In “homeopathic medicine” there is the notion that a medicinal property remains in a solution, even after it has been diluted to extreme degrees. In ‘traditional medicine’ the belief is that there is an optimal concentration of medicine and that at some level of dilution (and typically not very large a dilution) the impact is lost.
So my question is rather simple: Can sin be diluted enough to be irrelevant? Or is it like pregnancy and death: one can not be “just a little bit” of either.
Why am I asking this?
Because here in the USA we have two things that are presently running headlong into each other.
1) Our FIRST amendment right to freedom of religion, AND the free practice thereof.
2) The Obama Mandate for Abortion.
The second of these comes out of the “Health Care Plan”. Traditionally, here, health care has been like automotive repair, dentistry, hamburgers, or any other commodity / service one might wish to buy. Slowly, over the course of my life, it has been changed. One ‘salami slice’ at a time, into a “Socialized Medicine Plan”. (And make no mistake about it, we have had “Socialized Medicine” for quite a while now. Just not for all…)
Medicare and Medicaid are Federal programs to provide health care services to the old and poor, respectively. Each State can add their own level, should they wish, so in California we have MediCal for poor people, while in Hawaii they have coverage for all workers and some States have more universal coverage like Romneycare.
In about 1970 it was clear that there was not quite enough money for these programs, so the Medical Industry at large instituted a kind of “forced charity”: As the government kept paying less and less, the gap between what was paid by government and actual costs was packed onto the bills of folks with private insurance, increasing their costs well above actual costs.
Then we added “child coverage” under the Clintons, and Baby Bush added drug coverage for ‘old folks’. Yet more ‘goodies’ with ever less payment.
Lately, as government mandated coverage as been stretched to cover even more folks, while fewer folks could pay the ever higher private premiums (due to that excessive cost burden), some employers started cutting back coverage or dropping it all together, while ever more private individuals just stopped buying insurance that was 1/2 insurance and 1/2 welfare tax transfer payments. Clearly this has an end game where the system breaks.
To “fix” that, we got “Obama Care” with a mandate that a US Citizen, simply by virtue of being alive, MUST buy insurance. This raises a profound legal and ethical question: Can the government mandate a private person to purchase a product? (Yes, we have the ‘precedent’ of auto-insurance. IMHO, it, too, is an illegal mandate. Yet there is “cover” for it: You can chose not to drive, so avoid the mandate, therefore it isn’t a universal mandate. Yet, one cannot chose not to be sick…) But while that is an interesting question, the one I find more interesting involves a different ethical dilemma that brings with it a very philosophical question:
Is Sin “atomic” or can it be diluted “enough” to no longer matter?
Sidebar on my Qualifications
Anyone who wants to toss rocks at my asking such questions needs to realize that I frequently ponder such things. I have a Doctorate of Divinity (That I bought for $20 only partly as a lark). It is a legal document and the issuer was found valid in court. I also got it as a kind of statement of what I believed. The Church in question holds that it is up to each of us to find our own beliefs, and what we believe to be correct Truth. It is, in a way, a statement of Profound Gnosticism. We each can have our own “Knowing”. That appealed to me greatly.
At the same time I was deeply pondering questions of God, morality, and the meaning of life. So I felt it was an appropriate recognition of that effort on my part. Also realize that I’ve got a half dozen various Bibles, including a Book Of Mormon and a Jehovah’s Witnesses version, a Gnostic Bible, a Koran, and some other religious texts. I’ve read most of each of them. Basically, I don’t come at the questions of religion and morality with any degree of “lark” at all… ( though sometimes I inject a bit of levity…) So while I’ll sometimes talk about my D.D. with levity, I treat it with some deference too. Frankly, I can give a decent sermon and I can argue some fine points of theology at some depth.
Who is The Church?
The context is that recently Obama announced that he was lifting a mandate for Catholics to be forced to pay for abortions and other birth control measures that they consider a mortal sin. BUT, it has a catch (or two).
Originally, the requirement was that ANY organization not directly the Church Proper MUST provide ‘reproductive services’ that MUST include contraception. In prior years there had been ‘religious exemptions’ for such places as Catholic Schools and Hospitals. This ‘first cut’ of Obama Care cut that back to “only the Church itself”.
This raises ANOTHER ethical dilemma in that it must ask “What is The Church?” In most theologies, it is held to be the body of the practitioners. It is not just the building, or the ministers. In fact, the very act of sacred communion is the symbolic joining of the membership into one body, one Church, a oneness with God Himself. (That is why non-Catholics or those Catholics found sinning and not yet taking absolution are forbidden to take communion, so as not to pollute the joined whole with their sin. This matters.)
So first off, we have the question of “What is the Church?”. To me, it means each and every member of the body of members that make up the Church. On the very philosophical grounds that it’s not the building, and it’s not just the preacher. This has a bit a Protestant flavor to it, too, as the Protestant schism was largely over the ability of ANYONE who feels The Word Of God being endowed with the right to preach The Word – in fact being commanded to do it by some verses – so how can a Church be “the clergy” when we are ALL supposed to be Clergy?
The Jehovah’s Witnesses take this to something of an extreme, as even their formal service is lead by someone who is ‘simply a member’ and all individuals are expected to participate in reading some verses out loud, leading discussion of them, and finding answers to ‘What does it mean?’. So “Who is the Church?” when every member MUST be a Witness to God, conduct services, and proselytize?
In the Mormon Church, ever male is expected to “go on a Mission” ( I don’t know what the females are expected to do as I’m not one, so didn’t ask). To preach and spread the Word. IIRC, they are then held to be the first level of ‘clergy’. For some folks, if poor, it may be just to the next town over. If more wealthy, it is to be a longer mission, perhaps to lands far away. Again the point: The Church IS the membership. Every One.
SO: How can you mandate that the members of the Church who, say, run the Church Hospital, or run the Church Bible Store, are NOT part of the Church, so get not “Church exemption” from Mandated Sin?
How can a Catholic Nurse at a Catholic Hospital be told SHE must violate the Papal Guidance and act against HER religious beliefs? Is SHE not “The Church” in a very real and very personal sense? Does she not take communion? Would not, then, her sin be joined with “The blood and body of Christ” at communion, and with the rest of The Body of The Church?
(No, this is not just word games nor is it petty argument. These kinds of issues are EXACTLY what religion is about, and exactly the kind of thing that makes a Religion. Yes, this really DOES matter to me, so tossing rocks at the importance or validity of the idea of Religion is not a good idea… I may not be able to demonstrate the existence of God, so claim I am “something of an agnostic” – in that I mean I can not KNOW God is real – but that does not prevent me from caring about God, or the questions that come from it, or thinking that there might well be a God, and I’m just not perfected enough yet to “Know” in my Gnostic quest… that I’m just not yet a ‘finished person’… AND I can ponder what is important to uphold for those who DO already have a “Knowing”…)
So it simply MUST be answered: “What is The Church?” and “Is it not The Membership?” and if so, how can anyone mandate that they MUST violate their beliefs via a mandated purchase? Or, for Hospitals in particular, by mandates that they must provide services they consider to be a Sin.
It is my opinion that it is not possible to have freedom to practice your religion AND be forced to do things that are against that religion. That on the face of it, separating SOME of the activities of the Church from others (schools from Mass) simply can not be done. Catholic schools, for example, have prayer in the classroom. Teachers take communion. So as a starting point, I see no way they can be mandated to do anything in conflict with their beliefs nor buy anything in conflict with their beliefs.
Can funding a sin be diluted?
So we come back to the question of Atomic Sin (in the sense that an ‘atom’ is the smallest indivisible part, in ancient Greek philosophy).
So if a Catholic teacher at a Catholic School is told to pay for medical insurance, can they be mandated to pay for medical insurance that includes “abortion coverage”?
Realize that NOT funding abortion coverage is NO attack on it being available legally in other venues. The abortion clinics will still exist. The “morning after pill” will still be in pharmacies. Good Catholic Girls who had a Bad Moment can still march in and plunk down their money for a second dose of Official Sin – and a much easier lifetime… should they so desire it. They can still go to confession and seek absolution too. What they do NOT get, is the participation in their sin of the Teacher paying as part of the Health Care Premium for those “Services of Sin”. NOR does the person doing the paying participate in that sin, even indirectly.
That is the core “issue” of the mandate. That being forced to buy such coverage causes the buyer to be a participant in the sin (even if only partially).
The Catholic Church has already said “That is too much mandated participation in Sin”.
At that point, Obama made a typical “not a concession – concession”. They said “OK, you don’t have to buy it, but the insurance companies will provide it ‘for free'”.
Well, there’s no such thing as “free”. Those insurance companies are going to be paying for that service. Money will flow to abortion clinics and ‘morning after pharmacies’. Babies will die, and fertilized eggs killed. To Catholics, and many others, that is:
b) Usurping God’s Will.
Both significant sins.
So, where did the insurance company get the money to PAY for those things? From rate payers. And WHO are those rate payers? The Church (either as the Church School or Church Hospital).
So this raises the question: Is that “enough dilution of the sin” to wash it away?
The Catholics, at least, thought about it for a few days then basically said “Nope. Money is fungible and we all know the Insurance Company will just raise rates generally enough to fund it, including on us.”
But wait, there’s more…
Is Kosher food still Kosher if it has ‘just a little pork’ in it? Can the USDA mandate that a little pork in your Kosher Hotdog is OK and force you do so label it? And buy it? And eat it?
The USDA recently has been cited as the reason for taking a kids home made lunch away and giving them a school provided lunch that met their guidelines that included “A serving of meat, grain, two vegetables or fruits,…” which raises the questions of:
What if the child is a vegetarian? Many Seventh Day Adventists are. So MUST a vegetarian child have “a serving of meat”?
And was that meat Halal? (The Muslim version of Kosher…)
What if my home is a “Fruitarian” home? (Not eating plants like carrots where the plant is killed by the picking, but only eating the fruits and grains and leaves that do not kill the plant in the picking. Hey, I’m not justifying the belief, but there ARE people who believe these things.)
Are we not allowed to be vegetarians and / or even have other deeply held beliefs about the sanctity of even vegetable life?
What about folks who don’t want to eat Dairy Products? Many Asian cultures think cheese is just rotted milk, and most Africans and Asians can be lactose intolerant. Do we not let THEM decide what is acceptable?
( I’ve even known folks who only eat ONE kind of food per meal. They eat many meals in a day, but believe that keeping things ‘one at a time’ is better for them. Kind of like some Jews who will not even drink milk with a meal that contains meat, as that violates the separation of meat / milk mandated by the Bible. Can the school mandate a Jewish kid to drink milk with their meat sandwich?)
At what point is it a ‘small enough sin’ for the government to mandate that a vegan MUST eat a little butter instead of margarine, or a fruitarian must eat a carrot?
WHO decides, if not the person doing the consuming?
So that got me thinking: IFF The Body Of The Church really is the membership, as it is held to be in Holy Communion: Is it not then a sin for any Individual to buy insurance from a company with such a policy / mandate?
Does that not open the entire PLAN to a constitutional challenge? “Your Honor, I decline to purchase on the grounds that I would be funding murder and my religion forbids that.”
Can the Sin of funding murder ever be “diluted” enough to no longer be a sin?
If a million people all chip in only one penny, to pay an assassin to murder a politician, is that a $10,000 murder? Or are none of them “Guilty of soliciting a murder” since each only paid in a penny? (And a penny isn’t even held to be legal tender any more so banks van refuse your bucket of pennies as payment…) If they are NOT guilty, then who is? And at what price DOES “murder for hire” begin? $1? $10? $100?
It seems to be that “Sin can not be diluted”.
It can be forgiven and absolved in confession, but it still existed.
So, just to ask the NEXT question…
1) Sin is atomic, and can not be diluted away.
2) The Church is the collective of the individuals that make up the body of the Church.
3) I can believe on my own.
Does it not follow that I alone can find contributing to Murder to be a Sin, so I alone can have a violation of my conscience? My religious beliefs?
And if that is the case, can I alone say that, on conscientious objector grounds, I refuse to purchase the product (insurance) offered by any company that provides “Murder services called abortion and morning after pills”? (Or for some folks, even contraceptives as they violate the Will Of God.)
We can be granted Conscientious Objector status for other “mandated services”, even up to the Draft and military service. Is there not more than ample precedent for objector status?
And that is why I think it matters to ask:
Is sin ‘atomic’ or can it be diluted away?
If it CAN be diluted, then at what price can we be absolved of “Murder for hire”?
And who would then be safe from assassins?…
My conclusion is that there is no dilution possible. But I could be wrong…
If I AM wrong, I might want to start a shopping list…
Kind of like Strangers on a Train…