by Rev. Robert H. Tucker
September 1, 1997
Original Sin Revisited
My companion was taken aback, and then took me to task, because
I said I believed in original sin. Viewing me as a fairly rational
creature, she could not understand my retardation in the matter
of sin. Her response to the subject was understandable since she
had grow up in an environment in which SIN was used to squeeze
and squelch her spirit (and bash her over the head).
The rejection of sin, combined with the search for "feeling
good about oneself," has, over the past three decades, significantly
changed the intellectual climate within which we understand evil.
Having jumped on the pendulum from sin to a belief in the "natural
goodness" of humans, we have created a situation which, in
my mind, is as intellectually fragile as the former belief in
If we are "basically good," then anything bad that
happens to us, or any evil we do, must be the product of some
external force--genes, environment, parents, associating with
the wrong crowd, television, religion, or government cutbacks.
The result is that no one is personally responsible for evil.
We have shifted from "We are all guilty," to "Everyone
is guilty but me," and our language has shifted so that no
longer do we consider people bad but sick.
If we are "basically good," then we do not need
to teach morality to children, only clarify the values already
present. Why teach morality when the opinion of one good person
is as right and valid as that of another good person?
If we are "basically good," then any cure of unhealthy
behavior requires not a change of heart or a change of values
but a change in external factors: more mothers at home, better
condom distribution, longer prison sentences, and more employment.
I believe it was Mark Twain who said, "Take a person stealing
from a boxcar, give him a college education, and he will steal
To embrace human sin (as in the past) or to embrace human
goodness (as is presently done) to the exclusion of the other
has serious personal and social consequences. I like the perspective
of the ancient Hebrews who wrote of an original blessing (or goodness)
and an original disobedience (or sin). We humans live with that
--Robert H. Tucker
1 September 1997
- © Robert H. Tucker, 1997.
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