The Key to Overcoming Societal Threats: Acknowledging Sin

Breaking news this week captured the attention of the nation when Sayfullo Saipov drove his truck into a bike path in Manhattan killing eight and injuring eleven. Headlines came quickly and reactions were quicker. Immediately discussions were had about what took place and why. However quick those actions were and however concerned people were, so is our ability to move on. Even simply writing this article a day later, the event can no longer be found on the front page of the primary news sites.  Regardless of the reporting, we’re seeing a repeated pattern: Tragedy strikes and people began to talk, however those discussions keep missing the same point.
Hearing the discussions, reading the stories, and interpreting the events that took place it should raise concerns about the irrationality that is infiltrating our society. That irrationality is manifested in three ways:
  • Irrational Blame: As is typical, the first response is always to answer, “Who is to blame?” There are two problems with making this first focus. First, it misses some key elements of major events (for example, grief). Second, such a conversation is without direction and casts blame in every direction. In particular, this week the blame has been placed upon agencies and individuals for missing warning signs or markers. Others have sought to blame the immigration process. And the blame game is never complete without someone including the weapon involved and God.
  • Irrational Fear: The second issue at hand is the way in which the conversations are had generates an irrational fear in people and society. People are fearful to venture not only outside of the boundaries of their country, but even to cross state or provincial lines. It’s not uncommon to find many who are even fearful to cross the threshold of their own house out of fear that ‘something’ is going to happen to them. However, living with such fear is not only irrational, but impractical.
  • Irrational Conversation: Finally, the irrational blame and the irrational fear immediately cause irrational conversations. The discussions center not on reliable information and truth, but instead is conjured up from irrational emotions, such a fear. The result is unproductive conversation.
Each of these has negative contribution both to the events and to the culture when tragedy strikes.
Unfortunately, the conversations, the fear, and the blame that come the tragic events are all irrational because they lack the influence of one consideration. There is never mention of sin. We live in a secular society and so the conversations and reactions that occur when major events take place are going to be secular in nature as well. Therefore, the avoidance of the accusation of sin is not a surprise. However, these events are a clear demonstration of a significant theological point. While society has the general inclination that people are inherently good because they have the capability to do good things, there is a great difference between being capable to do good and being inherently good. The truth of Scripture reveals that people have an inherent sin nature.
That sin nature tells us that events that take place, like the attack in New York City this week, are quite realistic because of that sin nature. That sin nature indicates that people are capable of taking the most mundane of objects (in this case the weapon of choice was not a violent weapon, but a truck in which the majority of people have access to) and utilizing them for acts of evil. The doctrine of sin impacts both our actions and reactions during these extreme circumstances.
The reality is that until we get to the point of acknowledging the sin of humanity two things will never take place:
  • Nothing is Solved: Nothing will be solved because the solutions being developed are not addressing the root cause.
  • Nobody is absolved: The point is simple here. Until there is an acknowledgement of who God is and who people are, there is no opportunity for absolution, because that can only come from one person.
As a result, we are stuck in a dangerous cycle in which our inability to address and confront the issues around us increases, generating more irrationality, which in turn impacts the ability to address and confront. The acknowledgment of sin is a requirement for the function of a society.

Photo “Fragment of Irrational Disappointment” courtesy of user paolobarzman and Flickr.