My people don’t do the original sin thing. We don’t grow up with this doctrine.
We know about guilt; we’re Jews. My people create guilt masterpieces.
But original sin—a human construct upon which many lives are unduly influenced—is far darker than guilt. Far darker.
Guilt stems from having done something wrong.
Original sin’s premise is that you are and have been wrong from conception.
This leads to shame—thinking there is something wrong with your very character.
And it’s a horrible shame.
You were brought up to believe that your thoughts and you could be impure?
Shame on them for telling you that.
I can’t even imagine.
LOOK, GUS, NO HANDS
There was no fall. No original sin. No ancestral sin.
Actions purported to have been done by Adam and Eve do not implicate you.
Look at the text.
Look at the Bible.
The original sin idea was birthed into the world from Augustine of Hippo. Not God. Sinner-for-all-time is one fourth century man’s gloss on Genesis 3. His thought became very popular—after all, it explains why seemingly bad things happen. But that doesn’t make it right.
If you want to believe humanity is broken and deserving of misery, believe it because you choose to believe it. Not because they told you to.
So you know, the canonical Bible never once refers to “original sin.” Period.
In fact, the word translated to mean sin isn’t even used until after the expulsion from the Garden of Eden. “Sin” debuts with Cain’s being told regarding his jealousy of Abel— “sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”
Yeah, no one really knows exactly what that meant.
That childbirth will be painful and work hard, yes.
Original sin, no.
In fact—and this is quite a thought to swallow if you grew up believing otherwise—Adam and Eve did not disobey God.
Just like the parallel Greek protoplast story of Pandora and Epimetheus, deceit (among other evils) had not yet been invented. The fruit they were told not to eat/box they were told not to open was the very food/box that would open their eyes to understand deceit.
I didn’t punish my almost-toddler when he crawled to and tugged a tablecloth in an attempt to pull himself to standing. My calls of “Don’t! Stop!” didn’t make sense to him. Why? Because every other time he had pulled himself to stand I had been proud. Was he being disobedient this time not listening to me? No. He just didn’t understand.
I rushed in to save him from the crystal bowl veering towards his head and smashing on the ground. (Neither happened–I got there in time.) But I didn’t punish Emmett. He wasn’t wrong for his actions. He was trying to pull himself up.
Adam and Eve didn’t know not to listen to the serpent. They didn’t know the difference between good and evil. They didn’t have that knowledge. They weren’t wrong. Not disobedient.
Nothing shameful for all time.
It’s innocence—a lack of understanding.
Auggie, let me ask you a question: “Is Jesus’s craftsmanship shoddy? Why do I ask? Well, it seems from your writing that Jesus’s sacrifice was to return us to a grace. So, then, if he did, why am I still sinful?”
And let me answer: “I’m not.”
I heard a missionary say that selling Jesus’s salvation is easier if first you arouse the deep need for it. That is, to sell the cure of Jesus dying for your sins, you have to first go about convincing people they are sinners.
TOWARDS THE UNKNOWN
I can not imagine the exhaustion and terror of trying to free oneself from the internalized message “I am a sinner.” After all, abused women—choked, hit, and insulted—don’t just leave.
It’s not so easy to leave beliefs which are familiar in favor of those unknown.
We like stasis.
Religion is about becoming.
Transformation is a major component of religion. Changing. Growing.
Attributed to Thomas Merton:
“If the you of five years ago doesn’t think that the you of today is a heretic, you’re not growing spiritually.”
Despite what you might want to believe, the you you are isn’t going to stay the you you are. Like it or not, you are going to continue growing.
You were not born a sinner.
And, to this day, you probably are not a sinner.
If you intentionally cause harm to others, then you’re a schmuck. But you weren’t born into sin. And please change your ways.
“I’m so sorry, Rabbi Brian. You are kind and good, but you are still a sinner—unless you accept Jesus Christ into your heart as Lord and Savior.”
My response: “You have chosen to believe that is true. And you can choose otherwise.”
We are all already redeemed.
Let me conclude with words of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov – Likutey Moharan II, 112
A person should not fall into despair on account of the brokenness—the Rebbe declared: If you believe it is possible to destroy, believe it is possible to repair!Rabbi Brian Zachary Mayer resides in Portland, Oregon. He is the founder and head of Religion-Outside-The-Box oldrotb.wpengine.com, an internet-based, global group of 3.3K+ digital-age seekers. ROTB produces excellent spiritual content.