Original Sin

I’ve posted several times in the last few months about race. I noticed this when going back over my posts to categorize them. It made me think. Why am I posting about this so often? Maybe I’m that unconscious racist I hear so much about.

I didn’t vote for Barack Obama. I was going to until he signed on to the Bush bailouts. Unlike the Norwegian numbnutz who gave Barack the Nobel award for not being Bush, I didn’t vote for him because I could see he was just like Bush. (cue The Who, Won’t Get Fooled Again.) Rendition, Guantanomo, Patriot Act, Bailouts…

So let’s say I had voted for Obama. Would that have gotten me a “Get Out of Being Called a Racist Free” card? No, because like all other white people, I still have Original Sin. No matter what I do, I am still deserving of damnation just for being white because of what other people did. Barack Obama is not Jesus (I’m sure that comes as news to many people) and he is not about to expiate White Original Sin. But he’s doing a good job discrediting the whole idea.  Allow me to explain. This will take a while.

To understand White Original Sin, you must first understand generic Original Sin. To understand Original Sin, you first have to understand Sin.

The traditional Christian notion of Sin is that any single, even minor, infraction against God’s Rules deserves eternal punishment. Original Sin just adds the clause “whether committed by you or your ancestors.”  In this most Christian of nations, most people are still cowed by the Sin and Original Sin memes.  This makes them easy pickings for the likes of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.

All people who believe in Sin believe that there is no significant moral difference between the offense Ted Bundy committed by running a red light with a dead girl in his trunk and putting the dead girl in his trunk before running the red light. Eternal damnation is the correct and same punishment for both offenses. “God cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.”  If you believe that the punishment should fit the crime and if you believe that all crimes and misdemeanors deserve eternal punishment, then you believe that all crimes and misdemeanors are morally identical. There’s no difference between burning a cross on somebody’s lawn and saying something nice because you were invited to  Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday. Both are sins of racism, so you must burn in the same hell.

I think one of the reasons the Saw movies are so popular is that they have a deeply Christian view of life. In the Saw movies, some doofus in a goofy mask does things like handcuffing someone to a ticking bomb and giving them a saw so they can cut off their arm and escape before the bomb goes off.  Or something like that. I’ve never seen one of these movies, and I’m sure the setups are much more gruesome and clever, but I think I’ve got the essence right. 

In the Christian universe, God has handcuffed you to a ticking bomb labeled ETERNAL DAMNATION but has given you a saw called JESUS CHRIST. All you have to do to escape is saw off your critical thinking and moral discrimination. Or you escape by pushing the button that crucifies Jesus.  Whatever. I’ll leave it to others, perhaps those who’ve seen the Saw movies, to improve this metaphor. I think I’ve got the essence right.

Jesus will indifferently forgive  red-light-running and dead-girl-trunk-stuffing. That’s the flip-side of the Sin idea, the Christian Carrot that rescues you from The Divine Stick. Jesus is Good Cop to Jehovah’s Bad Cop. All you have to do is obey and believe and ANYTHING and EVERYTHING is forgiven.

The practical effect of believing that every offense is worthy of damnation is to end up believing that nothing is. You can get out of jail free for anything you do as long as you substitute fawning obedience for moral judgment and discrimination.

Anyway, Original Sin is a fucked and durable idea. On Oprah, it’s called guilt-tripping. Oprah can trivialize anything.  Original Sin is nothing more and nothing less than the demand that you feel guilty for existing. The reasons for the guilt are always flimsy. Eve ate the apple. Some Southern guy who shares your skin pigmentation kept slaves.  Other people gave you advantages because you shared that guy’s pigmentation. You’re lucky and I’m not. You’re white and I’m not. In no case does it have anything to do with anything malicious you have actually done. Your intent, your character and your actions are irrelevant. In no case can you do anything personally to make up for it, but you’re invited–demanded–to try forever. Or to accept membership and paying dues in Our Gang as payment in full for anything you’ve ever done. We won’t even ask what you’ve done.

The word Racist is used today like the word Sinner was used in 17th century Puritan Salem.

Am I a racist? I don’t believe in original sin.

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