"God is the good and all things which proceed from him are good." (Hildegarde of Bingen)
"Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy." (Abraham Heschel)
"The doctrine of original sin is not found in any of the writings of the Old Testament. It is certainly not in chapters one to three of Genesis." (Herbert Haag)
"The concept of original sin is alien to Jewish tradition." (Elie Weisel)
"Beauty is all about us, but how many are blind to it! People take little pleasure in the natural and quiet and simple things of life." (Pablo Casals)
"I know well that heaven and earth and all creation are great, generous and beautiful and good .. God's goodness fills all his creatures and all his blessed works full, and endlessly overflows in them ... God is everything which is good, as I see it, and the goodness which everything has is God."
"As a rule, it was the pleasure-haters who become unjust." (W. H. Auden)
As an artist, I can say with emphatic adamance, that I am not indifferent to my art. It is a part of me, an expression of me, a reflection of me, and I have poured myself into it ... I take great delight in it, and I love to share it with others.
It's no different with God.
God is the Consummate Artist ... and He is not neutral nor indifferent to Creation, including us, the pinnacle of His Creation. God's love for Creation, including us, is unconditional love and the sending-forth of blessings, unceasingly. This spirituality of blessing is a spirituality of relationship.
Unfortunately, original blessing has not been taught in Christian spirituality ... we have preferred instead the fall/redemption theology, which has kept us from knowing, and experiencing, our rich inheritance of blessing. In fact, the fall/redemption teaching, with it's preoccupation of sin, guilt and self-examination, has actually diminished the meaning of salvation itself.
Blessing is the point of creation, and the point of the covenant with Israel ... and at the very beginning of that covenant, God promised to bless all families on earth, through the covenant made with Abraham. The Hebrew word for covenant is "beriyth, which is closely related to the words for creation (beriyah) and blessing (berakah). The notion of a covenant is about blessing ... a promise to bless and to return blessing for blessing.
So, with original blessing being the case, how did we get from that to the doctrine of "original sin", which has so permeated every nuance of Christianity...?
I'm glad you asked..!
Consider this: the Jewish people knew and studied Genesis for a thousand years prior to the emergence of Christians ... and yet they never read original sin into the text. The concept of original sin is wholly foreign and alien to the Jewish people, to their understanding, to their faith. And yet Christians claim to have based this doctrine on the Jewish text...!
Professor Herbert Haag (former president of the Catholic Bible Assn. in Germany) wrote:
The idea that Adam's descendants are automatically sinners because of the sin of their ancestor, and that they are already sinners when they enter the world, is foreign to Holy Scripture."
Of course it's apparent that we enter a broken and hurting world (due to the projections of generations of confused humans projecting their misperceptions into the world around them), but this "world" is not the planet itself -- this broken world is the collective mindset that assaults us. We don't enter this life already tainted, already sinful creatures ... we come forth as blessings. Anyone who has witnessed a human birth instinctively knows this.
Creation-based mystics have always begun their theology with a profound grasp of original blessing, and not of original sin ... listen here to Julian of Norwich: "God never began to love us. We have been know and loved from without beginning." And if you can allow yourself to meditate on the words of Ireneaus, "God became human in order that humans might become God."
Yes, we humans are born with an inherited disability (our egoic minds, our carnal nature) ... but his does not constitute us as objects of God's wrath (remember Paul's words, "you were enemies of God in your own minds.").
Here's the deal: NO one believed in original sin until Augustine entered the picture. Augustine developed the notion of original sin late in his life, and never personally considered it to be significant in his theology. However, original sin soon became the foundation-stone of Western Christianity, causing a chasm between religion and nature, creation, and the God of creation and blessing.
Augustine tried in vain to find support for original sin in scripture ... and in his insistence to discover it there, he actually mistranslated the Bible in order to prove his doctrine. He read Romans 5:12 ("Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned"), and changed the last portion to "in whom all men sinned."
From there, the Council of Trent justified and implemented the development of the doctrine of original sin.
Original blessing predates the teaching of original sin, and is far more biblical. Thus, it should be the foundation for theology and spirituality.
Here's what I'm seeing: the sin behind all sins is dualism. The belief of separatism. The result being object/subject relationships ... divisions and walls in our relationships. Take any sin, whether robbery, war, stealing, rape ... and you will see an action of treating another as an object outside oneself. Boil it down to its base essence. What you will see at the root of any sin is *dualism*. Dualism (seeing any power other than God), and Separation (seeing ourselves and others as separate from God, from each other), is the root of all which we call "sin".
According to Gandhi (who loved and followed Jesus far better than most Christians do), all sins are manifestations of himsa - the basic sin - the only sin, which is the sin of separateness. He said, "he who conquers this sin conquers all others."
When we know we are One with God, and one with each other, internal and external conflict ceases. The darkness of our own thinking is absorbed the Light of God.
So, what's been the result of Christianity's obsession with "original sin"...?
- We have odd views of sexuality. Augustine believed that all sex, whether for pleasure or procreating, was sinful, as one "lost control" in sexual expression (yeah, so who created the orgasm...?).
- We do not trust ourselves, our bodies, the creation itself ... as we see them all as "tainted" and "depraved" ("we can't trust our hearts, our thoughts, our feelings, for we're wicked and deceived").
- We teach our children that they are "blotches on God's creation", since they are born already tainted ("that little newborn may look innocent, but he's already corrupt and depraved").
- We do not trust human nature, and we are not easily compassionate ("they probably deserve what they're suffering -- they probably asked for it").
- We view each other with suspicion ... rather than giving the benefit of the doubt, or expecting the best in others.
- We have a jaded acceptance of injustice, and a callousness towards human suffering ("well, they're depraved, separated from God, and likely going to hell ... what difference if they suffer in this life?").
- We are suspicious of pleasure ... if we enjoy a thing, we figure it's likely sinful (the question, "did you take pleasure in it?" was asked in Catholic confession, to determine whether the penitent had sinned...).
- A preoccupation with original sin, with guilt and shame, is a tool of political power. It empowers those who build empires, institutions, governments, kingdoms ... it fuels slavery, patriarchal society, and wars. It divides and conquers, separating thoughts from feelings, body from spirit, politics against personal needs, people against the planet/animals/nature... and male against female.
What would we gain by embracing instead a theology of original blessing?
- A redemption of sexuality, in which love and desire are holy, and a reflection of God's act of Creation. A celebration of life, and infused with the very Presence of God (who invented sex to bless us).
- Trust in the inherent goodness of all that God has created ... the cosmos, the planet, nature, animals, plants, food, resources, and humanity.
- Trust in the workings of our own bodies ... awesomely and wondrously made ... strong and capable, reflecting the very image of God.
- A reclaiming of pleasure ... for ecstasy is the experience of God. Relearning how to savor, to more appreciate the gifts we have (rather than compulsively purchasing and consuming). The source of all authentic pleasure is God. Why must ecstasy be moderated...? Aren't blessings meant to be overflowing...?
- An emergence of compassion ... no longer settling for injustices, but speaking and acting out on behalf of those being harmed. No longer attacking those who see differently, but accepting them. No longer reacting "eye for an eye", but seeing the other as confused and in need of compassion.
- An emergence of hope, genuine pride, and trust... as we would see ourselves as God does, and rise to His perspective.
- We will hear and heed the Voice of God within, rather than trusting those who hem us in with rules from without.
- We would be more motivated by love, than by fear ... able to more freely make connections with others, thus bringing healing and salvation (from the lies that enslave us).
I see that we have a choice (once again) ... as for me, I am abandoning the lie of "original sin" and fully embracing the Spirit-affirmed foundation of "original blessing."
May it transform me from the inside out, and may it be contagious to all who cross my path...!