Sin is back and is now being embraced into the cultural language. George Clooney, the actor, on a publicity tour for his philanthropic efforts has labeled racism as America’s original sin. “We come up short a lot—race being our great original sin and clearly the one we’ve been the worst at—but we are in the constant process of trying to find a more perfect union… You can’t give up. I believe in the American spirit.”
After 911 the younger President Bush gave a speech where he labeled Iraq, Iran, and North Korea as the “Axis of Evil”. I remember some pushback from this speech at the idea of “evil” because we as a society had moved past such outdated terms. The naive reasoning at that time was that people were mostly good and that if we could eradicate poverty or inequality then there would not be any need for people to act out in “evil” ways. Words like “sin” seemed to be completely scrubbed out of the English language. This cultural shift even infiltrated the Church. The Church was focused on God’s love and avoided any conversations on sin. So, it is interesting to see a resurgence of labeling people evil or labeling actions as sin. Yet that is exactly what is happening in this latest shift in culture. But this shift is driven by the secular left not the Church.
[The Serpent] said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ Genesis 3:1-3 ESV
While racism is a true evil and is also a sin against man and God it is not the original sin as Clooney wants to believe and racism is not America’s original sin. I understand what Clooney was saying echoing the latest push to truly end racism and right past wrongs but we can’t single out racism as the original sin for Americans or any peoples. Original sin starts with Adam and Eve the very first people from whom everyone reading this post are descendant. What was this truly original sin? What is this sin from which all other sins including racism find their root?
12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Romans 5:12,17 ESV
Theologian Walter Elwell defines sin as an act of wrongdoing and a state of alienation from God. The original sin of Adam and Eve broke creation and placed them and us their descendants in a state of alienation from God. Paul in his letter to the Church in Rome writes that Adam’s sin brought death and sin upon sin into the world. While Clooney has no problem pointing out sins in others or in history the question, I have when Clooney, or anyone wants point out the sins of others is to ask what is your state of sin? Is your relationship with God, our Creator, broken? Are we humbled before God overwhelmed with the death our sins have brought? Do you want to end racism? Murder? War? Those will always be with us as long as people remain estranged from God. The only way end racism and repay what was broken is to restore the relationship with God through Jesus Christ. If we want to talk sins then we must talk about the perfect sinless person of Jesus. So like Clooney I want America and all her sins to be reconciled with God and the only way for that is through the person of Jesus Christ.