Sunday, August 22, 2010

Original Sin vs. Imago Dei III: Selfish Babies

[comment] … any parent can tell you just how selfish and completely lacking in empathy babies are…

I completely disagree with this thought.  I found my babies to be very empathetic to each other and to my moods and they continue to be.  A lot behavior of babies and young children that is commonly regarded as rebellious or selfish, I found to be the product of inappropriate nutrition or exercise or poor parenting on my part.  My first daughter used to be a very aggressive, crabby, biting, hyperactive infant/toddler.  It would have been easy to see her as selfish or "willful", in fact, most people did think that, even I thought so, although less often than most people.  Then she was treated for her excessive allergy load, we moved out of a house with lead-based paint dust and ancient leaky plumbing (heavy metal toxicities), and 80% of those behaviors disappeared.  Later, when I began to understand how foods triggered my own tendency to temper tantrums and I began to avoid those foods for myself (evening out my own moods), even more of her “willfulness” and “disobedience” disappeared.  Then I learned about the correlation between exercise and hyperactivity and began to look for ways that she could get a huge workout. Since then, when she has sufficient nutrition and exercise, she become the sweetest, most agreeable, humorous, generous child I've ever met.  

When I hear people talk about selfishness, sin, the rebellion of children, I hear an implication that this is somehow the child's fault (a sin nature to be overcome, "whip the devil out of him", “break her will”, etc) that puts the fault on the child rather than on the whole system of influences that contribute to a collection of behaviors that we call a child's character.  From my own experience, the shame of being sinful did not lead me to feel grateful for anything to do with God—after all, God made me, right?  But God made me defective? And the only means of becoming better was prayer and trying harder?  How exactly was God supposed to fix me in any way that turned me into someone more acceptable to the Powers That Were in my world?

I think there IS a huge aspect of personal responsibility that children need to learn: how to manage the influences to which they are susceptible.  I consider the biggest ongoing lesson of my daughter’s childhood to be helping her to recognize how to manage and prevent moods and behaviors that are not community-building.  The largest part of this lesson is teaching her to regulate her protein:carb ratio, getting a hard enough physical workout for her needs.  Without management of these things, she is so volatile that she "can't stop herself" from violence or temper tantrums.  With appropriate management, the anger, tantrums, and tendency to violence disappear. 

I see this learning to manage as hugely different than owning sinfulness and repenting.  Regulation of the chemical processes of the body (the vehicle of modification of selfishness that works for her) is not at all what I think is meant by church teachings on eradicating our sinful nature, even though the resulting obedient, joyful, peacemaking child is the same.  Thus for me it begged the question what is "sin" and the "sin nature" if it could be managed by diet and exercise much better than shame, punishment, prayers asking God to make me behave better.

[comment] …that does not make babies "bad" that's simply their natural state. We need to make the choice to be unnatural/supernatural, to accept the grace God offers to overcome our natural tendency toward sin.

Although I hope this writer is not meaning this "need to make the choice to be unnatural/supernatural, to accept the grace God offers" the way I heard it...ugh, I absolutely recoiled just reading it.  We, out of all God's creations, need to become unlike our created nature in order to become acceptable to God? We are born "sinful" in our nature (although no other natural creation of God is "sinful") and have to act entirely against nature, which is God's masterpiece, in order to be what God wants us to be?

No other created thing, no matter how corrupted by human intervention, is considered "sinful":  for example, wildlife that has been genetically damaged by pollution--is this a fair analogy to the Adam in the Garden version of Original Sin?  The bird that can't fly didn't choose to be genetically flawed anymore than we choose to be born as "Adam's seed" but we don't call the bird "in sin" or expect that somehow it is not acceptable to God.  Why are people considered as less worthy right from birth than birds?

1 comment:

  1. Sin stuff aside (although I agree completely with what you shared), I have to say you have inspired me to get my toddler much more fresh air, exercise and a healthier diet! Thanks :)