Years ago, I wrote a book on sin. To estimate its breadth and depth, I studied biblical and theological sources. But as much as the standard sources taught me, I was surprised to discover that I could also learn a lot about sin and grace by reading storytellers, biographers, poets and journalists.
Back in the mid-1990s I wrote a book on sin. Each of us knows sin experientially, of course, but few of us know it comprehensively even in that way because we are parochial even in our sinning. So I had to study sin. For a couple of years I read about sin in the Bible. I read commentaries on the Bible, theological encyclopedia articles and books on virtue and vice.
Our texts du jour include passages from Lamentations and Habakkuk that lament or anticipate the desolation of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. What’s it like when calamity or God’s judgment leaves the land, the houses or the people desolate?
In late July the largest city in my state declared bankruptcy. In 1950, Detroit, Michigan, was the fifth largest city in the nation, roughly the same size as Philadelphia and Los Angeles. Booming automobile companies made middle-class citizens of people who worked in them.