It was the summer of 2002. I was sitting dead center in a large, megachurch auditorium. I had been struggling with my concepts of God and church for some time; so, although the good student in me wanted to sit near the front, I moved back in an act of deviance. I was there because the visiting preacher, Rob Bell, intrigued me; and yet, somehow, I needed him and everyone to know I would not be mindlessly accepting what was said. The best I came up with was to pick a less "enthusiastic" seat.

I only remember one part of the sermon that day: an aside where Rob Bell spent maybe a minute talking about corporate sin. It was a minute, though, I'd never heard uttered in church. I had grown up attending Sunday school and youth groups, going on mission trips and volunteering, being confirmed for Christ's sake, literally; yet sin committed on a larger scale, by societies or the groups within them, had never been discussed. The concept resonated deeply; why was this the first I was hearing of it?

I imagine it was - still is - because corporate sin is complicated and messy - each one tangled in our macro systems and norms. Thus, remaining unknowingly complicit is easier than knowing and having to do the hard work of untangling ourselves and the whole institutionalized mess. It's a process that inevitably means being uncomfortable for a time because our perspectives need stretched, and our behavior edited or emboldened. 

So, outside the most justice-minded faith communities, how we talk about sin usually doesn't include corporate sin. Who wants to leave people confused, unsure, with words like "change," "radical empathy" and "sacrifice" ringing in all our ears? Yet, ironically, in the summer of 2002, I wasn't questioning God and the church because they'd made it all so complicated but because they'd made it all seem so easy.

I knew then, intuitively, what many of us do: corporate sins - against each other, nature, our own spirits - are a reality and anything but simple to untangle. We need big, okay-with-mess-and-complexity theologies to talk about them. And, we need spaces, communities inclusive and honest and brave enough to do the work, one thread at a time.


Take a moment to listen for what's stirring in you. Perhaps you're feeling pulled to listen more deeply this week, learn something new or love better. Set your intention and share it with s/Someone. My suggestion is to identify a question rising up in you from the blog post and ask it of another. What do they think? Be present. Listen well. Then, what do you think now?