Weekly Reflection - Original Goodness

30 April 2021

The Very Revd Simon Cowling

The past ten days have been challenging if you are a member of the governing party, with mounting evidence of what might charitably be described as a relaxed attitude to the ethics of good governance in Downing Street and Whitehall: David Cameron’s lobbying; the Prime Minister’s text exchanges with the Saudi Crown Prince and James Dyson; and ambiguity about the original source of funds for the refurbishment of the Prime Minister’s flat.

The past ten days have also been challenging for the Church of England. Its reputation has been mauled by a Panorama programme timed to coincide with the latest report on racism in the Church by the Archbishops’ anti-racism taskforce. The programme , and the report, were not only sobering. They were shaming. They described ingrained behaviours, attitudes and assumptions amongst the members of a Christian community, our community, which has sat lightly to all sorts of biblical principles relating to hospitality, welcome and justice.

Then last Sunday evening came the Oscars. I heard Chloe Zhao, as she accepted her award for best director, recall an ancient Chinese poem in which one of the characters says ‘people at birth are inherently good’. I felt my anger and depression at political sleaze and ecclesiastical injustice lift a little. Zhao’s words were a helpful corrective to the gloomy, but pervasive, misunderstanding of what constitutes original sin. People are born inherently good into a world made sinful by human misuse of free will, and so fall into sin themselves. It is this sinful world that is saved by the redeeming work of Christ, and it is through that saving redemption that we humans are allowed to reclaim our inherent goodness – the goodness that comes from our being made in the image and likeness of God.

Political sleaze and ecclesiastical injustice towards people of colour will continue to anger and depress me in equal measure. But reminding myself that we are all born inherently good is a helpful antidote to despair as well as confirmation, if I needed it, that Christ is all and in all as we are gradually transformed from one degree of glory to another. Thanks be to God for that indescribable gift.

With love and prayers,

Dean Simon

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