October 5, 2015,

Dear Friends and Family of the Diocese of Eau Claire,

Sin has two natures. They are individual sin and corporate sin. In America we understand individual sin. Just as our Constitution proclaims that human rights are a gift from God to his people, God in turn expects us to be responsible in the exercise of our rights. When we are not responsible, sin is somewhere in the mix. Our sense of right and wrong comes from this awareness of individual sin.

In contrast we are nearly blind to corporate sin. Even if you as a person are not directly involved in doing something contrary to God, you are guilty by association. Corporate sin is an essential motivator in crafting a vision for God’s people. Ancient Israel and Judaism in Jesus’ time understood corporate sin. Today we ignore this to our peril. Refusing to acknowledge corporate sin impairs our ability to solve many problems that plague us.

On Thursday, October 1, there was another school shooting. This time it took place at a community college in Oregon. Nine people were killed. From the perspective of individual sin I have no responsibility in this. After all, I don’t own a gun. I’m not interested in killing people. I have never been to Oregon. Corporate sin says something different to me. A familiar saying comes forth. “If you aren’t part of the solution you are part of the problem.”

Perhaps it is useful to consider several factors in connecting the school shootings with corporate sin.
1. Guns alone do not kill people. People kill people. Guns are the means of killing. We need to keep evaluating the role of guns in our society.
2. The media believes its role is to share the news of each killing. This encourages others to kill, so they too can be remembered as infamous.
3. The media makes money proclaiming the shootings. This is blood money because it is earned as a by product of the deaths of others and encourages copy cat killings in the future. Corporate sin tells me that by watching I am a blood money consumer. I am encouraging future killings. Once I learn the basic details of a shooting, I should avoid media coverage.

Corporate sin informs us that our lives are connected. What we do for good or ill contributes to our common life. Awareness of corporate sin is a first step in motivating us to seek solutions. While we may not like guilt by association, acceptance of this reality has the potential to change the world and brings us into harmony with God’s desire that we be his daughters and sons with whom he is well pleased. With my love and best wishes, I am,

Your brother in Christ,