Are we all fundamentally good?

This is a letter to the editor of the N.C. State newspaper, the Technician, that I wrote several years ago when I was a student there. I’m posting it because I reference it in the post below, “So Far, Pt. 1”, think of it as a footnote, except above instead of below. The discussions I’ve seen lately about being ‘good’ makes it particularly relevant these days. What prompted me to write this was an article by a student who basically made the argument, “Wasn’t Jesus a liberal?” This is my response:

I am writing in response to Isaac Tripp’s article, “Liberals have morals, too”, from February 23, 2005. I think he makes an important point, and as someone who classifies himself as a conservative Christian and a supporter of our president, I agree with the majority of his argument. I applaud the way he stated his point and, for the most part, managed to avoid unnecessary, overstated remarks about those who don’t share his opinion.
I am not writing in defense of the ‘moral right’ or the Christian faith, but I do feel compelled to point out a miserably unfounded statement that he made that I feel reflects a common misconception about the teaching of the Bible and it’s subject, Jesus.
Mr. Tripp begins his article by presenting his working definition of liberalism as: “a political philosophy based on the belief in progress, the essential goodness of the human race, and the autonomy of the individual and standing for the protection of political and civil liberties.” That’s fair enough, but then he asks a semi-rhetorical question, which is what I’m responding to, “After all, wasn’t Jesus the ultimate liberal?”
Now, before you break out your iBook and start writing me an email, allow me to clarify: I don’t care about the word ‘liberal’. That fact that Mr. Tripp links Jesus to this word is not what bothers me. Nor am I claiming that ‘liberal’, as defined, is not something good. My problem is precisely this: Jesus, and the entire Bible for that matter, taught and continues to teach almost the exact opposite of ‘the belief in progress, the essential goodness of the human race, and the autonomy of the individual…’.
The fundamental teaching that true Christianity is founded on is that man is not essentially good. Quite to the contrary, in Jeremiah 17:9, it says, “The heart (of man) is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? And the prophet Isaiah declares in Isaiah 64:6, “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” The entire book of Romans, particularly chapters 5-8, is an exposition of how it is absolutely impossible for man to be good in God’s eyes.
To those who would object that we are made in God’s image, I point you back to the garden of Eden. Up until the day that Adam and Eve dropped the ball for all humanity, the definition of ‘liberal’ above was fairly accurate. But since that day, it simply doesn’t work.
As Easter approaches next month, let us not forget that Jesus Christ came to earth and died the barbaric death He endured precisely because it was the only way we could ever be ‘good’. As the Apostle Paul explained it in Romans 5:18-19, “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.”
In closing, I offer a strong challenge from the bottom of my heart to the ‘moral right’ and particularly to the Christians on our campus: Liberals, non-Christians, homosexuals, and anybody else you want to throw into that pot are not good… And neither are you… And neither am I. There are two types of people in this world, those who have chosen to be forgiven, and those who haven’t. When the ‘moral right’, and (my own opinion here) Christians in general, are known more for what we are against and who we condemn, than what we believe and stand on, something is very wrong. I would venture to guess that this is sitting in print next to another response to Mr. Tripp from a well-meaning Christian that basically says, “We’re right, you’re wrong, and you don’t know what you’re talking about because you don’t know what the Bible says.” I can’t wait for the day when that energy and time goes into serving someone instead.

-Zack Riesland
Senior, Computer Science