Original Sin And Democracy

Jeffrey Burton Russell reviews Alan Jacobs new book:

Jacobs’s most original and provocative argument is that original sin has strong democratic impli­cations. Denial of original sin leads to elitism: Take, for instance, the duchess who simply refuses to believe that she shares a common nature with the unkempt commoners of field and street, or the self- righteous people who believe that they can make themselves good by stacking up a higher pile of good deeds than of bad ones. Their underlying assumption is that some people have exempt status, or higher virtues, or brighter minds, that others lack— plainly speaking, that some people (usually us) are better than other people (them). Original sin, on the other hand, is egalitarian because it means that everyone is alienated from God and has an innate tendency to sin. Equally egalitarian is the belief that Christ died in order to give everyone the liberty to escape sin. No one person can dare to consider himself or herself better than others, and no nation or race should dare to do so either.