Thursday, June 20, 2013

Nothing is your fault

You may have read the headlines yesterday where the AMA (American Medical Association) labeled obesity as a disease.  That's right.  Obesity has now joined the undistinguished and now easy to get into club of diseases joining AIDS, cancer, alcoholism, the common cold, flu, chicken pox, etc..  You can read details here. 

What does this say about the AMA and society at large?  We have essentially made a lack of willpower into a disease which is therefore out of someone's hands to control and must be treated medically.  Are we saying that the deadly sin of gluttony is just a medical condition?  I hope not.  Now, before you condemn me for being insensitive, let me be clear that I do realize that there are medical conditions such as those that affect the hypothalamus or thyroid gland that can trigger overeating and also obesity is a trait in my family and something that I particularly have to guard against especially if I want to remain on the earth long enough to raise my son with my wife.

So, what is the AMA telling us?  Quite simply: it's not your fault.  Just like alcoholism: it's not your fault. You have a disease. You're powerless. You need medicine, you need doctors, you need pills, you need hospitals or rehabilitation centers.  YOU'RE NOT AT FAULT!

I doubt if the AMA was looking towards modern Protestantism when it redefined obesity as a disease, but modern Protestantism does seem often enough to emphasize that it's not your fault since God loves you anyway.  Maybe that same cultural opinion has informed the AMA.  The point is that this should not be surprising in any way.  Our culture regards sin as something that results from mitigating circumstances.  The reason he murdered that person is because he wasn't loved as a child. The reason she stole is because she grew up impoverished.  The reason he raped is because he was spurned by women.  The list goes on and on.  What are we responsible for anymore?  Nothing, it seems.  Everything can be reduced to a legal justification and now, a disease.

When Christ (and also St. John the Baptist) began his ministry, his first word was "repent!"  Now, the Greek word for "repent" is μετανοιετε.  Literally, it means to change your nous which is often mistranslated as mind.  The nous is called the window into the soul by St. John Damascene.  It is more than an intellectual sifter. I could dedicate a whole post to what the word means.  The nous, though, is something that sets us apart as human beings, created in the image of God, from the animals.  Repentance is created by change of our very self, not mere words or platitudes we say, but a  change in who we are to grow in union with Christ.   If nothing is our fault, then there can be no repentance.  Repentance demands us to see fault.  How can we change if we don't know from what we need to flee? 

Repentance also demands the use of our will oriented towards God.  St. Augustine says that the will is a medium bonum, a so-so good thing.  It can be used for good just as it can for evil.  The will also is one of the Trinity of the mind.  Will is joined with memory and reason.  All of those coexist or subsist within each other yet will is not reason and reason is not memory and memory not will. (Very Trinitarian, wouldn't you say?). If one of those is shackled then the others are affected.  God's will, reason and memory are perfect.  Ours are not.  But if God is also just, how can any of us be condemned if we were not responsible for our own actions?  Free will may be shackled, but it can still break the chains.

I wonder how many of us will plead before the dread judgment that our sins are not our fault?  Hopefully, someone will shut us up before we get that far.  Fortunately, Christ is also merciful and compassionate and loving; maybe He will overlook the fault that we should declare and simply say, "Come and sit at my right hand."

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