Sins of Omission
When most of us think of the word ’sin’, we think of doing something bad. But the Bible also makes it clear that the failure to do the right thing is as bad as doing the wrong thing. The person who commits a crime is easily seen as doing wrong, but what about the person who watches the crime yet says or does nothing, even to alert authorities? It’s my understanding that such people, if discovered, are held liable under the law. After all, child neglect is considered a form of abuse and a crime. So to do nothing when something must be done is both wrong and cowardly.
Today, as you know, is the tenth anniversary of the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, as well as the alleged crash in Pennsylvania. Yes, I said ’alleged’, because not one bit of evidence of a jet or aircraft was ever seen there, but only a ditch filled with trash. Sure, the jet and its passengers is gone, but there is no evidence that it crashed in PA. People died that day, there is no doubt about that. But the details of who and how are anything but clear.
So what does 9/11 have to do with sins of omission? The many failures to act on the part of our military, at the very least. Here was the world’s superpower, being attacked at its headquarters no less, and nothing was done to stop it in spite of the time that elapsed between the first tower and the Pentagon. No jets were scrambled; no troops were brought home to defend us; and as time has passed, many of the survivors of victims have been neglected or forgotten. Much more has happened since then, due to the people not rising up against any of the aftermath of these tragic events, as I wrote last year. Our government failed to act (only reacted), and we the people failed to act. We have the police state that exists precisely because we passively allowed it to happen, stripping us of our freedoms and rights.
Yet in Christianity there are much greater sins of omission, such as turning a blind eye to domestic abuse, financial scandals, and compromise with other religions. We have been taught not to make waves but to passively follow the leader, whoever it is. We don’t rise up against abusers such as rapists and wife-beaters who call themselves Christians, but reserve forgiveness for them while denying justice and healing to the victims. We eagerly adopt the philosophies of the world and the false Christs of other religions, as Paul lamented to the Galatians, and we thereby show no loyalty to the real Christ, no love to the oppressed, and no outrage at the oppressors. Half the church stands idly by while the gifts and personhood of the other half are trampled under cloven hooves.
In short, the inaction of the Christian community at large is just like the “war on terror” which refuses to identify the enemy but instead makes the victims the suspects. And just like our government’s failure to protect from further attacks after the Towers, so also the leaders of churches have failed to lift a finger in response to many reports of physical, financial, and psychological abuse. Instead, like the government, they wave flags, whip people into frenzies of loyalty to leadership, give lip service to morality— and go on doing what they’ve always done.
But the worst part is, we let them. Of course there are always a few who see what’s happening and speak up. These few are activists and practice what they preach. But for the most part, people can’t be bothered to take personal interest or responsibility to hold leaders to account, out of either laziness or fear. But aren’t those the excuses used by those who neglect children or walk quickly past a mugging?
The problem (and the leaders know this), is that it’s almost impossible to get large numbers of people to act without some central committee or board or charismatic leader, because most people just want to live in peace. But there are times when even the most peaceful and gentle people have to leave their comfort zones and act, often at great personal risk. Today, all it would cost for us to make real changes is to speak up and voice strong, unified opposition to the corrupt leadership. Tomorrow, it may cost more lives, including our own. Are we willing to act now, or wait till tomorrow? Or is it too late already?