One of the core concepts of Christian Dogma that many people, especially adult converts, struggle with is the Dogma of Original Sin. People find it difficult to understand that all human beings are born “fallen”, and this stain of sin is literally hereditary, the result of the first sin of Adam.
A very concise definition comes from the Second Council of Orange, which occurred in ARSH 529:
One man has transmitted to the whole human race not only the death of the body, which is the punishment of sin, but even sin itself, which is the death of the soul. As death is the privation of the principle of life, the death of the soul is the privation of sanctifying grace which according to all theologians is the principle of supernatural life. Therefore, if original sin is “the death of the soul”, it is the privation of sanctifying grace.
Because we are fallen, human beings are born with a tendency to sin. This is called concupiscence. Concupiscence is not sin itself, it is simply the inclination to sin, which can and should be corrected and held in check.
I came across a perfect example of this “brokenness” in a little video clip that has gone viral. It is of a little boy named Noel who is two years old. Just a matter of months before this little video was filmed, Noel was a baby – a literal infant. But here we see little Noel – cute as a bug’s ear – already manifesting the effects of Original Sin.
Noel’s mom has discovered Noel in her bedroom, standing in front of the full-length mirror. The mirror is covered in “drawing”, apparently with red lipstick. Little Noel has succumbed to his desire to feel the sensation of drawing on the mirror with lipstick. He knew that mirrors are not for drawing, and that lipstick is not paint, and that this was the incorrect and unnatural use of the mirror and the lipstick – but he succumbed and chose to do something that he knew was wrong.
But this is just the beginning. Here, watch the clip, then we will continue on…
If cuteness were carbohydrate, we’d all be in a diabetic coma now.
But let’s look at Noel’s actions, which mirror the Genesis 3 narrative about the Fall of Man. Like God in the Garden of Eden, Noel’s mother is not asking Noel questions because she lacks information. When God asks Adam, “Where are you?” it isn’t because God doesn’t know. God is trying to gently elicit a confession. This is exactly what Noel’s mom is doing.
“Noel, who drew on Mommy’s mirror?”
Because Noel’s mommy loves Noel, she is giving him the chance to confess and come clean. She knows exactly what he did, but she’s giving him a chance to repent and “get right” with her, again, because she loves him.
But what does Noel do? He lies. He lies, and the little tyke lays it on thick. “I don’t knooow” as he scurries away from the scene of the crime in faux-surprise. He lies to the person that is the complete source and experience of love in his life. Noel’s mommy hugs him and kisses him, but also feeds him, dresses him, protects him and provides for him in every way. Noel is completely dependent upon her and he lives his entire life in the warm embrace of her love… AND HE LIES TO HER FACE.
“Was it you?”
But wait, it gets even worse. Noel’s Mommy asks him who it was and what does Noel do?
Noel lies again, and frames Batman. Now, this is very interesting because Batman is Noel’s buddy, his superhero friend. Noel loves Batman. Batman’s his boy. And yet, in order to cover his own tail Noel sells out and frames his boy, Batman.
It all got pretty morally intense pretty quick, didn’t it? That’s Original Sin, folks. We are, all of us, broken in this way. Baptism remits the guilt of Original Sin, but it obviously does not eliminate concupiscence, or that tendency or inclination that we all have to sin. We all need to accept God’s grace to keep ourselves on the straight and narrow, which is possible, but obviously difficult. Look at the example of this sweet little tyke, who in a flash lied to his mother and framed Batman. He’s two. A young two. What about when he is 12, or 22 or 42?
Original Sin isn’t a lie that churchmen came up with in order to control people, or whatever argument heretics and atheists make these days. It is real, and it is clearly visible, first and foremost in ourselves, but also all around us. But Christ gave us, through His Holy Church, the Sacrament of Baptism to remit the guilt of Original Sin, and then the Sacrament of Confession so that we can be absolved of all the times we have “framed Batman”, and the Sacrament of Love Itself, the Eucharist, so that like little Noel going to the arms of his mother (after coming clean, and cleaning up the mirror), we can go to the embrace of Our Savior.