Karl Menninger, MD wrote a book in 1973 titled, Whatever Became of Sin? Menninger was a psychiatrist and practiced at the famous Menniger clinic in Kansas. I bought the hardcover way back when I was traveling a lot for business and women business travelers were a rarity. (More)

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Reading Menninger’s book with the dust cover on it while on an airplane was a guaranteed way to ward off unwanted attention. In fact it was so good that the dust cover traveled with me on other books for years with the same deterrent effect. Only once was I caught out. My seat mate turned out to be a psychiatrist from Topeka who worked at the Menninger clinic. I sheepishly showed him the spy novel disguised by the dust cover and told him how well it worked. He laughed til he had tears streaming down his face. I told him that I had read the real book and was fascinated by the concepts and advice. We had a very nice discussion.

The murders at the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood facility and the reactions got me thinking about Menninger’s book yet again. The suspect has been described as a right wing Christian terrorist.

An ex-wife said in court documents that the 57-year-old believes that “as long as he’s saved” by Jesus Christ, “he can do whatever he pleases.”

Clearly the concept of sin is missing from his theological framework. Perhaps his version of Christianity lacks a moral compass and the idea of being his brother’s keeper. Read this brief excerpt from Menninger’s book:

In all of the laments and reproaches made by our seers and prophets, one misses any mention of ‘sin,’ a word which used to be a veritable watchword of prophets. It was a word once in everyone’s mind but now rarely if every heard. Does that mean that no sin is involved in all our troubles—sin with an ‘I’ in the middle? Is no one any longer guilty of anything? Guilty perhaps of a sin that could be repented of or atoned for?… Anxiety and depression we all acknowledge, and even vague guilt feelings; but has no one committed any sins? Where, indeed, did sin go? What became of it?” (Pg. 13) He explains, “‘What WAS the sin that no longer exists?’ … I have in mind behavior that violates the moral code or the individual conscience or both; behavior which pains or harms or destroys my neighbor—or me, myself.” (Pg. 17) He adds, “although it has disappeared from serious use in our workaday vocabularies, perhaps it has not gone from the back of our minds. We shall see.” (Pg. 24)

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“The assumption that there is sin… implies both a possibility and an obligation for intervention. Presumably something is possible which can be reparative, corrective, meliorative, and that something involves me and mercy—we want them, too. But we want to think we can help ourselves and our fellows if only a modicum. Hence sin is the only hopeful view… Therefore I say that the consequence of my proposal would not be more depression, but less. If the concept of personal responsibility and answerability for ourselves and for others were to return to common acceptance, hope would return to the world with it!” (Pg. 188) He concludes, “If we believe in sin—as I do—we believe in our personal responsibility for trying to correct it, and thereby saving ourselves and our world.” (Pg. 220)

I am not sure how to reach the people who live on the far right wing fringes but I find myself wondering if the concept of sin might offer possibilities.