Day #4: Sin in an Evolving World

apple-and-sinBy Sister Stefanie MacDonald, OSB

To define sin according to what we might remember from our grade school days may not be useful.

That is, despite what we may have been taught, sin is not the result of the devil trying to lure us away from God. (Just recently, one of my preschoolers claimed the devil made him do his misdeed. I set him straight.)

Sin is our own doing.

As Sister Sharon says, sin is the result of 2 things: Our own innate propensity to choose self-survival over everything else (no matter how we define survival or who or what might be hurt), and the accumulation of those choices over time (precedent).

This is a biological and evolutionary argument. Our genes predispose us to self preservation. Our culture predisposes us to common behavior.

Examples: We need money to live, so we hoard it all, both personally and collectively (Wall Street); We feel we need to be right always, so we remain unforgiving, both personally and collectively (demonizing other cultures).

Was the Holocaust the result of the devil? Or people choosing their own self interest over others’? Hitler is an extreme (and mentally ill) example, but the people he ruled over chose their own survival – their own temporal self interest – over those in harm’s way.

As Sister Sharon says, the banality and ugliness of evil is easily tolerated.

Sin is the choice we make to break our relationship with God, other humans, or any part of creation.

We need to look within and not blame something without.

We need to rethink our old ways of viewing who – and what – we are in the world. We have the reflective capacity to do so … and to change the world for the better.

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