Cardinal sins: conscience of society

15-07-2022

Christian Life

Enny de Bruijn, RD

Photo RD

Nowadays, it seems everyone is shouting at the top of their lungs that others are doing things wrong. Moral reflection is of vital importance. Making more rules and being constantly stricter is not the way to live together. We need an inner compass.

The seven deadly sins and virtues can help us with that. For centuries in Europe, they shaped morality, the way of thinking about good and evil. Now, in this secular age, they still remind us of our society's classical and Christian roots.

Our sins often seem to take the upper hand. On the other hand, virtues seem to be wiped out entirely, especially in our secular society, which is now being increasingly disrupted by times of crisis. But the memory of sins and virtues has not disappeared. We realise that pride, anger and greed are wrong. We know that justice, courage and love are good. Christians and non-Christians can often find each other on this point, providing opportunities for conversation.

Here are a few examples that show that sins and virtues still play an essential role, even in our secular society.

1. Superbia - pride

A few notable quotes from Dutch Covid press conferences of last year: "We are "jabbing" our way out of this crisis." "It [Johnson & Johnson, ed.] is an ideal vaccine if you want to be done after just one injection." "We have it all in our own hands whether we bend it back in the right direction or if we let it get out of control. We have it all in our own hands." In retrospect, many experience this kind of social engineering as pride in disguise.

2. Avaritia - Greed

A tweet from Dutch politician Gert-Jan Segers, May 2021: "In the year that Booking(.com) received over 100 million euros in state aid, its top players paid over 28 million euros to themselves. Shameless. It is what the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy 2000 years ago: The love for money is the root of all evil." We witness the general outcry about this kind of thing. In our society, we still consider greed to be a grave sin.

3. Luxuria - Unchastity

Unchastity seems to be fully accepted in this world. However, human sexuality linked to abuse of power is not allowed. That is what the #MeToo movement is all about: exposing abuse in the movie industry, the world of sports, the church, and politics. Consider the case of Dutch politician Dion Graus (PVV), who forced his ex-wife to have sex with other men. Another example is the case of Dutch politician Sidney Smeets (D66). Underage boys accused him of sexually transgressive behaviour.

4. Invidia - Jealousy

Comparing yourself to others – that is what social media seems to be for. It is no wonder that jealousy is the sin that runs rampant there. People post photoshopped images, success stories, and extraordinary experiences. The result can be envy. "Why do they have all this while I don't?" Envy also exists between different groups in society, for example, regarding measures about Covid. "Why are they allowed to do while I am not?" But many people recognise - deep down in their hearts - that jealousy is not a very fruitful emotion.

5. Gula - Gluttony

Overeating and excessive drinking are pretty common in the Western world: 50% of all Europeans are overweight. But it is not widely accepted: in our time, gluttony is definitely seen as a sin. Perhaps it is the gravest sin of all. Being thin is the norm. Wasting food is a great evil. Hoarding is bad, considering our opinion of people who emptied the stores of toilet paper.

So, we do it; we buy and consume too much! But at the same time, we condemn it. It is the secular version of what Paul writes: "The good that I want, I do not do."

6. Ira - Anger

Lately, people everywhere have been angry about everything. Angry because of Covid restrictions, angry at the unvaccinated, and angry at their governments. But when anger turns into violence, we know very well that this is wrong. People are beaten up. Demonstrations get out of hand. And sometimes street violence even results in deaths. After every incident, the general reaction is disgust. It is "absolutely unacceptable". And yet the virtue of self-control often proves to be an unattainable goal.

7. Acedia - Sloth

Laziness appears in many guises. Today, the most notable example is perhaps the ease with which people keep hurling their opinions into the world without adequately studying the facts. Just think of the claims that there is no excess mortality due to Covid. Covid is no worse than the flu, after all. The truth gets lost in this cauldron of opinions. Many people no longer bother to search for the truth. We would rather pass short-sighted judgements from the comfort of our homes than speak to each other with wisdom and courage.

This article was translated by CNE.news and previously published in Dutch daily Reformatorisch Dagblad on December 10th, 2021.

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