In light of a previous post on Why is sin urbanized?, I thought I’d bring up its companion: if the deep sins of culture and the area of the biggest need is sometimes located in the inner city, then the cause of that problem is systemic evil and that problem is to be found in the suburbs. Suburban wealthy folk sometimes work in the inner city, so the story goes, make lots of money on the backs of the poor, and then commute home (on a safe train or in the inner sanctum of an SUV) to a nice home, on a safe block, with lots of wealthy neighbors. Their distance keeps them from seeing the problems they are creating; injustice is being systematized by their distance.
This, I contend, is a stereotype that whatever good it does release (and it does release some good) it masks just as much: sin is a problem bigger than crime-infested cities and money-grubbing suburbanites. (In fact, any careful study of figures actually shows that more urbanites are in prison or “caught” because the proportion of police are higher in the inner cities. This has all been said before.)
Don’t get me wrong: suburban flight is a serious issue; inner city issues are very important; care for the poor and marginalized is at the heart of a gospel compassion; systemic evil is to be fought.
But, the heart of sin cannot be exposed simply by blaming sectors of society.
Theologians have done lots of work pointing to the essence of sin: pride and others have catalogued the seven deadlies. I think the essence of sin is to be located in the Creation-Fall, and in Adam and Eve hiding from God, being shamed in one another’s presence, and fleeing East of Eden. In other words, if the goal of human existence is established in the “perichoretic dance” of God’s Triune persons, then the antithesis to that existence is to be found in the human attempt to establish themselves as Individualists instead of in union with God and communion with others. In other words, sin is the choice and disposition to spurn love of God and love of others. To limit sin to transgression of the Law is to narrow it too much, to turn it exclusively into legal status, and to narrow life to the judicial, and to turn “social ills” into “sector blaming” — sin is so profound it can only be understood from the nature of the perichoresis at the heart of God.