One Last Thing on Lefty Puritanism

One common critique of Christianity (and Judaism) is the curious biblical idea of corporate personality. Jewish prophets frequently tend to conflate a people with their patriarch so that “Israel” refers both to the man Jacob and to his progeny or “Edom” to Esau or his heirs. The actions of the individual and the destiny of the people are often oddly overlapped in the Old Testament. The apotheosis of this way of thinking is found in Paul, who sees the sin of Adam as affecting the entire human race so that for the one sin, all die “in” Adam. Likewise, he sees the redemption of Christ as redeeming all “in” Christ.

Not surprisingly, many moderns are turned off by this. They think that “original sin” means we get the blame for what Adam did and protest Christianity as a “religion of guilt”. As one angry professor of mine once derisively sneered about the doctrine of original sin: “If your grandfather was a horse thief, does that make you a horse thief?” Like Pilate, he did not stay for an answer. Village Atheists never seem to have time for that.

Many such people wind up in Seattle, the least churched city in the least churched state in the nation. A couple of years ago, some girl band guitarist (call her “Suzie Q”, I can’t remember her name) killed herself on heroin here in Seattle. So what does the headline in the local Arts Elite mag say the next day?

“Did Seattle Kill Suzie Q?”.

The whole article was aimed at indicting “Seattle”–all of us–for the collective guilt of having a big heroin subculture. It aimed to blame every citizen for their hand in her death. And, of course, once blamed, that’s it. Article over. No possibility of redemption. Just guilt. Boy, what a step up from that religion of guilt, Christianity. Like Mick Jagger says, “Who killed the Kennedys? After all, it was you and me.”

No. I did not kill the Kennedys. I didn’t kill Suzie Q. I never owned a slave, nor did any ancestor of mine (poor Irish that they were). I am guilty of no collective Euroguilt “in” Columbus and don’t much feel like making reparations to people who don’t even have grandparents who were slaves. I do not feel a sense of responsibility for the Holocaust, particularly since my father stayed awake for three solid days servicing the bombers that provided air cover for D-Day.

Now, I did share in the common affliction of original sin (until I was baptized and received the missing life of the Blessed Trinity in my soul), but that does not mean I was “blamed” for Adam’s sin. It means that Adam and Eve lost the life of communion with God they *should* have passed on to us and so I was, like everybody else, born with a spiritual “birth defect”, a hole in my soul where the divine life should have been. Not surprisingly, I acted in accord with my wound and sinned like they did, selfishly trying to suck in any and every creature to fill the hole and trampling over plenty of people in the process. I still sinfully give in to that weakness (it’s called concupiscence) and need to go to confession and try to live a better life afterwards by the grace of Christ.

But, unlike the Leftist Puritan’s hopeless refrain, “You are guilty of murder because you live in Seattle and there is no mercy for you”, I found that Christ could do more than point out real (not imaginary) sin. He could forgive it and take it away.