by ProfDave, ©2021
(Feb. 2, 2021) — Rules for driving in NYC: Don’t get in the way of a car that needs extensive body work. (Minnesota Public Radio, Pretty Good Joke Book, 2009).
That would be me. Only I never drive in NYC. It is a pretty good principle anywhere, however. Has something to do with the nature of mankind under pressure. Does your soul need extensive body work? Should I watch out for you?
Humanity is messed up. I think I have figured it out by reading Genesis. It checks out with history, last week’s news and what I hear every week in recovery rooms. When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, they messed up their DNA, it loosened the wiring of the psyches of their descendants and unplugged them from God, the source of their health and wellbeing. There is a virus, a mutation, in our being.
Humanity is messed up. I’m blaming the forbidden fruit, but it is true. Our DNA is flawed. Our cell-replication and self-repairing systems falter and we get old. Even faith healers get old. We get cancer, Alzheimer’s and genetic disorders. Our bodies are vulnerable to disease. How we ever survived in the wild without modern medicine is beyond me. Genetically, we are de-volving.
We do not come out uniformly perfect. We have all manner of mental and personal weaknesses from day one. Our appetites and proclivities are disordered. We are too short or too tall or too wide or bowlegged. Guys like me get born without coordination or a reliable memory (pet peeve).
Our DNA is flawed. And then our choices make it worse.
Humanity is messed up. It isn’t just our organs, but our nerves. Our wiring is loose. Our instincts are vague or just not there. We do not do by nature what is good for us! Can anything be plainer? “Doing what comes natural” gets us into nothing but trouble, pain and heartbreak. Eating what we want gets us a stomach ache. Give a man enough freedom and he will hang himself. What a woman will do is even uglier. And children will play in traffic!
We know what is good for us, but our inner hungers contradict it – particularly our selfishness and rebellion. Our “natural” inclination is to do the unnatural, the wrong thing – and we happily comply!
Our DNA is flawed. And our choices make it worse.
Humanity is messed up. Our DNA is disordered, our wiring is loose, and we are unplugged from our Maker, the Source of goodness. No matter how Godly our parents, we are born out of tune with God. It is not just that we don’t know what’s good for us, but we don’t naturally want it!
There is nothing more self-centered than an infant. And we can hardly blame them. But how powerful is the urge for us all to remain infantile into old age? We move through life from helpless selfishness to controlling selfishness and back again to helpless selfishness – if we live long enough and don’t commit suicide to hold on to control.
It is all about control, isn’t it? Or the illusion of control. “You will be like God.” We call it pride, self-respect, our dignity, our right to choose, or whatever the current buzz-word is. But aren’t we really just playing god? New Agers make it explicit, “I am god.” It is a delusion, of course. We don’t really call the shots except in our daydreams – or when we forget to take our medication. Even faith healers get sick and die.
But the problem is, the God-chair is already taken. Our attempts to dethrone Him would be exceedingly silly if we did not do ourselves so much harm in the process. You see, in rebelling against God, we find ourselves rebelling against all things good. And in trying to find some other way, we rebel against the way things really work.
No wonder our choices make things worse.
Genesis has an explanation that makes sense of this and gives the rest of human experience meaning. My separation from God is at the root of the evil in me. According to the Bible and the experience of millions of others through history, I can encounter God. Why not? As a five-year old I had sense enough to do that. The light came on in my little heart.
A new-born child of God, at any age, experiences a sense of forgiveness and connection with God. The Word of God begins to make sense as we trust Him. There are unmistakable changes in ourselves and our lives. Our consciences become fresh and alive. A new kind of love, for God and for others, begins to develop within us. At some point we dare to rest our all on Him and our inmost being is made pure by faith.
But all our faults do not instantly go away. Your heart may be gold, but your head is still lead; you may be pure at the core but filthy at the fingertips. We are still in the flesh – our broken humanity. We have wounds from the wickedness of others as well as ourselves. We have developed coping mechanisms to gain temporary relief that have become dysfunctional, if not evil in themselves. Many of us have developed the psycho-chemical connections of addictions. And bad choices can still make things worse.
We cannot break these patterns without God and without the support of others. And God does not choose to break them without us! It takes time, and often a good deal of pain, to grow a saint, ready for heaven.
David W. Heughins (“ProfDave”) is Adjunct Professor of History at Nazarene Bible College. He holds a BA from Eastern Nazarene College and a PhD in history from the University of Minnesota. He is the author of Holiness in 12 Steps (2020). He is a Vietnam veteran and is retired, living with his daughter and three grandchildren in Connecticut.