Hegel argues that Christianity is responsible for introducing the idea that all human beings are free – and possess thereby an innate and inviolable dignity. According to the Christian teaching, all men are ‘equal in the sight of God’. Further, in the person of Christ, the human and the divine (the absolutely free and self-determining being) actually coalesce. Historically, it is Christianity, therefore, that is
responsible for raising our consciousness of who and what we are, and thus for helping us to see that we are all (potentially) free.
The whole concept of ‘sin’, although an ancient idea, is somewhat an outmoded one. However, the origin of such an idea had nothing to do with being human. It was used in the ancient world solely as an economic term. It was the name of a transaction between a slave and their new master. It was the transaction itself between two objects, not the object themselves. It was the gap. We will get to why that’s important in a second.
I’ve got to be honest, I think the idea of sin is a depressing one. That we are all royally screwed up. That we are hopeless. That we are wastelands.To me, this is too essentialist. I think there is an argument here for anti-essentialism. In that, at the very core of humanity is not some black evil stain, but rather an endless desert of infinite possbilities. So, what is anti-essentialism?
ANTIESSENTIALISM (Greek, ’αντι- [anti]—against; Latin essentia—essence)—the opposite of essentialism, a philosophical position that eliminates from scientific knowledge or even from any cultural discourse the questions of essence that begin with the interrogative particle “what” or its logical equivalent, e.g., “what is it?”, “what is something?”, “who is somebody?” (what is truth?, what is morality?, who is man?).
A simple example would be that when we claim that an object is it what ‘it is’, we are claiming an essential property exists that defines that object. This IS truth. This IS chocolate. This IS black. This IS white and etc. It is the assumption that there are a certain set of criteria that determines the essence of something. Even, what it means to be human. However, I think this in and of itself predestines the potential of an object or subject.
I want to use the idea behind the orthodox understanding of sin and re-appropriate a lateral claim about who we are as humans. The typical notion presupposes that sin is the very gap between humans and God. Some versions claim that all of humanity is somehow naturally tainted by this evil stain. However, I want to offer that there is not a gap between us and God, but rather that we are the gap itself. That we are voids. Or as philosopher Slavoj Zizek once said: “We are nothings trying to be somethings”.
On a social level, what is the importance of the difference? One, of course, being: guilt. The orthodox understanding of sin imposes upon us a guilt that demands our myopic allegiance to it. That demands we not question its presence. That we somehow have always owed a debt to it. Is this also not what the whole foundation of the media is predicated on? That we somehow owe a debt we are unaware of and yet we should pay. Two: Potential. If we are sinful, our potential is always thwarted by this spectre constantly haunting us – in this sense, it is nothing short of the story of Sisyphus rolling the rock up and down the hill. However, if we are positively charged voids, our potential is infinite.
Peppa Pig is a cartoon character here in the UK; there is a scene where the father is being pulled-over by a cop and he initiates the conversation (before the policeman has a chance to say anything) and the following words come out of his mouth: “I don’t know what I did wrong, but I am sorry”. This is how ideology operates here – it demands our blind alliance without knowing why. Sin is ideology. It becomes the super-ego, you know the structure that dictates to us how we should/should not act. Third: Identity. All of reality is vying for our identity. When Pauls suspends our identity for a common humanity, he is not calling for some mythro-pological (New Word!: mythology + anthropological) idealism; he is inciting a revolution. The same when Christ calls humans to be “in the world, but not of it”; its in one sense to see that reality is non-dualistically quantum. (What is quantum?)
The idea of sin creates relationships that depend upon a power-structure of sorts. The ‘free’-person somehow has found a key that can help ‘free’ others, or if they choose, maintain the ‘unfreedom’ of the others. It creates a caste-system of human value. Its like selling cattle at an auction. This is depressing because it claims that as humans we have no worth.
…The Greeks practiced slavery. They regarded only citizens as free, whereas women and slaves were seen as unfree. Many peoples have recognized the freedom only of their own kind, and have
regarded other peoples as less than fully human, and less than free. (Taken from the definition above)
Did you catch that? ‘The freedom of their only kind’. Yep, not only could this be speciesism, but at times, could imply racism. The orthodox view of sin implicates racism as one of its hidden concepts. This means, that on a sociological level, while we live in these structures that define/segregate our identity (black, white, male, female, gay, straight) – that this ancient view sin only highlights, reifies and problematizes these issues even more. It exacerbates the social codes we have agreed upon. Let me explain.
If we take the notion of anti-essentialism as one possible method with which to interpret society; if taken far enough, we are then left with the core of reality being this positively charged void. When we address reality as such, we then have to accept another possibility that evil and good are simply ways in which we have come to define certain coded behaviours. That we, as a social group called ‘humanity’ have come together and have agreed upon (verbally or otherwise).
What this then implies is that good and evil are not innate to reality.
They do not lie at the center. Nothing does. Our need for there to be something at the center is our desire for meaning. It does not mean to have something at the center is wrong, but we must be aware of the fact that its presence is contractually contrived. Meaning, that evil/good does not predate the human experience, but rather, we by agreement have spoken into the void and have created such ideas to live by. This does not mean evil/good do not exist, it simply means we cannot rely on our historical understanding of human experience to dictate to us our future. That the very freedom we speak of that seems elusive is of our own making. That we have had a hand in creating the injustice we seek to eradicate. If sin does not exist in the orthodox sense, then it means we are/have to be more responsible with our choices, with our agreements, with our activism. It means we cannot rely on some myth of some eternal stain – that we somehow can change things. If, we work together, not against each other.