Are we born in sin,
or are we are born in bondedness?
When a baby is born, the baby's first task in life is to bond. The baby must figure out "to whom do I go to get my needs met?" If the baby successfully bonds then life unfolds with relative ease and love. If the baby does not bond then life becomes forever a struggle.
It is hard to overstate the importance of bondedness. It is an idea that Jesus knew well. He said "Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs" (Matt. 19:14). Speaking to his Christ nature, he also said "What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one" (John 10:30).
That our natural state is one of bondedness to a loving caregiver is much more understood than in earlier times. Anthropologists have determined that the human capacity to bond is what allowed defenseless early humans to survive on the African savanna. Human bonding is the foundation of modern society and government (e pluribus unum, "out of many, one"). And psychologists now know that one essential element in the prevention of addictions and the process of recovery is the strength of social relationships.
In the past 40 years or so we have learned that the human ability to bond is the only way to overcome many persistent social problems. We have learned that ending slavery could not address racism; we have learned that scientific achievement could not prevent the barbarism of the holocaust; we have learned that extending voting rights to women could not fully open them to their human potential; and most recently we have learned that what is typically called "family values" never brought about the renaissance of commitment to marriage and family that gays and lesbians are leading in today's society. All of these social evils are overcome only by the ability of human beings to bond.
The reason you and I have grown-up hearing about being "born in sin" is because the particular Christian traditions that predominate in our culture today — Roman Catholic and evangelical Protestant — rely on teachings from Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther and John Calvin. All of them got the idea from Augustine, who, in refuting Pelagius, taught that human beings are totally depraved and, regardless of individual will, incapable of doing the will of God. It isn't so.
We are not born in sin. Rather, we are born in bondedness. Our deepest desire is not sin but love. It is a Truth taught by Jesus and revealed to us in the depths of our heart. It is a Truth we know from science and the observation of children. And it is a Truth that provides the foundation for all sense of justice and social dignity in today's world. It is a universal Truth, recorded in the Gospels and defended by many in Christian history, including the entire Eastern Orthodox church. That the evangelicals and Roman Catholics still hold to the mistaken notion does not mean we need to abandon the teachings of Jesus nor the teachings of the Christ Spirit within.
So, is it not time to let go of the idea of original sin? Is it not time to affirm that our Spiritual nature is based on a bondedness with God and with each other? Is it not time for Christians to declare that we are one with God, our nature is good, and our relationships are bonded?
This Christmas day we may read or watch news reports depicting hate, alienation and blame. We may find ourselves with family and friends with whom we once shared a believe in original sin. And we may find ourselves in conversations filled with judgement and shame. I believe the best thing we may do is to affirm, quietly to ourselves,
I am not born in sin. I am born in bondedness.