“It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind….Three generations of imbeciles are enough.” -U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., Buck v. Bell, 1927
People in the Western world do not wear robes today for clothing, and (when they do wear clothing) instead they have been replaced by the contemporary shirt and pants. In the United States, it is very common to see people wearing pants made of denim, or as they are commonly referred to, jeans.
Jeans are like any pair of clothing. They can be clean, they get dirty, they need to be washed, they get holes, they can be repaired, or they can be replaced later. It is always a good idea to wear clothing in good condition- jeans or not- when in public, and to wash clothes after they become dirty. Clothes do not define a person’s dignity- that comes from God- but how one takes care of his clothes is often times a reflection of how he takes care of himself or how he treats others.
Sin is a stain on the soul of a man just like how dirt is a stain on one’s clothes. What matters to God is that should a man sin, that he makes the continual effort to clean the sin from his soul as well as eradicate the process by which that sin got onto his soul in the same way a man with soiled clothes cleans them and then will attempt to avoid the way by which they became dirty, especially if they are “nice” clothes. Just as one would not wear a tuxedo to do yard work because it would inevitably soil it, so must a man care for the tuxedo which God has given him, which is His soul and the garment imparted to him at Baptism so that, as the prayer for Baptism says:
…you have become a new creation, and have clothed yourself in Christ.
See in this white garment the outward sign of your Christian dignity.
With your family and friends to help you by word and example, bring that dignity unstained into the everlasting life of heaven.
Jesus warned in the Gospel of Matthew that he who did not bring a proper garment to the wedding of the lamb would be cast out:
Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.
“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.” – Matthew 22:1-14
So what is a man to do if he sins? Is it possible for him to be saved?
This is why, Thank God, the Church has the sacrament of confession. Jesus imparted to his successors of the new priesthood, the apostles, the power under His authority to forgive sins:
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” -John 20:19-23
When a man sins, he confesses his wrongs and through the power of Christ acting through the priest in persona Christi and the ministry of His Church, the man is absolved from His sins and, in the words of Sacred Scripture, is to go forth and not sin again. And, should he sin again, to return until both the sin as well as all near occasions of sin are eradicated from his soul.
Now some people will say BUT I CONFESSED MY SINS AND BECAME A CHRISTIAN AND NOW I AM SAVED AND JESUS HAS TAKEN EVERYTHING FOR ME.
Correct- to a point. Accepting Christ’s salvation is critical- it is to make the decision to be saved. However, becoming a Christian does not give one license to continue to sin, and neither does it prevent a man from sinning because he has free will. Only by the grace of God can a man avoid sin, attain and persist in Christian perfection, and when a man does sin it does not mean that he was never truly saved or that God has “already forgiven” him because, as St. Paul warns, it is man’s duty to work out his salvation with God.
Take for example a new, fresh t-shirt. Consider this your soul when you receive Christ.
If you wear that t-shirt for four days straight, what will it look like? What will it smell like? What about for four weeks? Or four years?
BUT WHEN I BOUGHT THE SHIRT IT WAS CLEAN IN THE PACKAGE!
Yes, it was clean but it is your job to keep it clean. The same can be said of our souls. God will cleanse them, but it is man’s responsibility to work with God to keep his soul clean by choosing to do what is right and avoid what is wrong as well as all ways that lead to sin.
If in American society a pair of jeans is the cultural equivalent of a robe for the world of antiquity, then it is imperative that a man keep his jeans that God has given him clean as a metaphor for avoiding sin. As Sacred Scripture states, one must clean the inside of the cup (the soul) in order that the outside might be clean, for just as Jesus warned the Pharisees, they may wear beautiful clothing externally, but owing to the condition of their souls, inside they were as tombs, filled with all types of evil and death:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may become clean.- Matthew 23:23-27
Likewise, the emphasis here on clean jeans is opposed to genes.
As we have stated before, merely echoing the words of sacred scripture, God came to save those who believe in Him and receive Him. He will save anybody who wants to be saved. It does not matter who you are or where you come from, what types of clothing (jeans) you wear or what your genes are, because as St. John writes:
But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
“I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” -John 3:7-12
Now one can certainly be proud of ones genes, and one should because God made each of us unique and not equal to the others in terms of appearance, abilities, and limitations, and we should be content with who we are. However, this has absolutely no effect on a man’s humanity. It is clear that some people are taller or shorter, stronger or weaker, smarter or dumber, able or handicapped, larger or smaller in different ways than others, but none of these qualities determine the humanity of a man. The Bible has already answered this question, since God clearly states that He made man in His image and likeness (Genesis 1:26), just a little lower than the angels and a little higher than the animals.
On the left, the “aryan ideal.” On the right, a man with Down’s Syndrome.
Certainly the man on the left is almost assuredly more capable than the man on the right in most ways- he is likely stronger, more intelligent, and more physically attractive. However, their dignity in the eyes of God is the same, and most importantly, their righteousness before God comes from the lives they lives.
What clothes they wear or their physical abilities or limitations are irrelevant, because God looks at the garment of the soul.
If the eyes of God, he does not care about “clean genes” because that is a human idea based on an assumption that man is solely an animal not created in the image and likeness of God and as such can be “purified” by eliminating “undesirables” from the “herd.” Such an idea is anathema to God because as God makes clear in the parable of the wedding, He wants not “clean genes” in the idea of notions of “racial purity,” nor does he want “clean jeans” in the sense of external garments that are outwardly attractive while a man is still soiled from sin inside. Instead, he wants a clean soul, and when it gets dirty, to have it cleaned from sin and prevented from getting soiled again by avoiding the means by which it became soiled just like how a man keeps a pair of nice clothes- jeans or not- clean, gets them cleaned when they are dirty, and avoids the means by which they became dirty.
A scene from the George C. Scott version of A Christmas Carol in 1984. This scene is a excellent criticism of the Darwinian ideas that were being promoted in England during the 19th century and that Dickens attacked in his novel, and this particular version captures the horror of eugenics.
The Bible is very clear- one’s genes will not save a man. Only keeping clean jeans- the garment of the soul- is what matters. This comes by realizing that while God has saved us, man must work with God to continually confess his sins, to strive for Heaven, and to trust in God’s great mercy and not despair, because anything is possible for God.
For those who do not care about their jeans- the modern equivalent of the robe that represents a man’s soul- or who value genes over jeans, the warning is clear- they will be rounded up and executed, cast out into the darkness that does not end.