New Look at the 7 Deadly Sins

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I’ve been thinking about the so-called 7 Deadly Sins.  I’ve been thinking that perhaps it’s time to revamp the list.  After all, Pope Gregory revised an older list to come up with the traditional 7 in the 6th century. 

First of all, I know lots of folks have trouble with the word “sins.”  Let’s move beyond that by saying there are things people do that hurt themselves, others and God’s world, and a traditional way to describe those actions is “sins.”  In my theology, sins are not deadly because committing them sends the sinner straight to hell, do not pass go, do not collect $200, because I don’t believe in hell.  However, I do believe people can do things that are deadly to human relationships, to human life, and to the survival of God’s creation.  So I’ve been toying with this new list:

Aggression

Callousness (including disregard for the suffering of others, and conscious refusal to act when action is necessary)

Cruelty

Denial

Entitlement (encompassing lack of gratitude, unexamined privilege, selfishness and arrogance)

Prejudice (including all forms of closed-mindedness, deciding without exploring, and judgment without understanding)

Tribalism (xenophobia, jingoism, white and every other kind of supremacy, and super-patriotism)

I prefer these to the traditional 7 because these imply a particular action or set of actions – or inactions.  The original list of 7, for example, includes wrath.  Sometimes the feeling, the emotion of wrath is appropriate.  What matters is what you do with it.  Do you lash out cruelly?  Do you attack aggressively?  The old list also includes pride, which can be a very positive quality – depending on what you do.

I also prefer this new list because these are the sins that break down connections, that deny our oneness with each other and our world.  That is what is deadly to humanity, and to our planet.   

What do you think?  What’s missing?

4 Comments

  1. Vivian Volz

    Fri 13th Sep 2013 at 10:30 am

    Amen! I especially like replacing “wrath” and “pride” with behavior-based sins. You’re right – a righteous wrath can be very motivating in a good direction. And calling pride a sin has been a switch with which many good young girls in the South (and elsewhere, but I can only speak for where I grew up) have had their self-confidence whipped down. Amen!

    Reply
  2. Anne Towler

    Fri 13th Sep 2013 at 11:18 am

    What about “American Exceptionalism”? Is that under pride, tribalism? Or is it just part of our American identity? Now Obama and Putin are debating it. I like the discussion.

    Reply
  3. Cornelia Cyss Crocker

    Fri 13th Sep 2013 at 11:36 am

    What an interesting idea, what a thought-provoking list.
    How might that play out as a sermon series for Lent?

    Reply
  4. The Rev. Dr. Joanne Whitt

    Sat 14th Sep 2013 at 11:32 am

    Anne, I’d put it under tribalism.

    Reply

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