Monday, March 1, 2010

Sins of the Rich and Famous

Mea culpa, mea culpa.

We are living in a time of public apologies for everything from an actor's drunken racist remark to a traffic cop to admission by a baseball player that he used steroids. My concern here is with public confession of marital infidelity. Big difference.

A little more than twenty years ago, televangelists Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggert tearfully begged for forgiveness after revelations of their sexual scandals. In the past few years, we have heard painful, public confessions mostly from politicians but recently from pro golfer Tiger Woods. Honestly, I’m getting weary of listening to “ I am so sorry ” soliloquies about sexual dalliances, these embarrassing confessions of sins by the rich and famous.

Strictly speaking, there should be no public confession since it’s really none of our business. And, while there might have been a private confession with family and clergy, I found it bothersome that, in all these public mea culpas, they never admitted that their behavior was a sin.

Whoa. Sin? I’m kidding, right? No, I’m not.

All Christian faiths have teachings on sin. Catholicism offers this explanation: “To try to understand what sin is, one must first recognize the profound relation of man to God, for only in this relationship is the evil of sin unmasked in its true identity as humanity’s rejection of God and opposition to Him” (Catechism Catholic Church)

Christians believe that God made us in His image to enjoy the world He had created. Our very first parents disobeyed God’s command and chose to eat an apple because Satan, the fallen angel, said it would make them God-like. That was the first or original sin. Simple, yet horrifying: an offense against God.

It amazes me how often we see celebrities raise their eyes to heaven and thank God, their “Lord and savior, Jesus Christ”, whenever receiving awards or how often we watch as athletes point to heaven whenever a touchdown is scored or a home run is hit. Yet, we never see or hear a politician or professional athlete point to heaven and apologize or express regret for breaking one of God’s commandments.

While we recognize that our behavior is sometimes socially unacceptable, Christians seem to shy away from labeling it as sinful. (In due respect, Tiger did, however, express regret that he had drifted away from the teachings of his Buddhist faith.)

OK. Maybe it’s hopelessly na├»ve to suggest that these confessions by Christians, couched in apologetic language, should indicate there were sins committed but, that’s what these transgressions were. Forgive me, but, I think we have lost our way, probably because it’s no longer the ‘straight and narrow’.

The good news is that the rich and famous are confessing their sins.
The best news is that God forgives us of our sins when we repent. What better time than Lent to reflect not only on our sins but on the act of supreme love that Christ showed by His passion and death to redeem, to pay for all our sins.

The Catholic prayer in confession is really worth repeating:

“O, my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee. I detest all my sins because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell. But most of all, because I have offended Thee, my God who are all good and worthy of all my love. I firmly resolve with the help of Thy grace to confess my sins, do penance and amend my life.”

In this “one nation under God”, that trusts in God, swears by God, we apparently cannot say that we have offended God