The Real Damage of Original Sin

By: Brian Robertson

"The doctrine of original sin means rather that we were born into an environment where it is easy to do evil and hard to do good, easy to hurt others and hard to heal their wounds; easy to arouse man's suspicions, and hard to win their trust. It means that we are each of us conditioned by the solidarity of the human race in its accumulated wrong-doing and wrong-thinking, and hence wrong being..."

-Timothy Ware


The teachings about Original Sin are, actually, an attempt to explain, in symbolic language, what Timothy Ware states so clearly in the featured quote.

We are made in the image of God, so how can a person be considered evil or tainted? What, then, is sin?

It is to "miss the mark" which means, in this case, to be something other than what we are. This is in direct conflict with many of those who say that if we were to become what we are, we would be depraved, evil creatures flawed by sin. But try as he or she might, the Christian mystic cannot shake the knowledge that although we fall far short of our potential and should be humbled, we are not evil.

Can anyone doubt the innate goodness of the world when one sees a baby or small child? Indeed, Jesus made it a point several times to point out that children are closest to the kingdom of heaven. Why? Not because of the presence of something called Original Sin, but rather the pre-existing quality of Original Goodness.

Last weekend I went to several churches on Sunday, as I do, and participated in different types of worship. Interestingly enough, the common theme was a quote that was used for the day in each church.

Ezekiel 18: 25 " Yet you say, 'The way of the Lord is not fair.' Hear now, O house of Israel, is it not My way which is fair, and your ways which are not fair?"

The danger, then, is that we can try to find an excuse for our behavior, that we are perhaps inherently evil and that changing the conditions of this world depend upon God, not us. Yet time after time, Jesus pointed to what a person must do to live in this world, to love in this world. It is a world where it is easier to do wrong than right, where we can impersonalize others and hurt them without considering it a wound.

The Internet, for example, has brought us a library of Constantinople once again -- a fantastic array of books and information. It has brought us new ways to stumble across the most hate-filled thoughts and ways of thinking. We have been able to chat with each other across time and space, to trade ideas and support each other. Yet there is an impersonal nature to it as well, one that allows us to be cruel or thoughtless or mean and hide behind nicknames and email addresses.

Yet, as the God in Ezekiel asks, "Why do you say the way of the Lord is not fair? Is it not possible that it your way that lacks compassion and understanding?"

If you were to listen to people who have merely listened to other people, you'd believe that every other word out of Jesus' mouth was a roundhouse kick to the sins of people, a threatening explosion of hellfire and damnation. Frankly, a clear-headed reading of the New Testament (which is rare) reveals that Jesus himself was only margainlly concerned with sins and the concept of sins. Time after time, Jesus' message is NOT about sins, but rather about fear -- as evidenced by his constant admission to, "Fear not" or "Be of good cheer."

Sin, as in the case of the woman who was to be stoned, was that which was to be moved beyond as quickly and painlessly as possible, the innate fears and anxiety that plague us today the things to be corrected and calmed.

The Christian mystic is called upon each day to bring the love of Christ into the world through his or her actions, to live not in some state of Original Sin, but, again, in Original Goodness as we move from the image of God to the divine likeness of God through grace and love.