Monday, March 10, 2008

New and Improved Sin

Greed. Lust. Envy. Gluttony. Sloth. Anger. Pride.

The Seven Deadly sins. Serious business, these sins. According to the Catholic Church, commission of these sins will land your soul in mortal peril. That's hell, y'all, and I hear word that it's a rough neighborhood.

I note this because the Catholic Church is thinking of updating the Seven Deadly Sins. I heard a story about this on BBC World News and I must admit that it got me thinking. For one thing, the standard of the Seven Deadly Sins is pretty damned high. I think of myself as a fairly decent – dare I say, moral – person and I'm pretty sure that I commit one of these deadly sins on a weekly basis. Get your mind out of the gutter.........I'm speaking of anger, pride, and envy. I'd guess that most of us go down one of the seven deadly paths pretty regularly. So it strikes me that the update isn't necessarily a function of success as in, "Good news, folks. We've conquered the Seven Deadly Sins and it's time to up the ante." In other words, no one is making the argument that, having overcome the Seven Deadly Sins, we now require a new standard for good behavior. Thus the all-new, updated, Seven Deadly Sins.

But modern life demands progress and so......The new Seven Deadly sins are distinctly modern. In no particular order, they are:
- pollution
- obscene wealth
- drug abuse
- genetic modification
- experimentation on humans
- causing poverty
- causing social injustice

What is most striking about the updated Seven Deadly Sins is that they are thoroughly modern; sins not available in the 7th century world of the Seven Deadly v. 1. And whereas the original Seven Deadly Sins were largely about individual behavior, the updated sins are about community or group behavior. Because, unless I miss my mark, it's nearly impossible to cause poverty on your very own. Chances are good that no single one of us can be blamed for pollution, though we all likely contribute.

All day long as I thought about sin (and I wasn't alone.......what's the deal with Elliot Spitzer?), I wondered if the original 7 deadlies wouldn't be able to accommodate the new and improved sins. Isn't the sin of obscene wealth a function of greed, gluttony, and pride? At the same time, where does the good old-fashioned sin of lust fit in with the new list? Is lust no longer sinful?

Though I understand the impulse to update, I think that I'm just not persuaded that we need an all-new Seven Deadly sins. In fact, I think that the notion of sin may very well be the problem. So in my home we just use the Golden Rule: Treat others as you would like to be treated. It's timeless, covers the individual and the community, and I think that it does the trick quite nicely.


Sharkb said...

Following the golden rule would tend to cut way back on the pollution, excessive wealth and so forth.

And what is up with Elliott Spitzer?

Jeffrey said...

Imagine, though, the sequel to "Seven" in just the right hands. I'm picturing Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman chasing Kevin Spacy around in their Toyota Prius, while Spacy kills people with piles of recyclable materials and mutated animals. Definite Oscar material, don't you think?

JAXTER said...

Perhaps instead of updating we need to simplify and it would seem you have the perfect formula. Treating others as you wish to be treated does cover everything and if more people subscribed I think there would be less poverty, starvation and on and on.

lumbab said...

You are right again. Following the golden rule should be the rule of thumb. It's what I teach my kid who unfortunately is finding out that not all kids follow the same rule.