I’m going to try to keep this brief, because this book BLEW MY MIND and I want to quote the entire thing here. Every page (honestly) felt like a mic-drop, and I highlighted a major portion of it. I would highly recommend it to anyone who grew up religious in a Western Christian denomination with the concept of “original sin.”
Ms. Shroyer is making the argument that the entire Gospel message is not one of humanity’s depraved sin nature separating us from God, and requiring a bloody sacrifice in order to assuage God’s vicious anger against us in order to make things right. Instead, it’s the story of God who wants to be in a relationship with us so badly and is on our side so much that God became human to help us see how we can live into our true, blessed nature and live our life to the fullest, certain in the knowledge of our profound worth from God’s unconditional love.
Original sin is the concept (that only exists in the Western Church by the way, the Eastern orthodox branch never went down this path, nor is the concept seen in Judaism or Islam), that when Adam and Eve sinned, they changed human nature itself to be an inherently sinful, depraved resting state. That now all of humanity has a broken relationship with God, and are separated from God by our sin, and need Jesus’ death on the cross to restore our relationship to God. This idea did not arise until 500 yrs after Christianity was established, and isn’t mentioned in the two early creeds that most Christians still point at to clarify our beliefs (the Nicene Creed and the Apostle’s Creed).
It was interesting to go back and read the Genesis story and see what is actually said and not said (and I did read it again in my own Bible and didn’t just take her word for it). The fruit isn’t an apple. Satan is never mentioned in the story (only “the serpent”), the man and woman are never cursed (the serpent and the ground are), and never does God say that because of their sin, sin will now be passed down through birth to all generations. Immediately after doling out their consequences, God provided them with better clothing than they had made themselves, sticking to God’s end of the deal to always be on our side, even when we screw up.
In the story, when God made mankind, God called Creation “so good, so very good,” and that blessing has never been taken away. We are created, both men and women, in God’s image and with God’s blessing. God desires to be in a relationship with us, and loves us at the maximum possible level before we ever do a thing.
I think of my own children, and of the love I felt for them while they were still just little chubby blobs of soft baby flesh. Before they could voluntarily move their own limbs, let alone speak or act or “do” anything to earn my love, I was maxed out. My heart threatens to burst with love from the simple fact of their existence. THAT is God’s love for us. God loves us as-is from day one and never takes that love away.
That doesn’t mean we get a free pass to just do whatever we want. God can be disappointed in us and love us at the same time, as any parent knows. We can chose to walk far, far away from God and commit evil acts that break God’s heart. God wants us to live our best lives, again, like a good parent. The book says, goodness is our origin, but it’s also a goal. We are free to grow in love and maturity from a safe, healthy place of already being loved, and not out of a fear of hell, or striving to earn love or approval.
The concept of original sin functioned as a nice cop out, a way to blame poor choices or evil and suffering. If we are all truly depraved, well then of course I screw up sometimes. It’s harder to own our choices, and admit that, as humans, sometimes we’re good and sometimes we’re bad. Yes, we have all sinned, but because we are all imperfect humans, not because we are flawed from birth. We don’t have a sin nature, simply a human nature.
People’s greatest motivation is to be seen, known, and loved. We are motivated by connection and community, not by punishment. When we rest in God’s blessing, knowing we are loved, we become motivated to do better with our lives. We realize more the interconnectedness of humanity, because if God loves me this much just for existing, that means God loves everyone else just as much. And how I treat my neighbor becomes much more important. So I practice being kind, loving, generous, forgiving, less judgmental, less anxious. The Bible pits life vs death way more than good vs evil. Christianity is about bringing life and fuller life to the world, and to ourselves. Death goes beyond physical death – separation from God (at our own doing), broken relationships, violence, injustice etc is all death of our humanity. Life is living into our goodness, our blessed nature and calling, is being the purest, truest version of ourselves.
She talked a lot about the question she often gets – without a sin nature or being separated from God by our sin, then why do we need Jesus? I love this quote:
“God doesn’t need to humiliate us before giving us grace just to ensure the grace is effective and appreciated…If we are told we have to feel bad before we can appreciate feeling loved, it isn’t love we’ve found.” BOOM.
Jesus is so much more than a ticket out of hell. Jesus lived a whole life and did and said a lot of things besides dying on the cross. Jesus’ life and actions show us how to live (humbly, modestly, selflessly), how to interact with our fellow humans (spoiler alert: love them ALL!), how to uproot the norms and challenge the establishments (religious, political, societal), and how to usher in God’s Kingdom to this world. God’s Kingdom, which cares nothing for human power, nothing for political influence, nothing for borders and hierarchies; which cares to make every human living on this planet know that they are seen, are known, are worthy and are loved beyond belief.
“[Jesus came] not to fix our sin problem, but to fix our blessing problem, which is that we are in the terrifying and tragic habit of forgetting we have one, and that it comes from a God who will do anything and everything to be with us.”
I highly recommend this book to practicing Christians, to former Christians who have been turned off by…well, there are a lot of reasons I could list that could have soured someone to Christianity. To anyone wondering why anyone would believe in this ancient book, these old stories and fables, this poor, middle eastern, brown-skinned, homeless refugee who has nothing in common with a white American (sorry to break it to you, but we’re the Romans if you didn’t know), check this book out. It might open your eyes and melt your heart with the Goodness of God’s love.