Sin and Han

Right now, I am reading Andrew Sung Park, The Wounded Heart of God: The Asian Concept of Han and the Christian Doctrine of Sin, and I am convinced that Christian theology immediately needs to take up the concept of han. The basic relation between sin and han is parallel to that between oppressor and oppressed. Where sin is wilful harm done to others, han is the anger and bitterness of the victims. Han and sin are not mapped out onto discrete groups of individuals — a person’s han might erupt into the oppression of others, as for example when an oppressed worker beats his wife.

By focussing exclusively on sin, Park argues, Christianity has wound up on the side of the oppressors, absolving them of their sins without doing anything to resolve the han of their victims. I would also add that the lack of some concept parallel to han has led to all kinds of logical inconsistencies, most notably the endless attempt to figure out how subsequent generations are morally accountable for inheriting original sin. If the “messed-up-ness” into which we are born is thought in terms of han rather than sin, a position that seems to me to be more consistent with the patristic “ransom” theory of the atonement that has been so influential on liberation theologies, then that problem simply goes away.

6 thoughts on “Sin and Han

  1. This seems potentially useful in the area of sex: instead of focusing on purity ethics (this or that act or attitude is impure, staining, unworthy etc.) one would think more in terms of fucked-upness, the way somatic/emotional misadventures can generate and propagate ill-effects. Han is what occurs when you don’t have a “learning experience” (take the knocks and move onwards, ever onwards in search of happiness!) but rather the experience of being damaged, having your capacity for sympathy or openness towards others reduced, becoming angry with all men or all women, etc.

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