an eternity of being roasted alive. One hour spent over a hot barbecue is bad enough.
Another thing: calling something sinful makes it all the more fun.
So why should we think sinful is bad when we apply it to all the things that seem so good?
Besides, the things we call sin carry their own little penalty, so threatening people with more punishment, like hell, seems overkill to me.
For example, overeating can make you overweight and give you a bad heart and lead to diabetes and broken springs in your mattress.
Over drinking can make you an alcoholic, which means you have to sit through all those meetings. Being addicted to sex can lead to ... to ... sin, sin and more sin and more broken springs in your mattress.
For those of you who think I'm making fun of these problems, believe me I'm not.
I know how disruptive and debilitating they can be to anyone afflicted with them.
My point is that they are punishment enough for the so-called sins of the flesh especially, without the added warning of spending eternity with the heat cranked up to "cremate" and no "off" switch.
Sin isn't all good, you know. It carries with it one particular very heavy kind of baggage.
If you haven't already figured it out, it's the terrific load of guilt one can carry when one discovers that one is indulging in it.
A lady and I were discussing this a few days ago.
"You protestants don't have confessionals and priests who hear your sins, do you?" Her tone of voice left no doubt but that she disapproved of this practice in her church.
"Not officially or as formally," I said. "More's the pity."
"What do you mean? They put themselves in the place of God and forgive people their sins. That's terrible."
"You're wrong," I said strongly. "Those priests who are good at it and compassionate and empathetic have saved untold thousands of people over the years a ton of misery. Believers lost their guilt, they were forgiven and they could go on with their lives feeling cleansed, no matter what. I think it's beautiful. We also have ministers in our church who listen to good people who need to unburden themselves.
"The great sinners of the world," I went on, because I believe it so strongly, "are those misguided men and women who have imposed on innocent people a great burden of guilt because they have told them they have sinned and come short of the glory of God, and must pay the price."
The wages of sin are a long drawn-out death, not from the everlasting flames of perdition, but from a heart and a mind overburdened with guilt and torment.
You can quote me on that one, Father!