Repent Repent, Is it time to Repent?

When they said REPENT REPENT
I wonder what they meant
When they said REPENT REPENT
I wonder what they meant
When they said REPENT REPENT
I wonder what they meant


Lyrics from a Leonard Cohen song titled “The Future.”  

We take it for granted that we know what it means to repent.  John the Baptist wandered around the Holy Land telling people to “Repent ye sinners, the end of near.”  Throughout history, one prophet after another has warned us to “repent, repent.”  A sarcastic observer might argue that there is more sinning going on than repenting.  I perceive two possibilities here.  One is that we do not truly know what sin is or how to repent from real sin.  The second is that we don’t believe or perhaps really care if the end is near.  I would like to explore the first of these possibilities today and save the second for some other time.
Two weeks ago, Karen and I went to a Blue Grass Gospel jam at the Methodist church in Lewis. Lewis is a little, emphasis on little, town about 4 miles out of Frederic. They tell me that once upon a time a famous person stayed at a famous hotel in Lewis.  I can only think that it must have been a long long time ago.  If you blinked once, you would not see Lewis as you head up 35 to Siren and points north.  Nevertheless, I should not disparage Lewis since they have a wonderful group of people who get together every few weeks to do a Blue Grass Gospel jam.  This night there were 21 participants. The gender breakdown was 8 women and 13 men. Of the total, about seven or eight were young kids.   Eight of the performers could sing as well as play and there were instrumentals on guitar, mandolin, fiddle, bass, Dobro, harmonica and of course banjo. 
There was plenty of coffee and snacks and people were all friendly. Many of the spectators sang along with the performers and clapped in rhythm to the tunes. We had attended one of these before and it was a fun time for all. This jam started at 6 PM and ended at 9 PM.  At the start of the jam, a young father with his wife and two children did the opening set.  The wife played bass fiddle, the man a guitar, daughter did fiddle and son did banjo.  They were very good.  The only dissonant note was the introduction.  The father started off by noting that the world was now more evil than ever and that we should soon expect to see the coming of Christ who would end this evil world.  Thus, we should all praise Jesus and be ready for his coming.  I did not follow this logic or should I say line of reasoning. 
My thoughts were not exactly on getting ready for the end of the world.  Neither do I think that this world is so evil that it needs to be ended anytime soon.  In fact, I wondered what his two teenage children were thinking about his morbid gloomy thoughts.  Teenagers are not usually noted with thinking too far into the future so no doubt they would be caught unprepared were the world to end soon.  I also wondered why he would start a family if he were so preoccupied with the evil in the world.  Why bother bringing any kids into such an evil world?  This kind of morbid gloomy thinking seems to riddle those who want us to repent and it seems to miss the point.  It is like they have missed the point of the message, Repent, Repent!
The way I see it we all need to be humble (we all sin, make mistakes, screw up and hurt others) but we can all be redeemed from this “sin” by asking forgiveness and something the doomsayers never seem to mention but we must also make amends to those we hurt.  To be honest, I also take issue with the idea of sin that is often portrayed by many religions.  The older I get the more I think evil really exists and evil might be a good metaphor for sin,  However there is a large list of “sins’ that I think get lumped into this pot by organized religions and many of these self-proscribed “holy men.”  Let me list a few things that have been called SINFUL and that I doubt should be on the list:
·       Masturbation
·       Consensual sex between any two single adults regardless of gender
·       Having sex outside of marriage
·       Making an honest mistake
·       Cheating on a test
·       Lying to an employer during an interview
·       Telling someone they look nice when you think they look awful
·       Drinking and gambling
Now you might agree with some of my above list but I will bet my last dollar that some of my list causes you to shake your head and say “How can he say that.”  The answer my friend is blowing in the wind.  It is simply that there are many things that are immoral and perhaps unethical but they are not sins.  Sins as defined by the Catholic Church that I grew up in are things that cause you to go to hell or purgatory.  Purgatory is for venial sins and hell is for mortal sins.  Everything on my above list would no doubt cast you straight into hell or at best purgatory if you died an unrepentant Catholic.  Repent, Repent!
However, if you need to go straight to hell and do not pass purgatory but go directly to the fires of eternal damnation for cheating on a test, I would say that the crime does not fit the punishment. This is a serious issue being challenged by a group of people who has noted the problems with punishment in our public schools today. The issue has been called the “school to prison pipeline” and it involves an overabundance of punishment that is taking place in our schools that does not fit the crime or that is unfair in terms of who receives it when. I have been a teacher since 1976 and you can believe me when I say that there are major problems in all of our school systems today but the solution is not more punishment or treating students like sinners.  Repent, Repent!
A second problem I have with the Repent, Repent crowd is their gloomy emphasis on the evil bad sick world with live in.  OSHO states that “to be blissful” is the greatest courage.”  Jesus might have preached the coming of a new world but he also went around healing people and finding ways to decrease the burdens people had in their life. Jesus not only brought admonitions about living for today, he also brought a law to love each other and to help bring joy into each other’s lives. Those with repentance on their lips would be much more tolerable if they also preached joy and happiness and brought a light to see the good and justice in the world. In the Bible, it was written that God would save Sodom and Gomorrah if just ten righteous people could be found. I have a difficult time believing that there are not at least ten righteous people in the world today.  If God is going to wait to destroy the world until there are no righteous people, it should be around a long time. As a matter of fact, with all the repentant sinners around there should be thousands of righteous people, unless they are all hypocrites? 
I think I should be prepared to meet my maker any time.  Being prepared seems like a reasonable way to live.  However, I will not live as though I and everyone else in the world are going to die any second in some kind of apocalyptic holocaust. There is too much beauty and goodness in the world for any kind of a God that I can imagine to destroy the entire world because of a few sinners. The good people in this world vastly outnumber the sinners. Only by the farthest and most skeptical measure that could be imagined does the evil in the world outweigh the charity and love that surrounds us.  If you don’t see this, then you need to start giving out more love and charity to others.
“There is an unchanging law of giving and receiving in the universe. Jesus’ doctrine, “Give and it will be given unto you”, is based on this law. Mostly Jesus’ teachings are taken at their surface value; however, these words of wisdom have a much deeper meaning from the spiritual point of view and are based on universal laws.”  (Sabeen Shalapy).  Ms., Shalapy has a wonderful site where she shares her views on gratitude and living a more fulfilling life.  She preaches love and not doom. Perhaps we need as much preaching about giving and loving as we do about doomsdays and repentance.  Love, Love and more Love is needed in equal measure to Repent, Repent and Repent. 
Are you working to help spread more joy and happiness in the world?  Have you succumbed to the negative warnings of a few doomsday prophets?  Do you see the beauty and love that surrounds you?  Do you believe in the cardinal virtues of Faith Hope and Charity?  What can you do today to add a measure of love to the world? Can you at least hope for a better tomorrow? 
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