The Seven Modern Sins of the New World
Not too long ago – well, it seems like it wasn’t long ago, but I think it was 1995 – there was a movie with Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt called “Seven.” I actually didn’t see it because I don’t like movies where people get murdered. They scare me. Anyway, in this movie, Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt play the parts of detectives who investigate murders. And each of the murders can be traced back to one of the Seven Deadly Sins.
I’m not sure who compiled the list of these seven sins. Probably some minister with a lagging congregation who wanted to scare his congregation out of hell. At any rate, someone did make a list of these seven sins and now it seems to be credited to the Bible. Whatever. So let me ask you, do you know what the seven deadly sins are? Don’t answer out loud. I’m going to tell you. Here’s the list:
Now I don’t know about you, but I have my doubts that I could hang my name on any of those, being a saint and all. Right, Rosemary? But I do find that this is an interesting list of faults we could use to label some in our society. I won’t mention any names here.
Lately I’ve been more interested in a new revision of that list done by a religious leader named Canon Frederic Donaldson. So I’d like to share Canon Donaldson’s list and put each in perspective of the world in which we live today. These, then, are the Seven Modern Sins of the New World:
The first – politics without principles. Every day we witness a new revelation about elected officials attempting to live above the law, or worse to use the law for his or her own benefit. The most visible of those today might be Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey and his ‘Bridgegate’ scandal. Gov. Christie is under federal investigation for allowing his staff to punish his political opponents by closing portions of a very busy bridge span between New Jersey and New York. Or how about Paul Ryan’s proposed budget that seeks to restrict Medicare, reduce or eliminate Food Stamps, and repeal the Affordable Care Act. If that doesn’t qualify, how about politicians in states across the US who are seeking to restrict voting rights, or the 39 state legislatures who have voted more than 115 restrictions to women gaining reproductive health care or abortions. Politics without principles seems all too common these days. It certainly makes it difficult to think positively about politics in general.
The second – pleasures without conscience. Most of us like to do what makes us feel good. Unfortunately, what might make us feel good might not be good for us. Does it surprise any of us that the use of cocaine and heroin has increased sharply over the past few years? Now, I don’t use drugs – unless you count my cholesterol medication as a hard drug – so I have never experienced the way these are supposed to make one feel good. My view of this type of drug use, and we could call that a pleasure, is that it is enormously selfish and egocentric. There is no concern for others when that type of activity is engaged in. The same would be true for alcoholism. My father never seemed to be bothered or have a conscience about his abuse of alcohol that was tremendously harmful to our family both emotionally and financially. It was his pleasure without disturbing his conscience. Today, too many people engage in some activity that is designed to give them pleasure, and have no conscience regarding its harmful effects on others. Tragically, though, pleasure without conscience has left our jails and prisons full, our rehab and treatment centers overflowing, and individual lives and families in ruins. I wonder if that makes the user feel good?
The third – wealth without work. Most of my life I’ve been convinced that I was born to the wrong family. I’m almost positive that there was a mix-up at the hospital where I was born and I should have been a Rockefeller. Imagine how wonderful my life would be! But no, here I am a Lachina. Pitiful, isn’t it? During the last presidential election, I was curious to know exactly what Mitt Romney actually did for work. Did he ever punch a clock – in at 9, out by 5? So how did he get to the one per cent elite? And I keep asking myself how many others like him are afloat in this world. Men or women who gained their fortunes without ever working a day. Heirs to immense fortunes simply because of a name. Wealth without work often also means wealth without sharing. That, I think is an even sadder circumstance. If I like only one thing about this new Pope Francis, it’s that he really believes in spreading the wealth. Can you imagine how nervous the 2 percent of the wealthy who have 85 percent of the world’s wealth must be about now? You can’t help but snicker. And boy do I wish my name were Hilton.
The fourth – knowledge without character. Have you ever heard of Facebook? It currently has billions of users who seem to have enough time every day to scroll down entry after entry of idle chatter. It’s both ingenious and annoying at the same time. Why do I care that my friend Judith is having breakfast at a pancake house in Boston? Really? But the person behind all of that is a man named Mark Zuckerburg. Even though he stole the idea from some college friends and went on to make billions of dollars (that’s billion with a B), this man is brilliant about social media, and he uses that knowledge not for the good of humankind, but for his personal wealth. That he knows how to use his creation and brilliance to garner all our personal information for his own good – knowledge without character. That seems to me the antithesis of those who spend untold hours in an unknown laboratory trying desperately to find a cure of one of the many devastating diseases that plague our society. Knowledge with character, and knowledge without. There is such a stark difference.
The fifth – industry without morality. I almost feel sorry for the woman who has become the new CEO of General Motors. She has inherited a real nightmare. It seems that GM knew about defects in its automobiles years ago and did nothing about it. Countless accidents and even some deaths, and still GM issued no recall or admitted guilt or compensated victims. Would we call that industry without morality? Or how about Walmart stores who pay most employees minimum wage for less than 32 hours so they are not required to pay benefits, and at the same time have their products manufactured in developing countries where factory workers are paid less than one dollar a day. Where we might call that immoral, companies like Walmart, BP, Nike, Jockey Underwear and others call it taking care of their shareholders. I think I like the Costco approach much better. It’s the 180 degree opposite of Walmart.
The sixth – science without humanity. Did you know that one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world that produces one of the most effective drugs for the treatment of HIV infection charges individuals and insurance providers more than $700 a month for a drug that costs the manufacturer about 11 cents a tablet? We are told it’s because it took large amount of money for the research and development of the drug and the company wants to get all that back and more before the patent expires. We all say, “That’s awful!!” Sadly, though, it’s very, very common in the world of science. The quest for profit is far more important than the quest to cure or assist or uplift humankind. Now, I’m not a scientist. The only class in high school that I barely passed with a D was Chemistry. But I find it hard to believe that there cannot be a core principle of what’s best for humanity in each of the scientific endeavors that challenge us.
And last, and certainly not least – worship without sacrifice. We are a people who love free things. You don’t believe me? Just go to any Costco store around lunchtime and see how many people crowd around every table offering free samples of stuff. Sometimes I think there are people who are there solely for the purpose of having a free lunch – it’s like a warehouse dim sum. It annoys me. But what I find very often is that we have the same approach to living out our faith. We want a free ride. The truth is, worship isn’t free. The very lifeblood of this congregation requires a sacrifice of its members. You are asked to give up some hard earned cash, you are asked to give up some of your limited time (of course, I know it’s all worth it when you come to hear me, isn’t it?), and you are asked to give up your oneness to become a part of a whole. Not very many people in a fellowship like Skagit UU think of any of this as a sacrifice, but it is. If you are not willing to invest a portion of your life for the well being of this church, I can promise you one thing – this church won’t survive. You can have no worship, no congregational life, no viable church, no ministry without personal sacrifice. And if you don’t believe me, ask anyone who has belonged to a church that has died. Trust me there are many, and the number grows daily. Worship requires sacrifice. Remember that.
So there you have it. The Seven Modern Sins of the New World: politics without principles; pleasures without conscience; wealth without work; knowledge without character; industry without morality; science without humanity; and worship without sacrifice. It sure gives us all something to think about, doesn’t it?
In the Baptist Church we say, “Can I get an Amen.” But I won’t ask you to do that. I’ll just say, “And may it be so.”