The other night I could not sleep and decided to turn to one of my favorite past times, watching televangelists. I can spend a while watching these men and (sometimes) women. I learn a lot from them in delivery styles as well as public communication. In the end, I find regardless of the Scripture or topic, almost every televangelist ends the sermon the same way. Jesus died for your sin and you need to pray for Jesus to enter into your heart.
Not very shocking to hear as this is typically understood as an evangelical message. But the sermon the other night got me thinking a bit, which is generally not good as I try to fall asleep.
The preacher was refuting the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I did not get to watch the entire message but the part that I saw was the preacher going through different quotes from the LDS doctrine and then explain how this was "wrong" and "not Biblical".
The thing that got me thinking was not about the LDS but about the idea the preacher said which was "biblical". According to the preacher, everything that humans do is bad. He shared that all of our collective goodness throughout time can be summed up in a few words: "dog vomit and the stench of an open tomb." But it is okay and the Good News is Jesus still loves us despite we are all turds in his punch bowl of life. (That last line is mine, not his but it is in the spirit of the preacher's argument).
Is this really a Christian message? Is this really Good News?
Personally I have a hard time interpreting this as Good News.
I know humanity and individuals are not Saints or pure or perfect. I know there is sin in the world. I know we all are, at times, turds. But just because we are at times turds does not mean we are turds at our core.
The way I understand the Biblical narrative is that before sin entered into the world, God called humanity Very Good. We mess up, but at our core we are declared Very Good.
What would it be like if we shifted our thoughts from thinking that humanity's default setting is 'bad' and any good we do is out of character, to reclaiming our Biblical tradition that proclaims humanity's default setting is "Very Good" and any bad we do is the exception not the norm.
Beginning with the human condition as "sinful" and "broken" seems to allow for me to excuse my behavior when I do sin. I think, "oh, I messed up big time here, but what do you expect I am a sinner and dog vomit."
Rather when I begin with the human condition as "Very Good" it seems to view my sin as behavior for which is not excusable because I know better or I am a different person. My thought shifts to something like, "oh, I messed up. That is not like me. I am sorry for acting out of character. Let me make this up."
Cynics might see it as a self fulfilling prophesy. Maybe it is. But I believe the world would be transformed if we reclaimed the Biblical view that humanity is, at our core, not beautiful turds but beautiful.
And that, to me, is Good News.