In accordance with Vatican II teachings and in the spirit of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC), the Catholic Church in Thailand seeks to undertake its evangelizing mission through the triple dialogue with cultures, religions, and the poor. Hence, it is important to study the encounter between Church teaching and Thai popular culture regarding sin (bap), as both influence Thai Catholics’ understanding of their faith within their context. This study examines the use of language associated with bap reflected in popular expressions (e.g. sayings, folktales, songs, films, and TV dramas) and in Catholic catechetical and pastoral texts. It reveals the profound Buddhist influence on the vocabulary the Church uses for sin.
Thus, the study’s main aim is to provide a critical comparative analysis of the concept of sin (bap) in Thai popular culture and in official Catholic teaching. It seeks to understand how sin (bap) has been articulated in both Thai cultural context and in Catholic Church teaching. It shows the similarities and differences in what Thai popular culture and Catholic teaching emphasize.
Both traditions share the common view of bap as interior-personal reality based on personal volition. Both also emphasize the effect of bap on both individual and social life. Bap initially comes from an individual but later affects others in the wider community or society in the forms of kwam thuk (pain and suffering in life) brought about by the law of karma and a break of personal relationship to God and disruption of harmony and relationship within communities. Furthermore, this objective dimension is seen in relation to violating religious law, whether karma or God’s commandments and Church precepts. However, though both traditions affirm the social nature and consequence of bap, Buddhist-influenced Thai popular culture considers this in terms of its effects on family and succeeding generations, while Catholic teaching emphasizes broken human relations within community and society. Moroever, the transcendent dimension is present in differing ways; in Buddhist thought, not to a personal God but through the search for strive for nibbana and in Christianity, to the loving God incarnate in Jesus Christ.
This critical analysis of Thai popular culture and Catholic teaching intends to contribute toward an inculturated catechetical formation regarding bap. For instance, this formation would highlight the wider context of human sinfulness, the interpersonal as well as structural effects of sin, and the image of the God of mercy and compassion rather than of law and punishment. Though limited in scope, it illustrates how contemporary evangelization in Thailand could be undertaken by the Catholic Church in the spirit of the FABC’s triple dialogue.