Q & R: Original Sin

Here’s the Q:

I have always had trouble with the idea of original sin, especially as it is emphasized in the traditional “evangelistic” narrative you critique in A New Kind of Christianity. However, watching people cheer Presidential candidates who used violent war rhetoric and boo Ron Paul for opposing war at a debate last night reminded me of something I have thought for awhile. There are elements of violence and bloodlust deep down in the human spirit. Do you think this potential for violence or support of violence in all of us could be part of the original sin that St. Augustine and others have described? After all, the first stories of sin in the Bible (Cain and Able, Noah’s Ark, etc.) are based on violence.

Here’s the R:

Great question! This is the subject of a chapter in my upcoming book, Why did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?
You’ve anticipated what a number of brilliant theologians have concluded – among them Roman Catholic pioneer James Alison. His book The Joy of Being Wrong explores this theme, building on the seminal work of Rene Girard.
If “the tree of knowledge of good and evil” means “presuming to know who is good and evil” so we can kill or expel those we deem evil and preserve those we deem good … then it’s no accident that Adam and Eve’s eating leads to their son Cain’s fratricide. In this way, Genesis is a primal telling of human history … from unarmed, unclothed hunter-gatherers to violent, domination-based, enslaving civilizations.
On the presidential debates … stay tuned. I’ll have something more to say later this week.