• Stephen Oliver B-M

The sin of Original Sin

Archangel Raphael with Adam and Eve (detail) by William Blake, 1808

Queer Christianity protests the confusion of sin with the practice of non heterosexual love and rejects profoundly the false and abusive concept of atonement inherited in our culture from the doctrine of original sin, the idea that just by being born we are bad, born fit for the fires of hell unless baptised, our ‘sin washed away in the Blood of the Lamb’.

The understanding of original sin is not Jewish and is profoundly false, not so much because it is emptying human nature of any goodness but because of how it twists the ‘name of God’. It turns ‘the God who so loves the world’ into a God of omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent powers that demands love on pain of hell, an abusive self-obsessed jealous lover. If we refuse to love back, he strikes out with lightning and thunder, makes us out to be worthless, the divine given a halo and ourselves called upon to repent in dust and ashes, just for being born. Even if we were wrong to refuse such an abusive lover, seeking forgiveness does not involve self-abasement. Asking forgiveness is about standing up and freely taking personal responsibility for cruelties committed, ones wounding behaviour and insensitivity to another person’s sacred space of deepest feeling - the evil behaviour that an abuser justifies with pride because of a belief that their superior might gives them the right to violate another. The true penitent seeks profound acceptance, a request that asks the other person to love them ‘warts and all’, the acceptance of their failings and strengths as a single package. What the perfectionist, the pharisaic hypocrite fails to understand (for which Jesus roundly damned them), was the failure to see the intrinsic human lovableness of all people, the lovableness that is necessarily not perfect nor ever can be, the beautiful quality that makes us human and not God. The doctrine of Original Sin reflects the same hardness of heart of the Pharisee and an idea of the divine that is wholly at odds with the teachings of Jesus. True love never demands perfection unless we mean by this the perfection come from self-acceptance (the core value of Queer Christianity) and of others with our mix of imperfections and perfections. The hypocrites are the ones that Jesus ‘doomed to hell’ - not people ‘sent to hell’ because of Adam’s sin.

What though was Adam’s sin apart from his being so weak as to succumb to Eve’s cajoling? He was forbidden to eat of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil’ because to do so would make him like God. From a Queer Christian perspective, it would seem that his sin was wanting to play God by having a rule book to lord it over others. Like children going through puberty, Adam and Eve suddenly become self-conscious of their nakedness, feeling guilty of their genitals, believing that clothing can act as a mask for guilt, the guilt that comes with having a rule book. The mythical ‘Garden of Eden’ story, like all good myths is a story of origins, what from a Queer Christian perspective is a story of how we have got stuck in puberty. In our theology, Jesus the Christ is the redeemer who sets us free to return to the Garden because he gives the gift of the freedom of the Spirit of Love, the spirit that restores our humanity and ends the ‘rule book’ era of our human immaturity.

If we can find an original cause for human evil, it comes from the gift of ‘transcendent’ freedom given to our species, just because we have been born from the pure vaginas and wombs of our mothers. The Creator shares with us the mystery of freedom as we enter the wonderful world of puberty. For the first time we enter the mysterious depths of the awareness of our own death some day in the future, but also the responsibility of ethical freedom, both to profoundly love or profoundly hate, or simply choose to harden our hearts so we do not have to feel, to see others like furniture or objects that can be pushed around or trodden in the ground.

Queer Christianity asks of us all to embrace our God-given freedom and explore, to open ourselves to the fullness of all that it means to be alive, to travel the unexplored paths where no one else has gone, to fulfil our particular expression of D.N.A. We invite everyone to ride the energy of the dance as children of the Lord of the Dance in the sense expressed In the words of the folk song by the Dubliners, (1975),

'Dance, dance, where ever you may be

I am the lord of the dance, said he

And I lead you all, wherever you may be

And I lead you all in the dance, said he.'

Everyone has a particular ‘dance’ they are called to live, the creative task that is peculiarly their own gift, the realisation of their personal vision in creative manifestation. Freedom is the choice to act in good judgment, the freedom from foolishness and the choice to embrace the freedom and consolation of truth in its many guises. The sin of original sin that faces us all is whether to embrace the choice to ‘grow up’ and let go of our ego (desire to play God) and become fully human, to dance the dance of love, the call of our soul to be truly free. As with all children going through puberty, we rebel and ‘fall’ in the quest to grow up. Just as the gift of love is itself an incomprehensible mystery so profound evil, its negation, is an impenetrable mystery.

Queer Christianity calls on those bound to traditional ideas of Original Sin to come clean, to repudiate its dishonest theological underpinnings and the homophobia that is implicit in its doctrine. The true ‘born again’ experience occurs when the grace of self-acceptance and self-love, which is the gift of God, is embraced in the innermost parts of our being. The chains that hold our souls are broken and we are set free to dance, the dance that the ‘Lord of the Dance’ danced ‘in the morning when the world was young’, ‘the dance in the moon and the stars and the sun’ and as when he ‘came down from heaven and danced on the earth’.

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