By Barbara Falconer Newhall
In our radio conversation on KRKS-FM in Denver last week, talk show host Gino Geraci — a very sensitive, congenial guy, btw — and I bumped up against the topic of sin. I have to confess that I kind of talked my way around the subject. I’m a polite Midwesterner by nature, and I didn’t want to get confrontational. I assumed that, as a traditional Christian pastor, Gino believed in sin and the inherent sinfulness of humankind. I didn’t and I don’t.
Many Christians hold to the idea of original sin, whereby the first humans — Eve and Adam — chose to defy and alienate themselves from God, leaving a legacy of inherent sinfulness and corruption to all of posterity: original sin.
It seems to me that, given our evolutionary origins, there can be no original sin. We humans are the products of our evolution, which means we do a lot of brutal stuff to other humans, to other creatures, and to the planet itself. But that just makes us imperfect — and not intrinsically depraved sinners.
Heretical Thoughts on Sin
To my mind — watch out, I’m going to get heretical here — to my mind, if there is an original sin, it is God’s sin. It was God, after all, who created this musical-chairs, survival-of-the-fittest world of ours. To survive in this context, every individual must brutally compete with every other individual, within and across the species. If the cat is to have dinner, a bird must die.
I like Geoff Machin’s take on sin (which he outlines in my book, “Wrestling with God: Stories of Doubt and Faith”). Geoff, a physician, describes at length the “red in tooth and claw” nature of nature. But then he goes on to point out that there are human beings walking around on the planet who do things that run counter to their own survival and well being — they risk their lives to care for the victims of ebola, for example, or to take the polio vaccine into a war zone. Says Geoff, “That’s the God in us.”
Gino and I did have a nice meeting of the minds on one way of looking at sin — sin is whatever separates us from God and from our own best selves.
Works for me.
To read about Harvey Cox on the nature of belief and heresy, go to “You Don’t Have to Believe to Be a Christian.” On the other hand, if this story leaves you needing some levity, find it at “Small Boys — Reading, Writing and Yucky.”
If you enjoy my posts, consider signing up to get regular updates via email, RSS feed, Twitter or Facebook. Just go to the icons at the top of the right column. To comment on this post, look for the comments box at the top of the post.