Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Out with the old: original sin

My brain is mush today. Sometimes contemplating anything more complicated than a grocery list is a struggle. I've started a book for Lent: Christ of the Celts by J. Philip Newell. I had read Listening to the Heartbeat of God by the same author and loved it. So I thought I would try another one of his books. Unfortunately there is only the Heartbeat book in the library so I bought this one. I can't do that very often. In fact, probably not more than once a year.

So I need to start on it and soon. It's supposed to be part of my Lenten discipline. So far I'm not showing much discipline at all. Sigh.

I found a blog on Christian mysticism that I really like although I have to admit that I'm not sure I understand everything I'm reading. Maybe that will come with time as I begin to learn this new way of experiencing Christ. The blog, The Website of Unknowing, has quickly become one of my favorite blogs.

For sometime now, I have found myself questioning everything about Christianity. It has become evident to me that because of my fundamentalist background, where I was encouraged not to think for myself and to just accept that these are the doctrines without questioning or understanding them, that I have to go back to the beginning. I'm working on the question of Original Sin now.

I do understand that if you believe the Garden of Eden to be a literal and true representation of creation that you must accept the concept of Original Sin. But I don't understand how people who believe it is an allegory or metaphor can say the same thing. After talking to some Jewish acquaintances I've come to a realization that Original Sin was never a Jewish concept, but one that came about much later, even in Christianity.

I acknowledge that in human beings there are two natures that sometimes war with each other. What I cannot accept is that the side that would do bad things is so overpowering that there is no side to do good without the help of supernatural forces. Experience teaches me that people out there who do not know the God of Christianity do a lot of good. In a multitude of those people, their good side is the dominant party. They are not depraved individuals who cannot do good for the sake of good.

In an online chat on the topic of Original Sin I heard from the proponents that those non-Christians who do good, do it for selfish or self-serving reasons. They "train" themselves to do good.

What burns me the most about this attitude is that it extends to tiny children who are doing nothing more then their evolutionary instincts tell them to do. The Pearls, Ezzos, and Gothardites who try to beat infants into submission for crying or for reaching out for a cookie take the concept of Original Sin and turn the victims into monsters who, in their eyes, must be tamed before they grow up to become drug addicts or serial killers. The real monsters are those who attribute such erroneous behaviors to the most innocent of our civilization. And the most precious and vulnerable.

I also see how the concept of Original Sin has tainted and tarnished our beautiful world because that concept extends to Nature. It's no coincidence that the most fundamentalist are the ones who mock and vilify those who are trying to salvage the home we all share.

And I can speak from experience that Original Sin takes away the dignity of people, turning them into weak, helpless creatures subject to their own passions and unable to escape. It makes them feel defeated that they can't seem to overcome that nature that keeps them wanting only to do bad things.

That's why I love Newell's books. He takes the side of Pelagius (who was unjustly vilified and discredited by Augustine of Hippo) who believes that there is something inherently beautiful and good in all that God created. That Nature is a healthy expression of God's love.

I love that I can feel good about myself after all these years of feeling lower than a worm. Where the focus has always been on how bad I am and how good God was to love me anyway. Which is a very condescending attitude for a god to take. And to be honest, I never felt that love. Until now. Now I do feel good enough. I do feel that I'm not a bad puppy that needs to be shamed all the time. I get to sleep on the comfy chair and get hugs and kisses from the Master.

How awful that there are babies out there right this minute who are learning that they are selfish monsters who have to have Satan beaten out of them. Sometimes I wished I still believed in hell so I could hope there would be some justice after all.


  1. Excellent post. As you already know, I agree with it. Maybe in future Christian generations we will see a new kind of edification of each other that won't work so hard to see the evil that needs to be bled out and instead, see the heart of God in our souls.

  2. I think those who are open to God's love will continue to seek and share it. Those who think God's love is contingent upon obeying all the rules will only find more rules that exclude more people. It sucks to be a pessimist, but I just don't see it getting any better. I just hope those who are more open will begin to sway those sitting on the fence because few will escape the prison of that exclusionary mindset. I guess we can only hope and pray and keep to our principles that God's love is not conditional.