When was the last time you lied?
Substitute the word “lusted” for lied, then “stole” for lusted, then “coveted” for stole, and keep going, making new sentences with new verbs describing the ways the human heart can go wrong. This morning’s news has death all over the place–Baghdad, Afghanistan, Siberia, Washington, D.C., and Las Vegas (a model’s body stuffed in a suitcase.) Brett Favre is being blasted for “taking self-centeredness to a new extreme.” Michael Jackson is being laid to rest on his 51st birthday, his death still news on the strength of his mixed life, tortured and brilliant. Apparently Britney paraded a Top Ten List (if she were president) on Letterman; fun stuff, perhaps, but same old story…she’s news because she’s been such a mess, variously bumbling mom and pop sex icon.
Out on the streets, no doubt, deals are going down–sex, drugs, weapons, or political power, depending on what part of the world you’re standing in. But it’s all everywhere, so maybe it doesn’t make any difference where you’re standing. A baby is being abandoned even as you read this, another one being beaten, another one being…insert your own terrible image if you must. Stand in an airport and watch the people pass by. Jaws are tight, eyes dart back and forth in annoyance or worse, shoulders slump under who knows what kind of depression. How rare is it to see a face beaming in joy in any kind of terminal? (Notice the word “terminal.”)
Then there’s the stuff at home and among friends. Misunderstandings, jealousies, bickering, bitter wrangling over trinkets. A single word with the wrong upturn of voice can derail kindness for a generation. A glance destroys, a mocking joke drives away, a staring silence delivers an intended threat. Stomachs churn, heart rates escalate, headaches drive us to the medicine cabinet, and sleep deprivation leaves us glassy-eyed and listless. Depression sits on the body like a demon, driving us poor, sad folk down deeper into our sorry bed, and sloth, the sin that says there’s no worth, no meaning, no point, piles on next to depression, and death is just a matter of time, whether it’s months or years or a matter of a few mornings.
I don’t have to quote scripture for this entry. Sin is everywhere, well known, better understood that anyone really lets on. The God-Image soldiers on, but there’s a crack in the center of our chest. We are on guard, taking care of #1, warding against the assault of the other, which we are pretty sure is coming. We want, we crave, we hunger, and we can’t get no satisfaction. So we do what we think is necessary to survive. Our tactics of sin management depend on where we come from, what we are used to, the way we put the world together. Maybe we think we’re strong, maybe we tell ourselves we’re morons who deserve to get nothing. Either way, we fight, we struggle, we clench, we strike out, we lie, cheat, steal, whore, and murder. Sometimes those words are metaphors best describing what pretty people do with words, supposedly unstained by action, not realizing that to speak is to act, and that words used as weapons destroy souls as effectively as guns kill bodies. Other times the words are pointers to what we did in fact…we lied, we cheated, we stole, we whored, we murdered. And literal dead bodies litter the earth (on this morning the blown-apart and the poor girl stuffed in the suitcase) reminding us all that through the center of the world, of being itself, runs a crack, a brokenness that informs every inch of creation and life. Poverty, injustice, evil…creation itself groaning under the weight of it all.
Any attempt at finding life’s meaning and purpose that doesn’t take into account the vast and ongoing impact of what Christian theology calls “The Fall” will by necessity miss the mark, failing the basic test of reality.
Biblically speaking, the moment in Genesis 3 where Eve (and Adam, he’s standing right there, according to the text) considers the words of “the serpent” and imagines an outcome other than that described by God (how would they even know what “death” referred to? According to the story, death had not yet occurred, was not yet a category of experience) is the moment of import. What is this archetypal moment of temptation? It is the same one we experience over and over. And we fall in the same way.
We are broken. It’s not the whole story, but it’s a fundamental reality to which every morning paper attests, any tense conversation (of which I several going on) reveals.
We are broken.
I so wish we weren’t…