Shuck and Jive

Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Do We Live in a Fallen World?

Here are some late night thoughts from a preacher with insomnia. I have heard it said quite often that we live in a fallen world. Some say that is the basis for the Christian religion. That assumption is rarely challenged even by liberals. Two arguments are presented in favor of this assumption. One is theological and the other is experiential.

The theological argument comes from the story of Adam and Eve and their expulsion from the garden. This argument is rather weak as everyone (except for hardcore fundamentalists) knows that Adam and Eve are mythological. Not only is this story a myth, but as such it has multiple meanings. One could read the story as the rise of consciousness rather than a "Fall" into sin. Since it is a myth, why base our view of the world on it? One could choose any number of myths if myth is what we are after.

The experiential argument carries a bit more weight. We experience death and suffering. If the world wasn't fallen there would be no death or suffering, so the argument goes.

Let's look at death first. If there was no death there would be no life. Everything that lives, dies. Imagine how Earth would manage if there was no death. If some life-form were able to live indefinitely, it would take over, and then eventually it would die as there would be nothing left to eat. The moon is without death. Nothing dies on the moon. Nothing lives on it either. To say that Earth is Fallen because there is death is to disparage life and Earth itself. Life and death is what is.

Any theology that is anti-death is therefore anti-Earth and anti-Life. Classic Christian theology wants escape from death and therefore Earth. Earth is bad and fallen. Apparently, this view would have us live forever as bodiless spirits on the moon. It is Easter with plastic lilies. I would call that Hell.

The second part of the experiential argument is that Earth is fallen because we suffer. What is suffering? Suffering is a subjective experience in response to the cycle of life and death. Suffering means we have feelings. My computer does not suffer. But I wouldn't want to be it. Certainly there are degrees of suffering. A critical part of our human quest is to be compassionate with those who suffer including ourselves. As conscious human beings we try to alleviate excessive suffering. We also try not to cause suffering to others (ie. through violence). Like death, suffering is part of the package of Life. Without suffering there would be no consciousness, no feeling, no passion. It would not be life as we know it.

Death and suffering is what it means to be alive. Death is a biological necessity for life to occur and suffering is what it means to be conscious of death. Without suffering we are not conscious and without death we are not alive. To say that Earth is fallen because there is suffering, is to disparage consciousness.

Some forms of theology argue that only human beings are fallen. The rest of creation is fine, but human beings are captured by sin. If humanity wasn't "fallen" we would not do bad things or think bad thoughts. What is considered good and bad is subjective as well. What is considered good in one context is considered bad in another and vice versa. We have drives, most of them unconscious. Sometimes our decisions bring ourselves and others greater happiness and blessedness and sometimes not. At times we compete and at other times we cooperate.

To say that we are sinful and fallen is to disparage humanity. We are who we are. We are learning, often the hard way, about what can bring us more blessedness and what does not.

I do not think there is any advantage seeing the world or seeing human beings as fallen. We are evolving. Each day we increase individually and collectively in consciousness.
I think if there is a task for us, it is to enjoy what is and to do what we can so future generations can enjoy it as well. We experience bliss. We suffer. We live. We die. And I wouldn't wish it any different.