Twelve Step meetings for addicts tend to end with the slogan, “Keep coming back, it works if you work it, so work it, you’re worth it!”
It makes me cringe.
Mind you, I do say it. I even say it out loud too like all the rest. And I do mean it, in unity with all my fellow addicts in the meeting. But it does make me deeply uncomfortable.
Coming from a conservative Christian background, where the doctrine of Total Depravity was pretty prevalent as the starting point, I therefore believed that I (as part of all mankind) was inherently unworthy of God’s love.
I’ll pause for a second for the gut-wrenching outrage to subside.
It’s not as bad as it sounds. Please let me continue.
I did use this idea as a weapon in philosophical discussions to take the moral high ground and provoke my opponents. I did use this as emotional blackmail in church to make people feel bad about themselves, the better to prove my point and prove my superiority. I completely twisted the doctrine to my own ends, for my own glory.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not true.
Using citizenship in a country as an analogy. For argument’s sake, let’s say there is a land called Good Country. Her citizens have rights and privileges simply because they are citizens. What sort of people they are is irrelevant. (The exception is that if they break the law, then some of these rights and privileges are necessarily, lawfully, and rightfully withdrawn.)
Good Country is actively at war with another country. Let’s just call it Bad Country. And Bad Country attacked first.
If I am a citizen of Bad Country, that makes me an enemy of Good Country. Even if I had no say in choosing my parents, nor the location of my birth, both of which conferred on me my citizenship.
As such, I have no access to the rights and privileges of Good Country citizens, even if in fact, I am genuinely a better person than all of them. It may not be my fault I was born a citizen of Bad County, but that is a fact of reality. I can either accept it or rail futilely against it.
(In my case, I regularly break the law of both my country’s and that of Good Country anyway – meaning, even if I were born a Good Country citizen, because of my own actions, I would be in jail anyway, beret of many of the rights and privileges that came with my American citizenship anyway. So that there is no moral high ground to be gained here.)
In Christian thinking, God is absolutely holy – meaning He has zero-tolerance of sin. (Whether this is “fair” or not is, again, besides the point. If God is God, and this is what He says, then so it is. My opinion about it doesn’t change reality.)
When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, they ceased to be sinless. (Whether this is a literal story or biblical metaphor besides the point too – because here and now, we all accept nobody is morally perfect.) Something so fundamentally changed in them as a result of that original sin, that it was no longer possible for them to bear perfect offspring.
Think: Ultimate Alpha Wolf, blasted with radiation so that all its sperm are so severely degraded, it will no longer be able to father perfect Alpha Wolves. Any offspring as a result will inevitably be inferior to what he was before the radiation.
So the contamination of original sin is in me. I am born with it. I could argue it’s not my fault. It wasn’t me. I didn’t have any choice in it. All true, but like one born into Bad Country, and therefore a citizen of it, I am also by default, an enemy of America. This is reality whether I am (cosmically) at fault or not.
I start off as an enemy of God whether I like it or not.
In any case, almost as soon as I am able, I do make choices and sin all on my own anyway. So it renders the original attempt at an excuse moot. Which, unpalatable as it is, does make the arguments a lot clearer. I am an enemy of God by birth and by my own choice. Unworthy to begin by default, and unworthy by my actions thereafter.
So, in that sense, according to the slogan, I’d say no, I’m not worth it.
I’ll say it here: I am not worthy of an all-loving all-power God’s love.
Well, that’s unpleasant.