Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Seven Deadly Sins Revisited

Thomas’ blog alerted me to the seven new deadly sins. In grad school, I was playing at being a Medievalist (and did my thesis on the afterlife), so the seven deadly sins have been in my head for a while now. Well, I can always get six of them. I have to sit around and wait for God to tell me the one I’m forgetting – it’s never the same one. (I used to have my students come up with the seven dwarves just to see why I needed a prop to remind me. My students seemed to think I should know these things.) Anyway, the seven deadly sins are:

  • Pride
  • Greed
  • Lust
  • Envy
  • Wrath
  • Sloth
  • Gluttony

Notice that the first five are all sins of the soul. It’s a sin to lust after someone but not to transfer that sin into action. This might lead to some “I’ve already done it in my head; why not do it in my bed?” thinking, but, presumably, if you manage to avoid lust, you won’t be committing any sexual misdeeds.

The new “deadly sins” (I’m choking a bit as I’m typing this – hard to take seriously) are:

  • Pollution
  • Genetic engineering
  • Obscene riches
  • Drug abuse
  • Abortion
  • Social injustice
  • Pedophilia

At least one of these is ridiculous: if you are committing pedophilia, you’re already committing lust of some sort, so that’s repetitious.

All are societal issues. Time was, religion was between man and God, not man and mankind. Oh, I know the “Do unto others . . .” and the ten commandments, but, really, if you get your head on straight (“do unto others”), you’ll be trying to do what you think is right (given that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, you’ll fail). It seems to me that my religious beliefs are between me and God, not me and the EPA. Presumably, I’ll do the right thing.

And I think genetic engineering is the right thing, if used properly. I also think abortion is regrettable but the best option in some situations. What constitutes “obscene” riches is anybody’s guess, but at least I don’t have to worry about that one.

Also, it occurs to me that Arlo is in for some seriously hard time in Purgatory, what with that Alice's Restaurant incident of being a litterbug. While littering is a bad thing, for God's sake, it's not a deadly sin!

Social injustice needs to be defined a bit more. Am I at the giving or receiving end? Probably both, but social injustice tends to be a societal problem, not an individual one, and we can't help being a part of an imperfect society. Does this new "deadly sin" suggest that we are all tainted? Then why point it out? It's just not an individual issue.

I remember something about the body being a temple of God, but drug use (by which I'm assuming the reporter meant drug abuse) can be caused by a variety of things, often started relatively innocently -- a prescription taken as directed? a joint given to you by an uncle when you're a teenager? And what constitutes drugs that can be mortally abused? Do alcohol and tobacco count? How about coffee? Why are some drugs okay and others not? Again, this is a societal issue.

The first seven deadly sins make sense, maybe because they aren’t so picayune and getting between me and God. Luckily, I’m not Catholic. I’m not anything but a hopeful agnostic of the Christian variety. But maybe the Church should stick to matters of faith and trust God to guide the individual conscience. I'm reminded of Jesus' saying that people should "[r]ender to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." (Mark 12:17, KJV) While I don't expect everyone to listen to Jesus, I would expect it of the Church!


Anonymous said...

Have you ever read the book "Father Joe: The Man Who Saved My Soul" by Tony Hendra? I think you'd like it.

In it, Fr. Joseph Warrilow argues that all sin springs from one cause: selfishness. And I think he's right.

Snark said...

I haven't -- but from the title, it sounds reasonable. Also, I'm doomed, but that's a given. :P Even though I know I'm selfish and self-centered, I think it's wrong that I am.

Anonymous said...

The book is really more about friendship and finding your way in the world than about theology. It's one of my favorite books.