Wednesday, 22 March 2017

The Doctrine of Original Sin, or: "If we are lost, then we are lost together"

When Blue Rodeo wrote the lyrics to their song, Lost Together (quoted in the title to this post), they likely weren't thinking about the Christian doctrine of original sin, although considering a couple of the other lines, it does seem to fit quite well.  What "perfect world" is the singer referring to when he looks into his lover's eyes?  The world is broken somehow, for "so much [is] controlled by so few," and we are all "stumbling from one disaster to another."  It makes one wonder if the "shooting star" the singer sees near the end of the song, the sight of which makes him conclude that, "somehow it all makes sense," might actually be Satan plummeting from heaven.  Could the fact of these lover's relationship indicate that love is the force that ultimately does overcome sin?  "And I want all the world to know, that your love's all I need, all that I need.  And if we're lost, then we are lost together."  Nah, that's probably not what they were thinking when they wrote the song.  It was a fun thought experiment, though.

Alan Jacobs is talking about original sin, however, and its leveling or equalizing effect.  While not denying the equally biblical doctrine of humanity as created in the image of God, Jacobs posits an interesting theory: "that a belief in original sin serves as a kind of binding agent, a mark of 'the confraternity of the human type,' an enlistment of us all in what Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy called the 'universal democracy of sinners.'" 
 “By contrast [to the doctrine that all of humanity is created in the image of God], the doctrine of original sin works with the feeling that most of us have, at least some of the time, of being divided against ourselves, falling short of the mark, inexplicably screwing up when we ought to know better.  It takes relatively little imagination to look at another person and think that, though that person is not all he or she might be, neither am I.  It is true that not everyone can do this:  the Duchess of Buckingham couldn’t.  (“It is monstrous to be told you have a heart as sinful as the common wretches that crawl on the earth.”) [Responding to evangelical teaching that everyone, regardless of class, is a sinner in need of repentance.]  But in general it is easier for most of us to condescend, in the etymological sense of the word—to see ourselves as sharing shortcomings or sufferings with others—than to lift up people whom our culturally formed instincts tell us are decidedly inferior to ourselves.  If misery does not always love company, it surely tolerates it quite well, whereas pride demands distinction and hierarchy, and is ultimately willing to pay for those in the coin of isolation.  That the doctrine of a common creation in the image of God doesn’t do more to help build human community and fellow feeling could be read as yet more evidence for the reality of original sin.”
                                    -   Alan Jacobs, Original Sin: A Cultural History, p. 200-01

No comments:

Post a Comment