"Sin," according to Barbara Brown Taylor, an Episcopal priest and noted preacher, "is our only hope, the fire alarm that wakes us up to the possibility of true repentance." Many would argue with this proposition. Mainline Protestants all across the country are tired of hearing about sin and salvation, and preachers seem to have run out of fresh ideas on how to talk about these linchpin theological ideas.
Taylor believes that spiritual globalization, the distrust of all institutions, and secularism have contributed to "the de-evolution" of sin in churches and in the culture at large. She discusses Karl Menninger's best-selling 1973 book and points out that the story of Adam and Eve still speaks to the truths that choices do have consequences and that we are in rebellion against God.
Taylor finds that the medical paradigm of sin as sickness and the legal paradigm of sin as lawlessness both lack the complexity and richness of the theological paradigm of sin as missing the mark, acting wrongly, and rebelling against God's will. The author wants to reinstate the spiritual practice of repentance and the virtue of being a righteous person, or one whose "aim is true." While sin may be seen as "a helpful, hopeful word" by Taylor, fundamentalists, who claim to represent Christianity all over the world by the sheer strength of their numbers, continue to imbue the term with toxic and dehumanizing power.