Sin and Oppression (part 1)

How do you understand the concept of oppression?
How do you understand the concept of sin?

Is the word oppression an academic, general way of saying sin? What I am wondering is how compatible/interchangeable these words are.

For the definition of oppression, I think about the historic and current patriarchal institutions (military/police, education, religion, economy, heterosexual family, law) which systematically include some people at the exclusion of other people and arbitrarily divide public and private space to accelerate the importance of some individuals the marginalization of others. Oppression can manifest on individual, community, and societal levels.

For the definition of sin, I think of much the same picture. On all levels of life, sin exists too. In high school, the Bible teacher defined sin as “using something for a purpose other than it was created.” Most of the time churches deal with sin on the individual level. But if communities or institutions are manipulated so as to exclude many for the inclusion of a few, is not that also sin?

So, what I realize I am accustomed to thinking is that “what is oppressive is a sin, what is anti-oppression is not a sin”.

Comments (2)

  1. Skylark

    Excellent question. I don’t think I’ve ever thought about it like that before.

    I’m not so sure they are synonymous. Maybe they are in social morality, but not in personal morality. Are there any sins that do not oppress? An argument could be made that premarital sex does not by definition oppress anyone. (But I’ve heard from non-Christians that I need to stop repressing myself.) However, adultery might be oppressive because it constitutes a breach of a marriage.

    Does it make it a “lesser sin” if it doesn’t contribute to oppression of some group or person? Can you oppress yourself and no one else in a sin? If I slit my wrists (not intending to kill myself), am I oppressing myself?

    And now, for the paragraph that doesn’t address the point of your post: How practical is it to work for a world in which there are no arbitrary divisions? I certainly believe in breaking down a lot of these barriers, but to have no categorization at all? Since we label people by their appearance, backgrounds and beliefs to make it simpler for us–imagine the headache of not being able to use descriptive words that had been used by some group or person before–it just brings up questions for me. I’m not being critical. I’m just wondering. :-)

  2. Katie

    Sarah – My conception of sin is that which causes brokenness. That brokenness can be relationship with God or others or brokenness to self. I tend to like this conception better than a rule/law conception of sin. We can work against sin by working for healing, wholeness and shalom.

    I think of oppression as sin + power, more of a systematic or institutionalized sin. Whether it is personal or corporate sin, it is enforced by systematic power.

    Skylark – And as far as a world without categorizations, I wouldn’t hope for that. What I would hope for is a world where our differences are seen as valuable and not used to create barriers, boundaries, exclusion, and marginalization. Categories are not necessarily the problem, it is how we use them to give value to one and not another.

Comments are closed.