A sinful couple
“I do hope they meet again in heaven, so that they will know what a wonderful loving God we have. They are a very sinful couple, but they are very kind.”
The women sat and talked loudly about their church, about their visits to evangelical churches in the United States and how false they thought the pastors’ wives, and about people they knew. The Pharisees at their most self-righteous would have been hard-pressed to compare with the women in their wide ranging and comprehensive criticisms of the failings of others.
What about the sinfulness of the couple, though? What was the nature of their failing? What sin could they have committed that would demand the full efforts of “a wonderful, loving God?”
Perhaps they were bankers whose casino capitalist approach to the economy had brought a massive banking collapse that had to be financed with money that should have been spent on hospitals and schools. It would take a lot of forgiveness for such people to be allowed a place in heaven, people who had been arrogant in their conduct and unrepentant about the huge harm they had caused. They are very sinful, denounced by the prophets and by Jesus.
Perhaps they were business people, moving work to sweatshop labour in the Far East, employing workers at home on zero hours contracts, maximising profits for a few people who receive dividends while steadily reducing the earning power of working people and eroding every benefit attached to their work. If the couple were involved in such business practices they were certainly very sinful, Scripture is forthright in its condemnation of people who deny workers their rights and who refuse to pay proper wages. One could see how such a couple would test the patience of a God committed to justice.
Or perhaps they were very sinful because they were responsible for the degradation of an environment they believed was God-given, or perhaps they were sinful because they encouraged a sectarian spirit in the community, claiming they were right and others were wrong and fostering enmity when Scripture said they should foster unity. Incitement to hatred of others would be a sin that ran contrary to every Christian belief.
Yet the perceived sinfulness of the couple almost certainly related to their sexual conduct, it was almost certainly the case that they were living together without being married. The “wonderful, loving God” must look askance at such behaviour, what importance do human dignity and the integrity of creation have alongside God’s preoccupation with sex?
Perhaps heaven is a place where kind people find a welcome and where those who condemn the private and personal, while ignoring the public and the global, will find themselves in for a shock.
If the women were from some evangelical groups in the Church of Ireland the couple they were discussing might have been same sex. I don’t recall ever hearing the conservative evangelicals who spend so much time and energy on other people’s relationships criticising the bankers, abusive employers or those who show disdain for the environment as sinful.
I think they belonged to some small evangelical grouping, judging by the words they used. I hadn’t thought about the same sex angle, I wonder if the term “couple” would have been used, though.
The Church of Ireland press officer twenty years ago said that ethics in the Church of Ireland is something “that happens below the belt,” it is quite evidently the case. The silence about big issues and even the silence on the peace ad justice issues in the North, has been quite noticeable
There are some who are trying to speak out but unfortunately they are few and far between, almost voices in the wilderness.
There is a discernable tradition from the 19th Century onward of religious groups appropriating the label “evangelical” to themselves and espousing values far from those found in the Gospels