The sins of our fathers

I was presented with the question: “Is the U.S. doomed to follow the ‘sins of its fathers?'”

Yes, I think we are doomed to repeat the sins of our fathers, because we are made of the same stuff. The prophet Elijah says in 1 Kings 19, “I am no better than my fathers.”

I believe that sins, both individual and societal, have long-lasting consequences and I believe that human nature is sinful. While individuals can make their own choices, we cannot change our genes, and we operate under the same political system that our parents inherited from theirs. We are no better than our fathers.

For some reason I have been thinking about Abner Louima this week even though it was 20 years ago when this Haitian immigrant was beaten and brutally sodomized by New York policemen. I looked up a retrospective article on the story just now to include for my answer. If you’re too young to remember the case, read the article. The repercussions of this horrendous sin remain with us today, because police misconduct still exists, and because there is widespread distrust of the police among significant parts of the population.

The rape of the environment was a sin of our fathers, and just now we have elected a president whose administration is steadily rolling back environmental protections, calling the scientific consensus on climate change a Chinese plot to weaken America. “Beautiful clean coal” — really?

Discrimination against immigrants, whether slave, Chinese, Japanese, German, Italian or Irish is still with us directed at new populations, Latino and Muslim.

Are we callous and greedy? Do we believe just what we want to hear? Are we vain? Are there far too many sexual predators among us? Do we stereotype? Are we uncivil and disrespectful? Do we sell addiction, overcharge? Is there usury? Are our prisons overcrowded? Are we killing people on the street and in undeclared wars? I think the realist would conclude that we’re doomed to repeat the sins of our fathers. We should combat sin as we can, and perhaps make some things better, but carry no illusions about the sinful nature of our species.

Some historical sins, colonialism and slavery, are not alive and well in the US. but then there is sex trafficking and debt bondage. The forms evolve, but the underlying nature remains.

The words of the hymn come to mind:

Sometimes I feel discouraged
And think my work’s in vain,
But then the Holy Spirit
Revives my soul again.

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