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Deadly Error | Catholic Life

Deadly Error

Please pardon the title’s poor attempt at a pun. But Jenna’s comment on my last post about original sin made me realize that I should have at least explained my understanding of sin before I started talking “original”. So, here goes. And if it all sound boringly familiar, good. That means I did a reasonable job of regurgitating traditional Christian doctrine.

Sin is: nothing.

Sin is not. Sin is simply an expression of evil, and evil is not something in itself. Evil is the absence of God.

God is Good. Sin is not good.

God is Truth. Sin is not truth.

God is Beauty. Sin is not beauty.

Sin does not require deliberate action to exist because it is not something. In a sense, sin does not really exist. The classic illustration is of a garment with a tear. The garment is God’s good creation, and sin is the tear. The tear is nothing in itself, it is simply the area where the garment is no longer what it was meant to be.

Now for two personal examples of sin. Hopefully this will do a better job of explaining what I mean by “original sin.”

Once I got married I became aware of how much of an individual I really am. This is good in many ways, but it also means that there is much that I must ultimately experience in isolation. Experiencing marriage as the greatest intimacy possible made me aware of exactly how much there is of me that cannot simply be blended with another person in some form of Vulcan mind meld.

Babies reveal something similar. Babies represent the height of purity, innocence, and positive potential. But if one contemplates this long enough, one may be struck by the vague feeling that something is not quite perfect. No matter how wonderful the baby is in the moment, we know that she or he will not have a perfect life.  All is not as well as it should be. Even if we wish to imagine that we hold essential perfection in our arms, it is only a matter of time before it is glaringly clear that essential perfection escapes all of us. This un-wellness we call original sin.

I find it odd that I care a lot about this issue in some ways, but not at all in others. I really do not care what terms others use and whether they happen to like or dislike the word “sin.” It just seems so obvious to me that, whatever term you prefer, sin exists. The thing that really bothers me is that I do so little to counter sin. From the raspy droning of my air conditioner injecting carbon into the atmosphere, to the very location of my home in a racially divided area, I breathe sin. And I do so very little to make things better. My theology may be pessimistic (realistic!) in the short-term, but I still believe that I must do what I can to be (and do!) better.

What do you do to increase good? I would love practical suggestions.

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2 Responses to “Deadly Error”

  1. Christy 22. May, 2009 at 10:38 pm #

    It is so interesting to read your topics. As a newly received member of the church, I am constantly learning new things!

    I feel like I reflect good. Sounds odd, doesn’t it? As a teacher, I see a lot of students who want to rebel, but also have a good side to them. I try to emphasize their good, so that when they are around me, it seems like an even bigger part of them. Sometimes it works – other times I try harder.

    the other thing is because I am a musician. I sing. Almost constantly. It doesn’t matter where I am or what I’m doing, I’m almost always singing or humming. And sometimes that is all it takes to change someone’s day from awful to good. I like the little ways of doing good that reach out and touch other people :)

    • Rae 23. May, 2009 at 9:46 am #

      I love your idea of reflecting good. I am glad that we have teachers like you.

      You probably know the St. Augustine quote “those who sing pray twice.” I don’t have a great singing voice, but good for you for praying twice to bless others!

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