I recently attended a very powerful retreat about community healing and freedom. After one session I overheard a friend pondering one of our topics—”What is corporate sin?”—and I have been mulling this question over ever since. I don’t believe I’ll be atoning for the sins of my parents and forefathers the way some Old Testament passages state. Yet, I am increasingly aware that consequences of and tendencies toward sin can establish a long lasting legacy in families, businesses, and even social or religious organizations. A history of abuse can easily become a family tradition if no one stops the cycle. Immoral business practices can plague employees, customers, and work efficiency for years to come. Even the small things, like a tendency to speak hurtfully to one another, usually has a snowball effect within a community, because one defensive reaction to their pain or numbness usually results in more of the same.
Corporate sin doesn’t mean that it’s everyone’s fault when one person slips up. Corporate sin means that it’s everyone’s fault if we keep silent when sin, large or small, has its way within our corporate body.
Everyone wants to feel like they’re a part of something. Together, we’re cogs and wheels that make up a machine, which produces a product, serves others, or simply allows us to coexist in love. But that means our ownership is just as binding when our output becomes hurt or distrust. This is where I find my definition of corporate sin: when we, as a body, keep quiet and fail to toss ourselves headlong into the gears so as to cease a sin-ridden system. This puts equal responsibility on everyone’s shoulders, whether or not I was around when the corporate body began to wander off of Christ’s loving path. Just like we share our triumphs, we share the error of inaction in the face of sin, so the call is strong to change habits, be truth-tellers, and act as we feel led—even when the consequences are unknown and potentially messy.
Contributed by Catherine Olson, Reedwood Friends