Be Useful to People!
Sin? Stop Using People!
Get rid of guilt-burden! No sin other than using people! Becoming useful is virtue, you offend or please people not God, there is no God thirsting for your love except your neighbour.
Dr. James Kottoor
Who created Sin? The Canon Law did it. A great invention it was, no more. Just forget it and you rid yourself of the burden of guilt and sin. That was the simple or simplistic explanation I heard from a Soap Box orator at Hyde Park Corner, London, years ago. A good section of rationalists still hold that the greatest contribution of the Catholic church has been to burden humanity with the sense of sin and guilt. But for Christians lent will always be a time of prayer and penance for the sins of humanity.
The concept of sin (or the mystery of evil as the church calls it) is something that torments humans all over the world, especially believers in all religions. To make reparation or atone for one’s sins, religious leaders vie with one another prescribing rituals of self-purification like fasting, praying, making sacrifices, doing pilgrimages to holy places or shrines of deities, offering money and material to the needy, god-men and centres of worship.
The basic concept underlying is that man is a sinner and sin an offence to God almighty, who is the embodiment of all goodness, and giver of all good things like our own Father or Mother. Who will ever want to hurt or offend willingly and knowingly one’s own Father or Mother? These are assumptions of believers only, not of unbelievers and atheists. The latter go by what is rational and can be proved scientifically. You don’t believe that fire burns. You know it from experience. It is totally different with a multitude of things touching religion and faith which are not self-evident.
Take the concept of man as a sinner. Is he? “Never dare to call man, the crown and glory of God’s creation a sinner!” It is Vivekananda who said it. That he said it need not make it right. Nor is it to be rubbished because it is offending to some religious sentiments. The question is to look at it rationally, impartially and objectively to see if what is said makes sense or nonsense.
God & Paradise Lost
For believers what is God? Hinduism describes God as Sachidananda (Sat, Chith & Ananda = essence, intelligence, bliss). For Christians He is defined as embodiment of all goodness. It is the nature of goodness to share, to spread endlessly like the waves in the sea until they reach the shores of this world and the next. This has been the compelling reason for human mind to construct the theory of creation. Out of His goodness God created this whole universe, in six days according to the Bible.
He found everything to be good and gave that certificate to every step of his creation. Finally he created man(Adam) and woman(Eve)in his own image and likeness(no wonder Vivekananda called it the crown and glory of creation) and placed them in the garden of Eden and asked them to be fruitful, multiply and conquer the earth while enjoying all the joys and comforts of Paradise.
Believers consider every new born to be the handiwork of God since science has not succeeded to duplicate that life in the laboratory. Nothing sullied or tainted can come from the source of all goodness. A good tree produces only good fruits. Then how can sin or a sinner emerge from God’s hands? Christians speak of original sin transmitted through birth, due to the first parents’ disobedience in eating the forbidden fruit. That eating was prompted by the urge to know the whole truth and become like God, as advised by the serpent(Devil) and not done to offend or displease God. It was done to please themelves. But we are told that paradise was lost due to the disobedience of our first parents.
What is Truth?
What is the truth? Pilot famously asked that question to Jesus. He didn’t answer it at all. Why? He wanted us to be on a treasure hunt to find it? In any case the search is on. It is bound to go on endlessly. Even those who shout that man is the crown and glory of creation are united in admitting that this crown is defective and limited in many things – limited in mental, physical and social growth. To be limited is no sin. It is in the nature of everything created.
A child is not a defective version, but a man or woman in the making, as long as there are no mental or bodily deformities. Why are some born with deformities? As a result of the sins of parents or forefathers? Jesus’ answer to such a question was a definite No, but to reveal God’s glory in mysterious ways. So the challenge for every one born into this world is to grow up physically and mentally. What happens when you attempt to do something you don’t know? You make mistakes like the child which falls down and gets hurt while trying to learn to walk.
Sins or Riddles of Faith?
When it falls, you don’t blame the child for committing a sin. It has to learn it by trial and error. This applies equally to its mental growth. Hence the saying: it is human to err(not sin) and divine to forgive. But when that happens in the case of a grown up mature person, it is called a blunder, not sin. What is meant is, one ought to have known it and could have or should have avoided it. In other words we all make mistakes, even blunders galore. I have. You must have. Mistakes and blunders are not sins.
Still the belief persists that all of us come out of God’s hands with the stain of original sin. Some original thinkers have added venial and mortal sins to the list. I still have to find that smart guy who is capable of committing a mortal sin deserving eternal hell fire. I wrote that years ago and have not found convincing reasons to change it. What makes an act a mortal sin? According to its inventors, its three essential ingredients are:1) Grave matter(say murder), 2) full knowledge(about its enormity) and 3) full freedom(not swayed by passions). Find an instance where all these conditions are realised.
Think also of the principle that no evil is ever committed except under the aspect of good. Recall what Jesus taught: “forgive our trespasses as we forgive”, “forgive, not seven times but seventy times seven” and his prayer on the cross “Father forgives them for they know not what they do” and Chesterton’s comment on it: “If they did not know, what was there to forgive?”. Was Jesus talking nonsense, or irrational things? Also recall how the good thief (so you can be a thief and be good, a good sinner?) who stole his way into heaven. These are all riddles of faith, not conclusions drawn out of compelling reason.
”Do not weep for me”
Many such things are permitted in the realm of faith which is either above reason, alien to reason, contrary to reason or unreasonable. But how to give a rational human touch to the unfathomable God of Faith? Sin and virtue must have been invented to give a human face to a God who tames rebellious minds to the rule of law for the sake of common good in an orderly republic. And laws we know are often made for law makers, religious or political. Jesus restrained them when he said: “Sabbath is made for man, not man for Sabbath.”
It is for these reason rationalists accuse Christianity for burdening humanity with a guilty conscience, with the burden of original and actual sins which Jesus is said to have atoned for by his death on the cross. Due to that belief there will be a lot public exhibition of weeping and mourning during the coming Holy Week over this dastardly “Deicide” in human history, forgetting Jesus’ own admonition to the tearful women of Jerusalem: “Do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.”
Imitate Jesus of History
The harsh facts are these: Jesus of history never asked his followers to worship him, but to imitate him. But we refuse to do it for two reasons: 1) Worshiping is much easier. Imitating him would mean “foot-washing” the lowly which is humiliating and speaking up for the voiceless which may mean losing one’s own head as Jesus lost his. 2) If He is God according to Faith, how can we imitate a God? So we take anticipatory bail with the question: “Have we to play God?”
Here we conveniently forget Jesus presented himself 85 times as the Son of man and only 38 times as Son of God in the Gospels. In addition he demonstrated, how to lay down one’s life for the sake of defending truth, justice, love, mercy, compassion, forgiveness. He befriended the outcaste and underdog to build up a world of universal brotherhood, that paradise here below envisioned in his prayer “Thy Kingdome come”. Didn’t he also say that he came that we may have life and have it “in all abundance” here below, not in the next?
Hatred envy and greed let lose by the first murder, Cain slaughtering Abel, at the dawn of history had sullied that life. Jesus reversed it by laying down his life as a victim to the fury of the priestly class, political powers and mindless mob. What happened, happened for good on Good Friday to sting the benumbed consciences of a corrupt and corrupting religio-political alliances of those times and also our own times murdering prophets who pose a threat to their imperial ambitions.
Using & Being Useful
By his death Jesus was proclaiming that the God of the New Testament is a God who is prodigal with his goodness, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, and blessings for all, that it is by dying that we give life, it is by stooping to serve that we conquer hearts. There is no question of our pleasing or displeasing a God who is perfect bliss all the time. So at the core of what we call sin and virtue is the issue of pleasing people, of using or being useful to people.Using people is exploitation, becoming useful to people is service. One is vice, the other is virtue.
On this right or wrong use of “use” hinges virtue and vice. We use people when a labourer is underpaid to make undue profit, when we steal another’s goods to enrich ourselves, when level playing rivals are eliminated to establish one’s supremacy, when a lady is abducted for self gratification, when money, might, media, power and position are used to dupe the unwary and embellish one’s ugly image. Selfishness in its myriad forms is at work in all these instances.
Only when we do just the opposite and become useful to our neighbour we become virtuous. For a detailed litany of ways to become useful to God’s little ones, one only has to listen to the Son of Man’s last judgement discourse: I was hungry, thirsty, naked, and sick and in prison etc. Or simply look at the public life of Jesus nut shelled as: “He went about doing good” – healing the sick, raising the dead, comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.
Thus love of one’s neighbour becomes the living proof of one’s love of God whom we can’t see. Similarly one should become a useful and pliable tool in God’s hand to do his bidding. This attitude is best expressed by the Lord in the Gethsemane: “Let this chalice pass from me, but not my will, but your will be done.” That is also the essence of prayer. It consists in one’s readiness to accept joyfully even the bitter pills like the “Tsunami, Earthquakes and Nuclear disasters” that happen due to some malfunctioning of nature.
Life is a drama of comedies and tragedies, successes and failures, agonies and ecstasies enacted between the short span of birth and death. The beginning and end of actors on stage are not in their hands but in the hands of the curtain raiser and downer. The heroes and villains must play their part to make the drama entertaining, exciting and fulfilling. If someone in the team goofs up let no one brand him/her a sinner! As in the parable of the one who came in the last hour, all players are going to be paid a full day’s wage at the end of the day, provided every one promptly responds to the commanding voice of one’s conscience within, as did the good thief who stole his way into heaven. What Jesus wants is not to cry over his sufferings, but to help reduce the cry in the lives of His little ones.
The writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org