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Saturday, June 11, 2016

Han (In Community, Not Solo)

               "For the past two thousand years, we have inadequately treated the victims of sin by neglecting to formulate doctrines for them while they walked through the valley of the shadow of death" (Park, 2001, 2).  One would think that over the course of this much time an adjustment might have been made, but this is not the case.  Instead, the church has become so firmly rooted in a doctrine of soteriology that pardons sin without regard to the suffering of the sinned against that their pain has nearly ceased to exist in the view of the community.  This essay will address the concept of han: "the suffering of the innocent who are caught in the wicked situation of helplessness" (Park, 2001, 47), the responsibility of the church to come alongside victims, and the potential result of an evolving soteriology that recognizes both sides of sin.
            "Han is a physical, mental, and spiritual repercussion to a terrible injustice done to a person, eliciting a deep ache, a wrenching of all the organs, an intense internalized or externalized rage, a vengeful obsession, and the sense of helplessness and hopelessness" (Park, 2001, 48).  No one wants to experience han and yet the human life experience often comes littered with moments of aching and wrenching that cannot be avoided because of the sinful choices of others that, when thrust upon the innocent, change the course of those lives without much, if any, input from the helpless.  "In the life and faith of ancient Israel, the wounded and weak did not characteristically submit in silence to their suffering, as though their wound and weakness denied them voice.  On the contrary, such circumstance appears to have evoked a vigorous voice of protest which, in its utterance, is a voice of hope that believes that the present circumstance is not only untenable but can and must be changed" (Park, 2001, 34). "YHWH does not require sacrifice, Sabbath, or fasting but justice for the poor, the widow, the orphan, the immigrant, and all who are vulnerable to the rapacity of the powerful and prosperous.  On this view then sin consists in what is done to the neighbor; it refers to the affliction and humiliation of the most vulnerable in our midst" (Park, 2001, 112).  "Clearly, in the Gospels - and indeed in the entire Bible - we are told that God stands closer to the disenfranchised than to the powerful" (Park, 2001, 64).  And yet, as the church today, we have instead embraced a hierarchal model of power that often focuses narrowly on the forgiveness of sins, as defined by the powerful, at the expense of the marginalized.  In the process, the church has alienated the poor and powerless, heaping insult upon injury, han upon han, essentially allowing perpetrators to go on sinning so that grace may increase (see Romans 6:1), as if that is what grace is there for, all the while insisting that victims humbly forgive or go to hell. "Demanding repentance of sin from the abused, the hungry, and the humiliated is not good news, but absurd news" (Park, 2001, 1).
            There may be some confusion about the responsibility of the church.  It seems that we have mistakenly accepted that idea that, "ignorance is a value to be sought, for it also preserves innocence and avoids sin" (Park, 2001, 63).  Instead of coming alongside the suffering, the church has turned a blind eye, creating a form of cheap grace, allowing, "the violation of the neighbor (to be) atoned for by virtue of one's relation to the religious establishment that is quite willing to dispense this forgiveness without requiring the inconvenience of dealing directly with those one has wronged" (Park, 2001, 112).  This is a win-win situation for both the church and the perpetrator.  The church exercises power, supplying the necessary forgiveness and grace that the sinner requires for salvation, and the debt is often paid in financial resources, loyalty to the church, and adherence to whatever social structure is deemed appropriate.  "Sin comes to be highlighted as the violation of the religious order, as a failure to comply with one's responsibilities in the narrow religious sphere" (Park, 2001, 112).  This is convenient for everyone involved, except, of course, for the victim who continues to accumulate tally marks in the loss column.  There is much to be said of the importance of forgiveness in regard to salvation, but "the theological category of sin is not adequate to describe the full range of human alienations" (Park, 2001, 73).  This leaves those who have suffered at the hands of others asking, "What is salvation for me?"  "If confession is the cry of the sinner, then lament is the cry of the victim" (Park, 2001, 168).  Interestingly, all alienation is remedied "by the restoration of communication and relationship" (Park, 2001, 61).  The church has abdicated its responsibility to victims and thus restricted salvation to only some, as opposed to all.  "Salvation' or 'reconciliation' entails not only repentance and the receiving of forgiveness     (where appropriate) but more basically a process of healing that includes remembering their experience of being refused, grieving their loss, accepting their vulnerability, forgiving themselves for being so vulnerable, seeking restitution (where possible), and learning to reconnect and trust again" (Park, 2001, 74-75).  Redefining salvation in such a way may be somewhat inconvenient to the church, but it cannot be avoided if the church is to be responsible.  "Much modern liturgy does not name but avoids mention of victimizing life experiences" (Park, 2001, 169), but if the church will not become the entity that brings healing, where is the hope?  The voices of the weak and wounded must matter to us.  Walking alongside them is the way of Jesus.
            Exploring an evolving soteriology that recognizes both sides of sin is not an easy sell, but the right thing usually isn't.  It is, perhaps, problematic that society as a whole, followed by the church specifically, has fallen into a dysfunctional mode of addictional living that does not ordinarily recognize the value of the sinned against.  People are viewed as commodities, and broken commodities are not generally desirable.  "To know shame is to experience ourselves as deficient and ultimately rejectable" (Park, 2001, 77), and most people have known shame in some form or another.  "The category of brokenness emerges from the fact that human beings are by nature very vulnerable" (Park, 2001, 74).  With this in mind, the church would do well to remember that all people are broken people with something valuable to offer the community.  "The field of popular education has shown that if people perceive themselves to be powerless, they must be engaged at the level of their own experience if they are going to be animated toward change" (Park, 2001, 97).  The key to this is that when the church engages people, wherever they are, change is possible.  A common observation is that when we walk alongside the broken, becoming agents of healing and change; the result is a community of people who love more deeply and aspire to then become the healers that others need.  "Human persons need others.  We need to be wanted and loved, and we need to love and have our love accepted by others" (Park, 2001, 78).  For every victim who becomes a perpetrator, we must ask ourselves, "What if someone had walked alongside this person, in their pain, before this became a cyclical situation?" "Vicious cycles are broken, because of daring human intervention on the part of those who are perpetrators/victims of destructive behavior" (Park, 2001, 40).  What if we broke these cycles and created new, positive ones, simply by reaching out in love to bring value to the lives of both sinners and the sinned against?
            "We are looking for some meaning because we earnestly believe that the only thing worse than suffering is meaningless suffering" (Park, 2001, 124).  As people, all of us have experienced pain.  We are all broken.  As the church, we have the responsibility to come alongside victims, bringing the good news that salvation is for everyone and that it breaks the bonds of alienation, regardless of fault.  Loving like this opens the door to healing and restoration that brings value to all lives, solidifying what it means to be a part of one body, the body of Christ, the community of God's people, working together to bring and recognize redemption even in the midst of pain and suffering.

Work Cited
Park, Andrew Sung, ed. The Other Side of Sin: Woundedness from the Perspective of the Sinned-Against. State University of New York Press, 2001.

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