A good friend shared with me a post by Brian Kirk called "Lady Gaga, Lent, Teens, and Original Sin." It is a good read, but there are a few tweaks that I might have made to his argument.
In his article, Kirk shows how Lady Gaga's latest song "Born This Way," helps teenagers to claim their own place, their identity, in a world that sometimes tells them they have no value. He connects this message with the Jesus that loves the unloveable and who reaches out to those others have deemed unworthy.
Kirk also spends a bit of time thinking about the counter for this argument, "what about sin?" Kirk responds by talking about while Lent has traditionally been a time in which we confess all that is wrong with us and look to Jesus for salvation, there are some that don't hold that to be true. He writes:
For those of us who do not literalize the story of Adam and Eve, there is no need to literalize the Christian interpretation of Genesis in which humankind fell from a perfect creation into an imperfect one and thus had to wait, mired in sin, until a savior could come and pay our ransom. This theological perspective that sees all persons as born into sin is not persuasive for those Christians who acknowledge that we now live on this side of Darwin.
I read Kirk's response as: "what sin?"
I may not read the story of Adam and Eve literally, but I do recognize that this world we are born into is far from perfect. The institutions we inhabit are tinged with sin. The choices we make from the very beginning lead us into temptation. While I might not ever consider an infant to be riddled with original sin that taints their very existence, sin is an ever present reality that surrounds us. If there were no sin, there would be no violence, no war, no destruction, no oppression, no bullying, no shame, no guilt, no hate...
We each have a personal role and responsibility in the systems of sin that surround us. From the things we purchase, to the food we eat, to the ways we treat one another, we participate in sin. Sometimes that sin is a conscious rebellion and turning away from God and neighbor... other times it is subtle, hidden, and ignorant.
No matter how much we might ignore sin, it has consequences in our lives. When we act recklessly, we hurt people. When we ignore the cries of the needy, they suffer. When we waste and pollute, our environment is damaged. The cup of coffee I purchased this morning has implications and consequences from people I have never met and will never see. The length of time I spend in the shower this morning has financial, social, and environmental implications. Sin is real. Consequences are real. We were born this way, too.
The song calls us to remember:
The real question is how we hold these two things together.
I'm beautiful in my way
'Cause God makes no mistakes
I'm on the right track baby
I was born this way
Don't hide yourself in regret
Just love yourself and you're set
I'm on the right track baby
I was born this way
How do hold together the fact that we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:13-14) with the reality that we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)?
I recently began reading N.T. Wright's After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters. He talks about the process of developing virtue in our lives by the thousands of choices and decisions we make in our lifetimes. In the process of doing so, he talks not only about following the rules, but also following our hearts.
This is the same divide that I see between these passages in Psalms and Romans. If I am wonderfully made, if God loves me, then I can do what I want and follow my heart. But if I am sinful, then I need rules to tell me right from wrong and to save me.
Wright reminds us we need both. We need to form our character through the "rules" and to hold one another accountable to what is good. But we also need to let who we have been created to be shine through... not the "me" that does whatever the hell I want, but the "me" God intends me to be - loving, compassionate, serving one another, humble. The reality is, that "me" is inside of us. We were born to perfectly love God and serve our neighbors. God didn't make any mistakes in doing this. But we get off track. We let the world tell us who we should be, instead of our creator. We turn our backs on that reality. We sin. Christ takes all of those missteps, all of the sin inherent in our structures, the reality of evil, death, destruction, greed, power... he takes it ALL onto the cross, he dies, and he takes it all down with him. In Christ, we are finally free from all that which holds us back, from all that prevents us from being who we were truly created to be.
Kirk gets so caught up in sacrifical atonement that he forgets there are other metaphors for the work of Christ on the cross. Christ liberates our true selves from all that prevents us from being Godly. Christ shows us how we were supposed to live our lives, according to Abelard. Jesus is also the Cosmic Christ who transforms all of creation.
This time of Lent reminds me that I was fearfully and wonderfully made and that I have fallen short of the glory of God that lives inside of me. It challenges me to claim the work of Christ in my life and to be better, to grow, to allow God's grace to continue to transform me.
Lady Gaga's lyrics say: I was born this way, hey! I'm on the right track baby.
Maybe we should take that as a question. Who were you born to be? And are you on the right track? Are you living the way God intended? And if not, how do you get back there?
You are fearfully and wonderfully made. No matter how it is that you were made - black, white, outcast, bullied, gay, straight, male, female, rich, poor - you were fearfully and wonderfully made. Are you on the right track?