Friday, June 4, 2010

The Second Original Sin

An Obscure Biblical Doctrine 
Spread By Today's Christian Right

I was born in an infant asylum. OK, a orphanage.* A Catholic orphanage.** I was a bastard. OK, to be more PC:  illegitimate. It was only by the grace of Edna Gladney*** that "Illegitimate" was not stamped on my birth certificate, but that's another story. I then went on to a Catholic grade school that took pleasure in immediately informing us kids that we were born in sin. Original Sin. Two strikes against me? I was born in a mess of bastards in addition to a blot on my "permanent record"?

The guilt set in early.

Later on, I found out that the guy who founded and fostered the idea of Original Sin, Saint Augustine of Hippo, had an Oedipus complex and such massive guilt about it that he figured everyone should share in the pain. Nice work, Augustine. You set the stage for Western Civilization's cockeyed world view: everyone's born with a black mark against them. "We're ALL sinners" has been used to soften the blows from street preachers and pulpit pimps the world over. It sounds more egalitarian than just pointing the finger and casting the first stone.
In Augustine's view (termed "Realism"), all of humanity was really present in Adam when he sinned, and therefore all have sinned. Original sin, according to Augustine, consists of the guilt of Adam which all humans inherit. As sinners, humans are utterly depraved in nature, lack the freedom to do good, and cannot respond to the will of God without divine grace.
But (horrors!) what if there is more than one Original Sin? What if a certain sin could be passed on from one person to the next - like a cold?

I think there is such a sin, and it is so bad that its effects can be horrific. However, the reason we don't hear about it from our pulpits is because of the method of contagion: for the method is just as bad as the sin itself.

The Second Original Sin is like the First for it is found at birth. Second birth, that is. It is the Original Sin peculiar to the Born Again Christian. I am writing of course, about the sin of Intolerance.

"But not all Born Agains are intolerant!!"  No, they are not. But that is simply because some are de-programmed not to be so later on. Intolerance is born along with the Born Again. Simple, but true. I suppose some people might argue that a Born Again chooses to be intolerant, but that would be counter-intuitive to a Christian. No, it's a simple fact that all Born Agains are born with the black mark of intolerance until they can prove otherwise.

Think of it: a Born Again does not think, but KNOWS that he is saved by Jesus Christ the son of the One True God. The Born Again also KNOWS that others have not been saved. The Born Again is flush with the knowledge that God loves him and counts him as a true Christian: the insufferably righteous phrase "It's the Christian Thing To Do" is proffered every time, everywhere. The Born Again KNOWS that his distinct spiritual philosophy is true and others are false and evil. The  Born Again is always on the lookout for sinners in every nook and cranny with the hope that he can save them, thereby chalking up one more saved soul on their spiritual scorecard. The Born Again avoids people who have shunned his offer of salvation or dares to counter his divine reasoning. The Born Again is a novice at demonizing, but an eager pupil: the sin of Intolerance does not need much encouragement. Under the guise of "love" a Born Again is allowed to bludgeon a person's life and loves with impunity. The duty of the Born Again is to make you feel as shameful and guilty as possible.

And along with that grave sin of Intolerance come its sister sins of righteousness: righteous arrogance, righteous indignation, and righteous stupidity****

The ministers who hang every sermon, every word on John 3:5 are the conductors of the Original Sin of Intolerance, passing it on ... no ... BESTOWING it as a great gift to the Born Agains. The most obvious and vocal example is Lou Engle who manages to make Intolerance sound very virtuous and very righteous:

In speaking of the legalization of same-sex marriage in California, Engle has alleged that "What happened to California will release a spirit that is more demonic than Islam, a spirit of lawlessness and anarchy. And a sexual insanity will be unleashed into the Earth." Lou Engle has also said: The most "dangerous terrorist" is not Islam but God. One of God's names is the avenger of blood. Have you worshipped that God yet."
Born Agains (especially Born Again ministers) like Lou Engle will always be tainted with the sin of Intolerance because they embrace it and consider the sin to be a badge of honor. Of course, we call it Intolerance, while they call it Righteousness.

And it is not, as some people think, easy to be saved from the sin of Intolerance. Salvation involves opening the mind that the ministers and mentors closed. It involves looking at others without being judgmental in any way. It involves honoring the right of individual thinking. It involves pure love. 

I know that sounds naive: salvation from Intolerance can't win against Engle's imagery of blood, war and martyrdom. Maybe it is.

But it's the only way of erasing the black mark of the Second Original Sin.

Just a thought.

* The sobriquet "asylum" was not always paired with "insane," although some of the orphans may have differed. 

** I popped out of my mother's womb into the arms of a big, strapping nun. I know I screamed "PUT ME BACK!!" after I saw her, but not having mastered sounds much less the English language, it came out as a cry the ancient nurse/nun ignored.

*** Edna Gladney's life was immortalized by actress/diva Greer Garson in the movie Blossoms in the Dust." Gladney looked nothing like Greer Garson, but was able somehow to get the disgustingly boorish and "conservative" legislators of her state to remove the word of shame. The state was Texas, of course.

****There is also an obscure sin of righteous halitosis that effects some Born Agains who become ministers and people who hang around water-coolers.

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