It is hard…

“Say what you want about the vices of the dogma of sin, one of its virtues has always been to remind us that we—all of us—live between the animals and the gods, that one of the underappreciated challenges of human life is to somehow become a human being.”
In Prothero’s review of the new Oxford University Press’ new books series on the Seven Deadly Sins, he writes much about how each of the authors handle their respective sin. I find it interesting that the book written by the Columbia University Buddhist Studies professor Robert A. F. Thurman (Uma’s father!) gets a good deal of attention and Prothero suggests that his book is the only one that treats the topic as “sin” – or what might be traditionally understood within Christianity as sin and the effects of sin. What does this tell us about current American culture? You know, this American culture of ours that if you heed the spin of poll-results from the politicized Religious Right suggests this good, wholesome, and particular kind of Christian nation, despite the evil, godless, and liberal American cultural elites who are trying their hardest to destroy Christian America.
Anyway, the quote above struck me. What does it mean to be truly “human?” Biologically? Psychologically? Communally or individually? And, particularly for me, Spiritually? Can any of the above really be separated without loosing the essence of what a “human being” really is – this thing between animals and the gods? I don’t think so, but for many people the “spiritual” aspect is often removed from the equation – or at least any kind of defined and systematized understanding of “spirituality.”
Then, there is this idea that it is quite challenging to actually become a “human being.” Perhaps, to view the holistic nature the human is a good first step in understanding what it means to be a true “human being.” The spiritual cannot be seperated from the physical from the psychological, etc.
I agree with Prothero’s assertion that our cultural understanding of sin and sin’s effect upon human life has been turned on its head – sin once seen as that thing which impinges upon our freedom has been turned to be understood as that which brings about our freedom. Where does the difference between freedom and license, liberty and libertinism?
From my Christian perspective, there are things that we do that originate from our inner-selves (what is unclean is not what we put into our bodies but what proceeds out from of our hearts) that distort our understandings of and relationships with God, our neighbors, and our own self-understanding. To live by license or a libertine existence seems to bring about true freedom, but often we become bound by and controlled by those behaviors. Our true freedom is hindered or even destroyed. Freedom is not the ability to do whatever we want whenever we want, but true freedom is the ability to step outside of our own wants and our own lusts. To give into or indulge our own wants and lust often leads to enslavement to those wants and lusts – materialism, greed, addictions, etc. To engage in the struggle and daily battle to resist the temptation of sin, I think, is the process of discovering true freedom.
We are to love our neighbors as ourselves. We don’t deny ourselves, but we are enabled to move outside ourselves so that we can consider the wants and needs and betterment of our neighbors as a goal at least as important as self-indulgement – perhaps even more so. For me, this is a beginning point of discovering what it means to be a “human being.” It is a challenge and it requires discipline, but the process brings freedom.
Read the review by Stephen Prothero (chairman of the Department of Religion at Boston University) of the new book series on The Seven Deadly Sins published by Oxford University Press at ChristianityToday.
Via: Titusonenine