Death is Not a Sin, part 1

For a long time, Christianity has been preoccupied with the idea of sin, which is sometimes called “the doctrine of sin.” This is unfortunate because doctrines tend to be codified and turned into unbreakable rules. Doctrine becomes dogma (something that is incontrovertibly true), and dogma is the death of discussion. What “sin” is—in particular the idea of “original sin” and what it has caused, has become dogma for the majority of Christianity.
 
The two main schools of thought about sin are typically called “federal hardship” and “natural headship”. Both of them have to do with Adam’s supposed transgression. In the federal hardship idea, Adam is representative of the entire human race. His sin (not obeying God’s command to leave the tree of the knowledge of good and evil alone) is punished by death. In this too-patriarchal model of Christianity, God’s punishment for Adam is as the head of all humans and thus becomes a judicial punishment for all humans throughout eternity.

The other prevalent school of thought about sin, “natural headship,” argues that the entire human race was physically in Adam—that we are literally genetically related to this first man (of course, since this is also a patriarchal view, the first human has to be a man, even though that makes absolutely no sense). In this view, we all receive God’s death penalty because we are all born from sinful flesh. First sin leads to eternal sin, and it all leads to death, which is an unnatural punishment.
 
There are so many problems with the idea of death as punishment for original sin I’m not even sure where to begin. For today, let’s just consider this: death is natural and not in any way God’s punishment. There is nothing sinful about it. Everything in the universe dies—not only human beings. Every seedling that becomes an ancient giant Redwood eventually also passes to dust. Every great star like our Sun (which is actually a pretty mediocre star as it turns out) will one day burn itself out, or perhaps explode in a cataclysm of creation. Death leads to new life, and even the story of Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension is about death leading to new life. Since everything dies, it must be natural. Otherwise, the God who proclaimed all creation good somehow punished everything in creation with the death penalty--not just humans. I wonder what the fish, stars, sun and moon did to deserve such a harsh judgment from the God who once loved everything into being? 
 
Our entire universe, in fact, is born from death. It’s natural. It’s nothing to be afraid of. It’s definitely not a sin. My parents died not from the sin of Adam, but from devastating diseases that slowly ate away at them. Watching them pass was painful, and it was a relief when they finally evolved through death to a new state of being—because their last days here were devastating for all of us. Did they die because Adam ate some fruit and realized he was naked 6000 years ago (never mind the fact modern humans have been around 250,000 years)? Did they die because they were still paying for the sins of God’s original human? No. They died because death happens. Disease happens (unfortunately). Moreover, it happens everywhere, not just on this little blue speck of dust.
 
If we really want to understand the Adam AND EVE story (why is she always left out—the mother of creation, the necessary component to this story? Forgetting the feminine nature of God is truly what causes us this trouble in the first place), we must consider that the spiritual revelation of it is to make us aware that death is a passing to a new state of consciousness, a new awareness of God’s eternal presence. If we’re going to be people of scripture then we need to stop reading it as a text about a punitive and petty God, and reclaim it as a text about our human journey as we come to understand our holistic connectedness to all things in the universe. 
To say that Adam (and subsequently every human being that has ever existed) was punished for disobeying God is the same thing as saying that God punished God’s self for disobedience. How does an eternal being sentence itself to death? Adam is as enfleshed a part of God as was Jesus, as is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, as are you and I. There is no escaping God’s presence because everything is God’s presence. And everything eventually dies. Where is the sin in nature?
 
What sense does it make for Adam to have transgressed and been punished, especially for something as naturally human as curiosity, which must also be one of God’s most significant traits, since we are made in God’s image? And without God’s curiosity, I doubt this universe would exist at all.
 
Death is not the end, it's not a sin, and it’s neither a genetic nor a judicial punishment. In fact, if we’re reading the Bible stories appropriately, death is a spiritual metaphor and has nothing to do with the physical cycle of everything that exists.
 
Death is, in fact, natural, beautiful, and necessary.
 
Meditation: May I die 1000 times today, and each time awake more aware of your presence.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Lovesong of Humanity

Quantum Entanglement

The Divine Journey