When talking about the idea
of Original Sin, which is the idea that there is at the beginning of
human history a sin which taints all subsequent generations, sometimes
Christians are accused of an existential pessimism. This appears to be a
doom-and-gloom outlook on life which is popularly supposed to rob us of
all our joy. Far be it from me to deny that such may often be the case!
However, in my opinion this is often merely a misunderstanding of an
honest, but fundamentally cheerful outlook on life.
indeed, all people who watch the news, are distinctly aware that the
world is often an unpleasant place, rude, hateful, petty and sometimes
just plain senseless. Where most people act shocked and ill-used, as if
this were somehow a personal insult to them and often end up concluding
that the whole thing was a bad business from the start, the Christian
has the doctrine of Original Sin to fall back on. Something unexpected
happened in an otherwise good and useful system, some person did
something that made no sense, and it threw things out of whack. We
feel the effects of it today, much the way a baby born to a crack addict
will feel the effects of crack addiction. We even add to the effects.
So much we admit. Life is often tragic, absurd and ugly, but surely the
fact that we can recognize that argues a deeper awareness of joy,
reasonableness, and beauty? And does not the awareness of that
fundamental defect somewhat take the sting out of it?
Rather like two
guests, both staying at the same out of the way, Mom & Pop Inn in
Nepal may have totally different experiences because they have totally
different outlooks. One is expecting a five star hotel, and is
frustrated by rolling brownouts, unreliable internet, spiders in the
bathroom, no menu to choose from, and 58 steps to climb just to get to
breakfast. The other realizes that this is what it is, an out of the
way, Mom & Pop Inn in Nepal. Given that realization it is not nearly
so bad as it might be. We have power quite often, the internet
sometimes works, the spiders don’t bite (or at least haven’t yet), the
food is healthy, delicious and plentiful, and at least a little exercise
is guaranteed every day, just getting to breakfast!
In the same way,
when you finally accept the fact that the world has that existential
flaw which we call “Original Sin,” you are free to recognize that these
flaws are evils in a good system. The world itself is not evil. Certainly as a paradise our world falls quite a bit short, but
for most of us it certainly is not a hell either. As worlds go it might
be much worse. All in all, I would say it is not that bad. Good still
happens, surprising and yet refreshing when it does, indicating that
redemption, though difficult and incomplete just yet, is perhaps
possible. That, to me, sounds suspiciously like hope.