Saturday, May 2, 2009

Sin is a many splendored thing

As we toil away, trying to understand the vicissitudes of human existence, we have as a race come up with some pretty spectacular ideas to explain away some rather disturbing tendencies. What makes men be so cruel to one another?

Well for some it is society's fault. I'm not quoting some early '80s psychologist, I'm quoting Rousseau, who lived to the middle end of the 18th century and who believed that what made men bad were the poor societal structures that they lived in. Without civilization to corrupt us we would be noble savages. Rousseau, mind you, fathered several bastard children and gave them up to certain deaths in the orphan homes.

For some, we are bad because we've been bred badly. That's right, we've got the wrong genes. Luckily Planned Parenthood and the eugenicists are here to help us. They've figured out that if we can just have fewer children from the unfit, well then all society will fall into one harmonious groove. Indeed Margaret Sanger said just that very thing, "More children from the fit, less from the unfit---that is the chief issue of birth control." Ahhh...she had such a way to stir the soul. Never mind who gets to decide who is fit and unfit. Margaret and her white, bourgeois, atheistic pals will figure that out for you.

For some, the explanation for why men do bad things is economic inequality. Oh, if only we could simply get rid of the economic differences between men, well then all will fall into place. Marx argued that in fact this is what needed to happen and if it required a violent revolution...well then so be it. You can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs, now can you? Never mind the tens of millions of needless deaths.

For some, the explanation for evil is our physical world. We need to let go of our physical selves, you see. It is our bodies that cause all the harm. Why if only we could just cut loose of them, then all would fall into place. There are very few people who hold this view as most of them have committed suicide and or refuse to reproduce.

Finally, at least for the purposes of this posting, there are those who want to say that there is actually something wrong with us...yes, us. There is something disturbed about us. We are fallen. Whether you want to call it original sin or what-have-you, it does not matter to me very much at this point. The idea is really quite simple. It is not society, or our bodies, or economics, or bad genes. It is us. We are sinners.

Here, then, to relate all of this to my last post, is the point. If we cannot make the person in the pew come to the conclusion that this world is flawed somehow and that this flaw is in us, if we cannot connect with the average Joe in the pew and their own personal sense of sin and unworthiness and self loathing which is almost certainly there and almost always acknowledged to some degree, well then...we cannot preach to them Christ. And if we cannot do that, then we cannot evangelize them. And if we cannot evangelize them, well then Pew Research will be busy counting up all the ex-Catholics.

Fr. Neuhaus said many times in the pages of First Things that if we are not sinners then there is no need for a savior and Christ Jesus becomes the quirky, ancient fellow who accidentally started a revolution.

John Paul the Great said that at the center of our world's many problems with regard to social structures (he wrote this in Centesimus annus), at the center of so many of the misguided steps taken over the century since Leo XIII wrote Rerum novarum is bad anthropology. You see, so many have this sense this vision that if we just find the right formula or put the right guy in charge...well then everything will work out alright. Like Plato we think if we can just find, elect, formulate, enforce, coerce, demand, insist that everyone follow the philosopher king then all will be well.

The problem of us still remains however, and the process of convincing everyone else to follow the great philosopher king can get ugly, ugly and deadly.

A friend told me of a conversation he had with a security guard at a university in the U.S. The undergraduate student body at the school is usually very wealthy and they are all very, very bright young people. But there is great sin there. My friend asked the security guard, who is a Christian, what he does with these white, middle-class, comfortable young who are caught doing the unspeakable. The guards response went something like this:

"You let 'em know they done something wrong." Exactly. Then maybe they might come around to hearing about the Gospel.

No comments:

Post a Comment