View from the choir

I am a Catholic layperson and Secular Franciscan with a sense of humor. After years in the back pew watching, I have moved into the choir. It's nice to see faces instead of the backs of heads. But I still maintain God has a sense of humor - and that we are created in God's image.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Ghostbuster Theology: No Private Acts

Sometimes popular culture reveals more about the truth than intellectual and politically correct rationalizations.

Take Ghostbusters II, an amusing (but less successful) follow-up to the original movie (rated one of the top comedies of all time).

In G II, there is a river of malevolent pink slime beneath the streets of New York. The Ghostbusters team figures out that the slime is caused by New Yorkers' bad attitudes.


Literally, the notion of visible pink slime caused by attitudes is silly. But allegorically and theologically, it makes absolute sense.

Privacy may have a kind of fictional reality thanks to the misguided judgement of some Supreme Court justices, but is does not exist when we are talking about spiritual matters.

All our actions, good or bad, public or private, affect others.

That includes our sins. All of them. Even actions which we do in private ripples forth and touches the souls of others.

As Pope John Paul II noted in his 1984 document Reconciliatio Et Paenitentia

To speak of social sin means in the first place to recognize that, by virtue of human solidarity which is as mysterious and intangible as it is real and concrete, each individual’s sin in some way affects others. This is the other aspect of that solidarity which on the religious level is developed in the profound and magnificent mystery of the communion of saints, thanks to which it has been possible to say that “every soul that rises above itself, raises up the world.” To this law of ascent there unfortunately corresponds the law of descent. Consequently one can speak of a communion of sin, whereby a soul that lowers itself through sin drags down with itself the church and, in some way, the whole world. In other words, there is no sin, not even the most intimate and secret one, the most strictly individual one, that exclusively concerns the person committing it. With greater or lesser violence, with greater or lesser harm, every sin has repercussions on the entire ecclesial body and the whole human family. According to this first meaning of the term, every sin can undoubtedly be considered as social sin.

Again: "... every sin has repercussions on ... the whole human family."

Every time we tell a lie for personal gain
Every time we intentionally view pornography
Every time we gossip
Every time we chose not to try to stop wrongful actions
Every time we cheat on expense accounts or income taxes
Every time we participate in an abortion
Every time we use use office equipment for private purposes
Every time we legislate immoral acts, or vote for those who pass such legislation
Every time we swear at another driver
Every time we have sex outside of marriage

Yes, every time we do anything wrong - even the things we try to justify and rationalize through saying it's because of love - we affect others.

We harm others.

We harm them because through even our supposedly private actions we add to the evil in the world - or at least decrease the opportunities for good to flow froth freely from God.

We harm them because all our actions color how we view the world and interact with others.

We need only think of the story of the Fall - even if it is not taken literally.

Adam and Eve committed their offense in private. There was no one else there to witness their action (except, of course, God). Yet it is a basic Christian lesson that their action continues to affect us all.

But to counter the effects of that "private" sin, Jesus dying on the cross - the action of one Person - offered us all the opportunity for salvation.

The movie even gives us a taste of good actions touching others.

When evil seems on the verge of winning, the people of New York, singing together, treating each other well if only for a few moments, spread good to others and weaken the power of evil, allowing the heroes to triumph.

We all need to keep that in mind.

Even as we exercise our fictional "right to privacy."

Because that's true reality - and not a laughing matter.


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