My Modern & Less-Deadly Seven Deadly Sins
There’s a presidential election afoot, and that means the moral arbiters are out to play. How curious Americans are: We seem only to be concerned with the rectitude of our politicians when they’re on a ballot. The issue of probity only becomes salient when we feel our civil duties have been activated once more and it’s time for us to awaken from our slumber of indolence and apathy in order to fulfill our end of the bargain — our end of that great social contract to which every American supposedly accedes, but doesn’t really understand and therefore fails to uphold.
This column is not about the ineptitude of Americans, I swear; the madness and inanity of this election season just has me all worked up.
My point: Morality is center stage right now; the problem is, its audience has different angles of its face, resulting in conflicting opinions on its appearance. This is nothing new; the question of right and wrong, good and evil, has plagued humankind since Cain couldn’t be quite sure if throwing that rock at Able would be worth the stint in a state penitentiary.
With so many people spouting their ideas on so many things, I thought it would be useful to revitalize that great list most accurately outlining humanity’s turpitude: the seven deadly sins.
Written in the fourth century CE, the seven deadly sins, also referred to as the cardinal sins or the capital vices, have long been considered — by Catholics, and by many other Christians — to summarize best those qualities and actions most corrosive to one’s life. Don’t go to any form of Christian Bible for the sins; you won’t find them there. The list, originally eight-strong, was a brainchild of Evagrius Ponticus, a respected fourth century monk and theologian, according to “Sacred Origins of Profound Things,” by Charles Panati. Eventually, Pope Gregory the Great would shorten the list by one in the sixth century.
I take only minimal issue with the seven sins of: pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed, and sloth. Though I tend to be at odds with Catholics on most areas, “some” of their sins make a lot of sense.
The sins aren’t always punishable, I don’t think; there are times and places for these so-called transgressions.
Sometimes, we need to be lazy as we’ve not taken the time to slow down in ages and we’ve forgotten there’s air in need of breathing, flowers in need of sniffing, and childlike wonder in need of carrying out.
Envy is often positive as it can be the catalyst that moves us to pursue our ambitions.
Anger occasionally must reach a boiling point to force honesty or vital change.
Lust, when not the sole foundation, is a necessary ingredient for a relationship, I would argue. We should lust for our partner; it means we still want all of them, even their less desirable bits.
At times, we must be greedy — with our love or our energy, for instance — because we’ve tolerated other’s exploitation and manipulation for far too long.
Gluttony seems to be a prerequisite for binge-watching Netflix, and on occasion we need to eat a whole pack of oreos because we ran three miles just yesterday and the world is an unjust place where bad things happen to good people, thus rendering eating your feelings nothing but a form of therapy.
Pride can have virtue, of course. Pride in our work or nation or family means we care; and caring is an excellent antidote to that quality of sloth about which the Catholics seem so worried.
I’ll also add that I’m not comfortable with the reasoning that informs some of the sins, particularly lust. Though many Catholics will counter what I’m about to say with the argument that I’m simply “misunderstanding” him, St. Thomas Aquarius, that great interpreter of the seven deadly sins, was clearly against masturbation and homosexuality, even to the point, many critics argue, that he found rape less troublesome than such an innocuous act or lifestyle.
I don’t hold this against Aquarius, or any of the early Church’s thinkers who endorsed such lunacy, for that matter; they were merely adopting convictions one would expect of monks and theologians living in the 1200s — they were quacking as all good ducks should quack.
Generally, however, I think there’s some truth to the seven deadly sins. I, of course, do not accept that conscious and continued implementation of the capital vices affords one a free ticket to hell — or to purgatory for our Catholic brothers and sisters — but it is a relatively solid list of human depravities to ponder on a rainy day.
I’ve decided to modernize the list because I’m just arrogant enough to think I can; however, I should say the Catholic Church has already offered an informal, updated version of the sins. According to Adam R. Shannon — a talented writer and entertaining blogger who, for inexplicable reasons, has an obsession with the history of the cardinal sins — Monsignor Gianfranco Girotti said in a 2008 interview with the Vatican newspaper that there were new modern social sins that required mentioning. Though not from the pope himself, this is a list that certainly has merits.
Girotti’s list is: destroying the environment, genetic manipulation, obscene wealth, creating poverty, drug trafficking, immoral scientific experimentation, and violation of the fundamental rights of human nature.
My list lacks the significance of Girotti’s, I suppose you could say.
Nevertheless, here it is: leaving the cursor blinking on your iPhone so your friend thinks you’re still typing, wearing leggings as pants, telling people how you really feel when they ask how you are, using a comma where a semicolon is required, choosing Dunkin’ Donuts over Starbucks, leaving up an umbrella even though it’s stopped drizzling, and never having read a John Irving book.
Don’t let other people, ungodly and unworthy just like you, say what type of sinner you are, readers.
It’s the season of morality right now, and the temptation to draw lines in the sand for others is understandable, but let us remember humility is one of Catholicism’s seven virtues — the ying to the sins’ yang. I take no issue with this virtue; in fact, I shall become its great champion — it seems to be quite near its death with the likes of certain political loudmouths running about the nation.
Just like when Christ says in Mark 3:29, “Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin,” my eternal sin is straightforward, also.
Don’t ever think you know anything.