Russell and Duenes

$6.5 Billion Worth of Original Sin

with 2 comments

When I used to take my high school students up to U.C. Berkeley to discuss spiritual issues with the college students there, one of the most predictable viewpoints we would hear from the 4.0 students at CAL is that humans are born morally and spiritually neutral, or perhaps even spiritually good (though they might add that “society” somehow eventually corrupts them). If the CAL students were willing to admit that people might be wicked and sinful, it was usually reserved for some kind of genocidal maniac, or, predictably, for perpetrators of racism.

Yet G.K. Chesterton aptly pointed out that the Christian doctrine of “original sin” was the only doctrine that could actually be proved. That is, all one need do is look around at human culture and history, and one will see that we are born with an innate moral and spiritual corruption, with a bent toward wickedness and sin. And this afflicts all people alike, not just the mass murderers. Contrary to modern assertions, people are not born “generally decent,” a truth that our forebears realized better than we.

Evidence abounds, but an article in the New York Times from this past Saturday provides an entertaining exclamation to the point. Entitled, “With Personal Data in Hand, Thieves File Early and Often,” the article recounts how people have defrauded the I.R.S. on income tax returns to the tune of 6.5 billion dollars (and all told, it could amount to over 11 billion dollars). It’s quite a racket. The thieves, essentially, get a hold of people’s Social Security numbers, names and birth dates, and then electronically file bogus tax returns with false incomes before the real person can file his or her return. The I.R.S. then ships out the refund to the thieves (Some of the thieves set up bogus mail boxes in order to receive the money).

But this doesn’t really convey the whole picture, so here are a few choice portions of the article. The author notes that the rapid increase of this type of fraud – “the ease of electronic filing and the boom in identity theft” – have left the IRS in the dust. They simply can’t keep up with the criminals. So far this year, “with only 30 percents of the filings reviewed so far, the number [of fraudulent filings] is already at 2.6 million.” So what has the government done? “The United States attorney for the Southern District of Florida. . . formed a task force of 18 federal and state agencies, including the I.R.S., to combat the problem.” Result? The problem is only getting worse. The above attorney called it “a tsunami of fraud.” But you know, it’s only a few bad apples, right?

Apparently not. The article goes on, “In South Florida and Tampa, the problem has gotten so bad that police officers conducting unrelated searches or simple traffic stops routinely stumble across ledgers with names and Social Security numbers, boxes of stolen medical records and envelopes with [government issued] debit cards.” Routinely? Hmmm. The police called the amount of this type of fraud they are dealing with, “ungodly.” Indeed, the police report that they’ve found some of the fraudsters “driving Bentleys and Lamborghinis.” The sin is so deep that the U.S. attorney mentioned above “said he had seen tax fraud overtake violent crime in Overtown, a poor, high-crime section of Miami. He said criminals there were holding filing parties, at which they would haul out laptops and, for a fee, teach others how to run the swindle.” These guys are have turned crime into a social occasion.

It’s almost laughable, but for the human and financial resources that are spent combating it, to little or no avail. But the question I’m left asking is: Why did the New York Times even publish this article? Is it part of the “all the news that’s fit to print?” Or is there something in our souls that stands aghast at such human behavior? And should we be aghast? Or maybe a better question is, should we be surprised? Given that God has told us that we are sinful from our mother’s womb, that there is no one who seeks God, and that we all participate in the “ungodliness and unrighteousness of humankind, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Rom.1:18), we really ought not be surprised. We ought to be aware that we are desperately in need of our Savior. I ought to be aware. The problem is me. That we’re not aware, too, is part of our innate problem.



Written by Michael Duenes

May 28, 2012 at 12:59 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Yet G.K. Chesterton aptly pointed out that the Christian doctrine of “original sin” was the only doctrine that could actually be proved.

    Yup, and that’s why out of all the things that convince me that Christianity is true – and there are a lot: philosophical arguments, historical evidence – man’s behaviour is the most convincing. People act the way the bible says they do.

    I don’t think you are a fan of Vox Day’s, which is fine, but I really do like to quote this excerpt from his blog:

    As for evil, you know what it is. It is everything from the first lie you tell your parents and that senseless momentary impulse to smash your fist into an unsuspecting person’s face as they walk by to the Ten Persecutions of Imperial Rome and the Killing Fields. I have no doubt that you have heard the little whispers in the back of your mind from time to time just like everyone else. There are two parts to evil, the temptation and the submission. When the submission finally comes, when the resistance finally fails, it feels absolutely liberating at first and it is only after a period of repeated acts of submission that one gradually discovers apparent how enslaving evil truly is. Hence the apparent theological dichotomy of finding freedom through bending the knee before the Lord Jesus Christ.

    I think that unless one understands that evil is in some senses desirable to every man and woman, one cannot even begin to make sense of the Christian faith. Unfortunately, many if not most Christians take the admonition to hate evil and twist it into an erroneous dogma that insists evil is not and cannot be enjoyable. And yet, no matter how terrible the act, it always feels either good or necessary at the moment of action. This is just one of the many ways in which I find the Christian perspective to be more observably accurate than the current scientific ones.

    Everyone knows exactly what he is talking about.


    Contrary to modern assertions, people are not born “generally decent,” a truth that our forebears realized better than we.

    One of the things I used to hate about becoming a health professional was the amount of scrutiny and control we are subject to. “Can’t the regulatory authorities just leave me alone?” I thought. “I’m a responsible person!” As a lawyer, you’ll undoubtedly be subject to this sort of thing, too. But I grudgingly have to admit that the problem is us: human beings will do almost anything if they think they can get away with it.

    Samson J.

    June 1, 2012 at 11:36 am

    • Phenomenal quote, Samson. Thanks for that. I’m sure I’ll quote it myself some day, and I couldn’t agree more. If sin was so ugly and horrible at first blush, who’d ever do it? The tree was hard to resist because it was “pleasing to the eye.”


      russell and duenes

      June 1, 2012 at 6:06 pm

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