Over the weekend, Mark Sandlin (pastor and author of The God Article) posted the following Facebook status:
Christianity has it wrong. We are not broken. We are not fallen. We are not flawed. We are simply fragile. We are beautifully distractible. We are self-invested because of love but that love also gives us a slight bias toward justice. We are so deeply invested in life that we can, at times, deny the larger good for the experience of the moment. We are not broken. We are human. We are flesh and blood, and we are experiential. Sometimes that makes us better. Sometimes that make us worse. It never makes us less. Or sinful. Or unredeemable. It means we are real. It mean that life has a relentless hold on us. The struggles, the stumbles, the seemingly endless short-fallings simply point to our humanity not to our unworthiness. They mean life is difficult — but they also mean life is vibrant – pulsing with potential, ripe with possibility, constantly presenting lesson from which to grow. YOU – you are not broken. You are a unique expression of God here on Earth. You are bursting with potential that has not yet been expressed. You are God’s beloved. You are NOT broken. You are in process. You are love hoping to not only be expressed but to be recognized.
Because I reject the idea that humans are disgusting, wretched sinners (which is what all too many people mean by broken), these words resonate with me. You see, I actually believe the Bible when it says we are made in God’s image; to me, that means we can’t be all bad. In fact, I believe the spirit of God resides in every one of us and it never leaves no matter what we do. At most, it will allow us to ignore it for a while. You can call it the divine spark, the Holy Spirit or whatever else may float your boat, but it’s there. The idea that we are not broken is extremely appealing.
As appealing as it may be, I cannot escape the thought that we are broken. How else can you explain the terrible things we do? This month alone, mass shootings have claimed the lives of almost one hundred people; men and women who claim to be Christians voted to cut funding for SNAP (food stamps) to the tune of $40 billion while approving $710 billion is subsidies that increasingly benefit corporate farms (some owned by the people who voted to do this) and we seriously discussed curtailing violence in Syria by perpetrating more violence. If that’s not broken, I don’t know what is.
But, if we are broken. there are times when we are also whole. Now and then, I see flashes of that wholeness. It’s evident in the actions of Officer Jeremy Henwood, whose last act on earth was to buy three cookies for a young man he’d never met. I see it in the community built by groups like Love Wins, made up of people who spend their days trying to make things a little bit better for each other. It’s even visible in politics, when elected officials stop worrying about getting re-elected and take a stand against the insanity that holds sway in the halls of power.
Yes, we are broken and, no, we aren’t. I think that each and every one of us harbors the capacity for tremendous good and terrible evil and that life is a struggle between these competing aspects of our nature. The Kingdom of Heaven (or as I prefer to think of it, life in the Beloved Community) will happen when we allow the tremendous good to finally overshadow that terrible evil. It’s imminently doable, but we have our work cut out for us.