What was the original sin? I remember a discussion about this long ago when I was in the seminary. Some theologians say it was disobedience. Others pride. But the answer that struck me as making the most sense is that the original sin was ingratitude, a lack of appreciation for all the wonderful gifts we have been given. That ingratitude causes us to be dissatisfied, to want ever more, and then to clutch at what we have, to fear the loss of our goods, to become stingy and selfish and self-centered, then to be greedy, grasping, and finally to steal and become violent.
I thought of this again last week when the City Council of our neighbors in Marble Falls unanimously passed a resolution informing the Federal Government that they did not want any facility established in their town to process, house or detain any of the immigrants crossing into Texas. The most curious piece of this development is that no one, anywhere, has proposed such a facility be built in Marble Falls. But the gentleman who put this item on the City Council agenda stated “we’re just afraid it will come our direction.”
He is absolutely correct that the motivation behind this is fear. I believe such fear – and it is indeed fear that drives this – stems from ingratitude. As we look around the various areas of central Texas most observers would consider Marble Falls a rather fortunate and blessed place. Economically it is doing OK, the average income and average net worth probably sets it in at least the median category for central Texas towns. And it has the benefit of beautiful scenery and fine natural endowments. In short it seems like a place that should engender gratitude. But instead these blessings have had the opposite effect, and instead of gratitude have motivated fear.
Seeing this makes me re-examine my own attitudes. Do I see the blessings I have as something I need to defend and protect, as something I must keep other people away from, as something to clutch and grasp at, as causing me to fear others and do all I can to keep them away? That does not seem a very pleasant way to live. It certainly does not seem a very Christian way to live.
St. John in his first letter (1 Jn 4:18) states: “Perfect love casts our fear.” I think a spirit of gratitude goes a long way to casting out fear as well. For if I am truly grateful for what I have as a blessing, I know also that the source of those blessings has not dried up. I can be confident that as long as I do not block them by grasping to what I have, but keep myself open to receiving those blessings, they will continue. We are blessed. And knowing that is the best antidote to fear. We are blessed.
We don’t need to fear the children and women fleeing violence and poverty.