I love the world of National Public Radio. Several years ago I listened with interest to an interview with deeply baritoned African-American poet and professor who shared both his poems and teaching experience. (I wish I could remember his name.) Besides the voice, the one thing I remember is an anecdote he told of a certain religious student in his class whose poems fell flat. “The problem with your poems” he said, “is they don’t have any sin.” Accordingly, the next day she showed up in class with a plunging red dress. (I think that latter line was a joke.)
Anyway, I’ve often thought about that and other issues of sin as they relate to the creations of “sanctified” folk. On one hand, followers of Jesus are to hate sin. We are told, “touch not the unclean thing… hate evil, do good … Whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are pure -- If there be any virtue, if there be any praise, think on these things.”
One can imagine then, why a student of the Way might have difficulty including much about sin in her poems. On the other hand (and this is a big hand) we have a holy book so stuffed with sin, that the idea of neither writing nor thinking about sin, is made ludicrous by the very book that teaches us to forego sin. We are awash in drama, and drama seems to need sin. Crack open any page of holy writ and put your finger down. Bloody murder, torture, rape, sodomy, pride, idolatry, religious tyranny, lying and deception, etc. leap from the pages. In short, you are likely to find descriptions or warning about human vices ranging from the petty to perverse, often carried out by hands of “saints.” As a child I was introduced to some categories of human conduct that I never would have imagined had I not read about them in the scriptures first.
So, here we have it. A riddle of deepest proportions. God, who hates sin, quite active in the business of drama. He crafts its, sets the stage, then crashes his own play taking one of the parts. And the same God “who can not look upon sin” (in one sense) looked at it hard with human eyes, even as He looks at it every day all the time. How could he see otherwise?
My goal here is not to solve this riddle but reflect on it from various angles. I will write more later, but for now my goal is to consider our right response to the one who both finds our behavior sinful, and has provided for a redemption and deepest freedom from that which names us.
We are sinners. And these are sinful poems.
This is a collection in process, and may not be ready for real viewing for some time. You can however, post any of your own sin poems or quotes in the reply section.