Brian’s Reflection: Monday, August 25, 2008
There's no such thing as an original sin.
- Elvis, musician, born on this day, 1954
The critical word here, for Elvis anyway, is “an”. Very cute. There is, of course, no sin that has never been committed before. As the Bible says, There is nothing new under the sun. This includes, to my mind, sins actually committed, and sins thought. (I say this with the words of Bonnell Spencer, OHC, that nothing is a sin unless you do it thundering in my ears.) Actually, I’m not sure they fall within exactly the same degree (sorry to sound “Jesuitical”!), though Jesus seems to have warned that sins thought are sins committed - not literally, but as possible cause and effect ….. and therefore (a) of the same species, and (b) to be paid attention to ….. a kind of John the Baptist to Acting Out!
But you know where I am really going! “Original Sin”. I “believe in it”. Not - let me very clear here - (a) as a way of saying that we humans are by nature “bad”, or (b) as a reason to baptize anyone, especially infants, in case they die and go straight to Hell, do not pass the River Lethe, do not collect 100 Euros.
“Original Sin” is I think - as long as one avoids the nonsense said about Original Sin over the centuries - a helpful concept. It reminds us of our God-like character, free to make choices. Reminds us that we are responsible for our lives and for the choices we make. Responsible for our own happiness, and for the happiness of the human community. God cannot be blamed for the messes that we make in any way. Blaming God is just a way of scapegoating God. A way of rejecting our destiny as “made in the Divine image”, and of justifying our cowardice, slovenliness, carelessness, and yes, often downright disgusting and deliberate meanness.
Let’s get a grip folks! We were “born to sin”, and we will always sin in this earthly Life. Thinking we will not sin in this Life is a fantasy, a waste of time. Such thinking only distracts us from the real work. The Gospel is, I believe, clear about this, as are other great Inner Paths of Becoming.
Better to strive for honesty about our behaviour; for belief in our essential beauty and goodness; for humility to face our self-and-other-destructiveness; for courage to turn again to hope and grace and the God-given gift of redemption (i.e., repent); for the vision to set one’s foot again upon the Path to Compassion and Love; and the will to do the work involved at each step. Again and again and again.
Oh, Elvis? Elvis Costello. The other one really is dead ….. except mythically!