What is Sin?

I just viewed Mel Gibson’s riveting 1990 performance of Hamlet. At its core, Shakespeare’s tragic masterpiece is an examination of the effects of sin that results in mental illness and death.

Sin is often too narrowly defined in Judeo-Christian theology by the narrow minded. Narrower still, where sin does not exist, in materialist secularism.

Sin is so much more than the breaking of ten profound, yet rudimentary commandments etched in stony tablets and stonier hearts.

Sin is simply the source of pathology.

Whether physical, mental or of the spirit, it is all the same.

Even genetically based sin-induced pathology is suspect under the new science of epigenetics where the sins of parents may be expressed in subsequent generations. Genes can apparently be turned on or off by our thoughts, actions and reactions (sin or virtue) and passed on to our children.

The consequences of unresolved sin are therefore, inescapable regardless of world view, religious orientation or whatever.

Then, well-being is the product of overcoming the source of illness, that which I broadly define as sin.

“To be or not to be”. Hamlet famously soliloquizes on depression and suicide, the modern psychological equivalent of the common cold. Is depression the consequence of sin? Well. . . Check the definition.

Hamlet’s father’s Ghost reveals that it is not his murder that is to be mourned, but its unfortunate timing . His ghost is stuck in this world, caught unprepared before he could repent of his unresolved sins. Later, Hamlet is given an opportunity to avenge his father’s murder by killing his Uncle, the murderer. He defers specifically in order to achieve a ‘just revenge’ because his Uncle is, at that moment, in the act of repentance for which Hamlet assumes his Uncle will be forgiven and therefore be rewarded in Heaven despite his grievous sins.

It’s an interesting way to re-think sin and repentance. If sin is nothing more than the cause of illness, it should not evoke feelings of superiority or holier-than-thou judgement or shame any more than a physician judges the victim of a heart attack or diabetes. It exists wholly independent of religious beliefs, doctrines or dogma.

Or does it? Do doctors routinely judge their patient’s for their sins of unhealthy, cholesterol or sugar-infused lifestyles? Is an unhealthy lifestyle a sin? Depending on your definition, yes.