Sin is never essential
So here is Prager U accidentally saying the quiet part loud about what they really believe about the American experiment:
Cardinal George of Chicago once remarked that in America, everybody is a Calvinist, including all the Catholics.
He was kidding, of course. But he was also on to something: namely, that Catholic culture is like tofu. It tends to take on the taste and smell of the culture in which it is immersed. America is, both for good and ill, a Calvinist and post-Calvinist culture, including its atheists. It retains its sense of Puritan mission even when it no longer worships the Puritan’s god. We are convinced we are a city on a hill. We are certain we always know what’s best for everybody. And we resent being told to repent our sins because that interrupts us when we were just about to tell everybody else to repent ours. We retain the Calvinist believe that sins is sexual, not financial or monetary. And that extends even to sins of owning other people.
The taint of Calvinism doesn’t just stink up Catholic culture. There are Jewish Calvinists too, like Prager.
The theological mark (and error) of Calvinism is belief in “total depravity”. This is the conviction that sin is the constituting fact about the human person rather than the fact that they are made in the image and likeness of God. That is what lies (in every sense of the word) behind Prager’s remark here. Because what he is saying is not that sin is a tragic reality of our history, but rather that sin is an *essential* reality of our history–that it is not merely normal, but necessary.
There is nothing in Judaism, which does not even have a doctrine of original sin, that necessitates saying this. And there is, of course, nothing in apostolic Christian theology that requires it. On the contrary, Catholic anthropology emphatically rejects the idea that sin is ever necessary. As James says:
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one; but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death.
Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures. (James 1:13-18)
Theologically, the idea that God creates us to be sinners or makes us sin or commit evil is to say that God does evil. The faith rejects this. God is good. God is love. He wills our good.
But when we do evil by, among other things, enslaving people and profiting for centuries by it, it becomes fatally easy for us to start lying that the evil things we do are not evil but part of the Grand Design that God blesses and that to attack this Structure of Sin is to attack God and his will that our victims suffer so that we can be blessed.
All of which is to say that Prager’s grotesque insistence that racism is a constitutive virtue and not the original sin of the American founding against which every American is bound to fight is a lie.