You may be surprised to see humanity appearing in a series of articles outlining a new vision of what it is to be a follower of Jesus, but you shouldn’t be. After all, spirituality – and even religion when healthy – isn’t about a deity or meeting a deity’s needs (we might pause to ask what sort of divine being would need anything from humanity), it is ultimately about humankind, about growing into people who achieve their full potential, who themselves become divinized.
From the perspective of the Christian tradition, we should start in the Garden of Eden. The Garden of Eden is not a historical place, although the boundaries of it as described in Genesis do exist. In other words, you can find the location of the Garden of Eden on a map, but the Garden itself never existed. How do we know?
We know because when human beings first appeared they didn’t have a language, much less a written language on which to record theur histories. The traditional view has been that God knew about the story and dictated it to Moses, who supposedly wrote Genesis – except that there doesn’t seem to be any way that Moses could have recorded all this while wandering around the desert. There isn’t a biblical record of the caravan of camels on which the stone tablets that were Moses’ record of God’s revelation were borne. More importantly, we have already dismissed the notion of God as Divine Dictation Deity in our introductory blog. How did the story of the Garden of Eden develop? As part of the oral tradition of the Hebrew. Children sitting around the campfire came to ask, “Where did people come from?”, and they were told the story of creation we find in Genesis. When they asked, “Why do we die?”, they were told the story of the disobedience in the Garden of Eden.
It’s important to say that just because a story didn’t really happen, it can still be true. Fairy tales, folk tales, biblical tales, and a host of other stories have been construction througout the years to teach truths, and the Garden of Eden story is no exception. People are disobedient, and if you tell us not to touch something we will touch it, if you tell us not to eat something we will eat it, largely because we have to experience something before we believe it to be true. Remember when your parents told you not to have sex? And you all are still waiting for your first sexual experience because of that, right? I didn’t think so.
This all would have been just fine had not St. Augustine come along. Prior to being ordained against his will (a curious thing that happened in the early Church), St. Augustine had a little problem with his pants. It seems they kept falling off in the presence of women, and rather than simply pull his pants up he decided to do a mattress dance first. Then he found himself on the way to being consecrated Bishop, and he had to deal with his rather unsavory escapades. He looked to the scriptures and said, “I’m not a man-ho, I’m just a victim of Original Sin!” Everybody said, “What’s Original Sin?” And slick old Augustine said, “It makes your pants fall down!”
Suddenly babies were born with “the stain of original sin,” and baptism was supposed to cleanse us from that stain. The Orthodox never really bought into Original Sin. I’ve changed a fair number of diapers and can tell you the only stain I have ever seen on a baby is in their diapers.
In the Gospels Jesus encounters a man born blind and Jesus’ disciples ask, “Who sinned that this man was born blind – him or his parents?” Jesus replied, “No one sinned.” Did you catch that? No one sinned – not, Adam sinned, or it was because of Original Sin, but just plain old, “No one sinned.” Why is that important?
It’s important because every person – the good, the bad, the ugly, and everyone in between – is born perfect good and sinless. Yes, that means you.
Institutional religion (The Church), of course, grabbed on to the whole Original Sin/Original Guilt things and has been squeezing people by their coin purses ever since. Christ Enlight is here to say that has been a lie, the practice is a practice of extortion, and it needs to stop. Do we sin? Absolutely. When we hurt one another or act in ways that are lacking in compassion we sin. Is there an “original sin?” If there is it is probably something like trying to get ahead at the expense of others, but we learn that. You don’t see babies trying to get ahead at the expense of other babies. Can we stop sinning? Absolutely. It will be a process, and it won’t happen overnight, but as we move toward enlightenment and becoming a fully integrated human being, we will sin less and less. It is perfectly ok to be you, and you are perfectly ok – even with your imperfections!
Now that IS good news!