Tuesday, March 19, 2013

I Am [Not] Evil, [Not] Born in Sin

last sunday in our worship service, we read a unsion prayer of confession, as we do each sunday.  the prayer in this particular service was filled with "sin" words, as one might expect in a prayer of confession, but this particular prayer sparked thoughts in me about our focus on sin and the need to continually ask forgiveness and feel guilt and shame because of our sinfulness.  as i sat in the service, i began to wonder if this model doesn't do a lot of damage.

we who were raised in the calvinist tradition have constantly been told of the evil nature of the human race and the need to constantly compare our sinfulness to the goodness of God.  we don't hear a lot about "total depravity" any more (thank goodness) but the legacy of that construct has been ingrained in us.  as i age and examine the human condition, i become more and more certain that God created us as good creatures, that our natural state is one of goodness.  but we have been given freedom to choose how we live our lives, and we do not always act in ways that are consistent with our own natures.

this practice of constantly confessing our "sins" and begging forgiveness leads to feeling that one is unworthy, degraded, a failure.  a much healther approach, and one i believe is more in line with who we truly are and how we should relate to one another and the Creator, is to realize that we are imperfect but capable of learning to make wiser choices, choices that increase our happiness and decrease our own suffering and that of others.  life is a process, and we can choose to learn and grow to become more compassionate, to live more mindfully, to listen to the voice of goodness that God placed in our hearts and minds.

we hear over and over that we need to eat healthier foods, we are too fat, we need to work harder, we need to exercise more, we need to accumulate more stuff, we need to save more money, we need to invest more money, we need, we need, we need.  the message of all that "needing" is that we are moral, social, and physical failures.  isn't it better to examine our lives, asking ourselves if this action or that practice increases or decreases our true happiness and that of others and make choices based on reasonable decision-making?

my prayer for each of us this day is that we celebrate our innate goodness, live more mindfully, and transform our lives based on choices arrived at through reason, choices that increase happiness and decrease suffering!

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