The Biggest, Most Harmful Misconception about Christianity
- 2010 Dec 06
A bit more on what I wrote in "Born Into Sin" Just Means Born, Period. I'm sure this thought of mine isn't original (what thought is?), but I've not heard it before. The moment it came to me a few years back, I knew that I'd hit upon one of the biggest and most harmful misunderstandings in and about Christianity.
When people use the word "sin," what they almost always have in mind is bad behavior or thoughts. If you think of the classic Seven Deadly Sins (wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony), you think of committing one or all of them: of being wrathful, being lazy, watching me eat on Thanksgiving.
We very much tend to think that sinning is something bad that we do, think, or say. And so we Christians try super-hard not to sin—to exercise control over our baser nature—because we believe that the better Christian we are, the less we're inclined to act contrary to God.
And to a very important extent, of course that's true: the more aligned we are with God and God's spirit, the more selfless we become. That's the great gift and joy of the spiritual life.
But St. Francis himself never stopped being human. Try though we might, none of us can ever become so wonderfully pure that we stop being human. That's just not an option for us.
And what does it mean to be human? What are we born to do?
To survive. To exist. To win, fight, struggle, procreate. To eat. All of that.
All moral evaluations aside, we will be selfish, greedy, envious, prideful, lazy egotists. We must be. We were designed to be. None of our five senses are about registering internal phenomenon: they're all about processing and experiencing what's out there.
Again: we're made, first and foremost, to survive.
That means we're born to take care of ourselves, to meet our needs, to make ourselves #1.
And all of those things run in exact opposition to the selflessness that's most in accord with the loving grace of God.
We Christians are not—or certainly should not be—trying to ignore that we're human; we're not supposed to be repressing that about us which is negative and selfish. Rather, we're meant to look to the cross to discover the means by which God has proven to us not that it's possible for us not to be human, but that ultimately it's perfectly okay that we are.
My wife's just decided to take the day off (yay!), so I want to go start hanging out with her. I hope I've been clear about what I'm saying here. We Christians take a lot of flack over the idea that we're so obsessed with being "sinful" that we end up denying or trying to repress our humanity. And to the extent that we do try to do that, we deserve that criticism. But that's not what it's really all about. As I believe I've once heard someone say before, "born into sin" just means born, period.
Thanks, guys! Love to you all! MERRY CHRISTMAS, and HAPPY HOLIDAYS!