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by David Phelps

“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” - Mother Teresa

March, 2002

Psychiatrist Hans Breiter says men's brains may be programmed or "hard-wired" to appreciate attractive women. Furthermore, he cites some of the science on which his conclusions are based. Breitner describes a study that involved men looking at pictures of average and attractive women and men. The participants were given the option to "linger" over pictures, if they chose to do so. Invariably, the men spent more time looking at the pictures of attractive women than at the pictures of average women or the pictures of men. While this is hardly surprising to most of us, the research indicated there might be a predisposition (possibly genetic) for men to look at attractive women, which can be traced to primitive man's need to find a suitable mate. It reminded me somewhat of the theological concept of "original sin."

"Original sin" is primarily a Roman Catholic and Orthodox doctrine, although the concept is also found in the Muslim religion. Many Protestant denominations, including United Methodists, don't believe in original sin. Most of the synopsis here is taken from the organization "A Catholic Response," Lincoln, NE. The notion of original sin is that we somehow "inherit" the sin of Adam (Gen. 2-3). Adam sinned by rejecting God and this cost Adam -- and all his descendants -- the communion with God and "Sanctifying grace" he had once enjoyed. This is the rationale for infant baptism -- the idea that infants have inherent sin from which they need to be "saved" and that they -- and we -- we can be saved through baptism. Figures from St. Augustine to G. K. Chesterton have written about original sin. There is support for this idea -- at least indirectly -- in scripture:

"Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me." (Psa. 51:5 NIV).

Original sin, we are told, is demonstrated by humanity's bent toward crime, violence, and especially war. Animals do not wage war, and this is evidence that they are free of original sin.

It's well known that certain ills or "sins" are transferred or "inherited" from one generation to the next: Children who have abusive parents frequently grow up to be abusive parents themselves. Women who use illegal drugs while they're pregnant give birth to babies who are addicted to drugs.

Whether we accept the notion of original sin or simply attribute our state of affairs to "human nature," there is no doubt that we need to be saved from sin. Paul wrote, "There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," (Rom. 3:22b-23 NIV). He recognized his -- and our -- sinful nature; but he also knew we didn't have to be slaves to it: "For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin . . ." (Rom. 6:6 NIV).

Jesus said, "But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away." (Matt. 5:28-29a NIV). Men don't have to look at women -- or at anyone else -- whether the person is attractive or not. With God's help, we -- men and women alike -- can change our behavior. We can overcome the programming of genetics, original sin, societal conditioning or whatever else might lead us to act the way we do.

This is the good news of the gospel: We can be free from sin (John 8:34-36). We don't have to be controlled by our lusts and desires. The world is filled with people who are slaves to conditioning, to addictions, and to sin. We can lead them to the one who can help them break the chains of slavery. We can show them the road to freedom, the same road we have taken ourselves.

"But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man's sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ." (Rom. 5:15-17 NIV.)

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Copyright © 2002 by David Phelps