Says what the hell is a sin

Guilt and Forgiveness in ChristianityHell is cold

There is no escape from sin, it is also known in completely irreligious contexts: there are tax evaders, parking sinners or speed sinners. The term has lost some of its sharpness. But even if the word is rarely uttered in the churches with the thunderous echo of hell sermons: The concepts behind it are still one of the central pillars of Christianity today. Some theologians, however, bother with it:

"The church should get by without the suppressive elements of guilt and sin," says the Hamburg Protestant theologian Friedrich Brandi. He believes that the concepts of guilt and sin are tied to a personal conception of God.

"The moment you speak of a theistic God, that is, of a God who practically holds the fate of the world in hand, if you alienate yourself from God, then you charge yourself with guilt. And that practically leads to the Enlightenment or the church also worked with certainty up to the 20th century to suppress the people. There such concepts as guilt and sin were simply instruments to make people small, to make God great. "

Sinner at the bottom of the picture

The old churches and cathedrals are full of it: testimonies of sin and guilt carved in stone from the Bible or recorded in paintings. It starts with Adam and Eve. With the first fall, when Eve takes the apple from the tree of knowledge and breaks the divine prohibition. And picture stories extend to the Last Judgment at the end of all time, when God is supposed to judge people according to their sins. The agonies of sinners in hell appear mostly at the bottom of the picture.

The question of guilt actually occurs in every worship service - in the Lord's Prayer, where it says: "Father, forgive us our debts, just as we forgive our debtors." In the letters of the apostle Paul, too, threatening sinfulness is always invoked.

Friedrich Brandi: "When I read Paul’s letters in a church service, I sometimes feel very sick. Sometimes I have to preach against it because these old texts are full of these categories - you have to be careful as a pastor."

Alienation from the reason for life

The theology of "guilt and sin" can also be thought of differently without the pressure, says the theologian. Namely as alienation from oneself and others. That sounds very familiar to Protestant ears.

"Everyone lives in disagreement with himself and with others. So I don't necessarily have to use the word" guilt and sin ". But what is meant by it, the alienation from the reason for life, the alienation from other people, that As a theologian, I would call it a "sin". Of course, you also load yourself with guilt.

Sin is a colorful term - in 2000 years many ideas in theology have developed. But Brandi believes that you can't get any further by making moral arguments. New terms would be helpful for understanding sin - because the old ones are burdened.

The downside of freedom

"Talking about sin and guilt only makes sense when I talk about human freedom. And that's why one side is the other side of the coin. And from a Christian perspective, of course, I need the personal God. Because the redemption from sin and guilt happens through Jesus Christ, in his person, so from a Christian point of view sin and guilt can only be spoken of in a personal relationship to God, "says the theologian and director of the Catholic Academy in Hamburg Stephan Loos. For him, too, the doctrine of guilt and sin is inseparable from the theological foundation.

Stephan Loos: "What exactly it looks like, whether it is really a consolation, or whether it makes you more afraid in the end - that depends on how I convey it on the part of the church, how I teach it. (...) But the real message, What it is about is that God forgives man at the end of time. But you are absolutely right, there has been a great deal of abuse of power, a great deal of rubbish, for centuries up to recently. "

"We looked the other way too long"

For example, for centuries the church condemned self-determined, consensual sexuality, premarital sex anyway, including homosexuality. The year 2018 was now the year of the churches' confessions of guilt. Your clerics, but also church workers, have committed and covered up a thousand times sexual violence themselves. The victims were their wards, children and adolescents - Cardinal Reinhard Marx added:

"The study" Sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests, deacons and male religious in the area of ​​the German Bishops' Conference "made it clear and clear that this topic is not a topic that has been overcome. (...) We looked the other way in the church for too long, Covered up, denied, refused to admit it (...) We didn't listen to the victims enough. "

The church officials apologized to those affected for all the pain they had suffered, the years of slander. The accused priests or pastors, on the other hand, hardly had to expect serious consequences, they were often only transferred. The Protestant bishop Kirsten Fehrs also found clear words.

"Coming to terms with, sexualised violence and violation of boundaries also in the Protestant Church - that goes to the core of our understanding of the church. ... (That) means standing up for misconduct, means taking responsibility ... We are guilty of people who have confided in us. Also as an institution! "

The Christian faith is actually about reflecting on one's own actions. The powerless to look at the poor. But the churches have created new disenfranchised.

Confession is enough, the state stays outside

Anything against the will of God counts as sin. The stories in the Bible paraphrase the divine will, the 10 commandments show the framework. Jesus' parables once again emphasized love for one's neighbor. It is about an ethic that respects fellow human beings, includes them and gives them space.

"It's about looking at the poor, the little ones, the sinners, the disenfranchised. Less the rich, the powerful and those who are convinced of themselves, not to blame. to see in my own actions what brings people together and what separates them. What brings me closer to God and what takes me away from God. I pay attention to the possessions of the other person. I pay attention to the people who are close to me "says the theologian Stephan Loos.

For him, the guilty also knows that he is accepted by God and his fellow human beings, on the path of repentance - therefore he can stand by his guilt. People can also experience this as liberation. Human dignity does not stand or fall with what he has done or not done.

However, it is precisely the cases of sexual violence that show that admission of guilt and penance can be used as a substitute for state criminal prosecution. Perpetrators and superiors believed: Confession is enough, criminal charges are not necessary.

Certain form of control

Meanwhile, the majority of Catholics are no longer seen in the confessional. Stefan Loos suspects that this also has to do with the abuse of power.

"That is, I believe, one of the great moments of crisis, why the sacrament of confession or penance is relatively little in demand, because people understand a certain form of control, of moralization that they have to endure, and you don't want that . They rightly do not want that! "

For the non-church clientele, who still pays church tax, the terms guilt and sin may no longer be of any importance. In both churches, however, communities that rely heavily on restrictive morals and clear ideas of good and bad are gaining popularity. These groups, who call themselves Christian, see the loss of importance of the people's churches with satisfaction.