Tuesday, November 15, 2011

"The Dark Passenger:" Today's Sinner-Saint Narrative

The human condition sees many of us struggle with the “Sinner-Saint Complex.” But, perhaps, this historical paradigm falls on deaf ears for many young people today; as spirituality becomes more prevalent than bring religious. In light of a perceived paradigm shift, I turn to entertainment to illustrate this archetype of human nature. The TV hit, Dexter, speaks of a “Dark Passenger;” folks, this is the “Sinner-Saint Complex” at its best (or its worst, depending on how you look at it).

The “Dark Passenger,” is that internal component of the human mind that drives our selfish desires. In contrast, “The Code of Harry” (the show’s representation of light and good) lives in tension with the “Dark Passenger.” Why do light and darkness present themselves in the form(s) of a complex? In short, Original Sin (Lutherans call this the Bondage of the Will and Reformed traditions call it Total Depravity). How does Original Sin cause us to live in tension with “The Code” (saint) and “The Passenger” (sinner)? It is the fact that we cannot rid ourselves of one or the other. We are both saint and sinner.

One doesn’t have to be like the Dexter character (a serial killer) to need their own “Code of Harry” or to struggle with their own “Dark Passenger.” This is the human condition, this is the bonded will, this is the totally depraved, and this is our nature. Now, how do we reconcile this reality? There are a few common routes people take; first, we can fight our “Dark Passenger” making sure we live every letter of our “Code of Harry.” Second, we can deny our “Passenger” and conclude that we don’t need a “Code” if there is no “Passenger.” Third, we can give into our “Dark Passenger” and wallow in a state of constant misery, rage, depression, lust, hatred, envy, etc. Fourth, we can receive the external grace we need because “The Code of Harry” is not enough to overcome the “Dark Passenger.”

The first option (living “the Code”) might make you a saint, but you’ll still be a sinner. The second choice (denial) is the illusion of Free Will (so, good luck with that). The third – a concession – indulgence of “The Dark Passenger;” The Fall, without hope of redemption. The fourth, a contrast to all the others, finds us covered in grace; sanctified by “the Code,” bound to the “Dark Passenger,” and redeemed by the external grace of God.  


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