Seven Deadly Sins, One Presidential Election
Pride, envy, greed, and the rest all rear their heads for 2020.
Sin always seeks an opportunity to push into our lives. Don’t “make room for the devil,” the apostle Paul warns (Eph. 4:27, NRSV throughout). But election season offers Satan sprawling acreage on which to trap and tempt.
One tool Paul and other biblical writers employed to help Christians fend off temptation was the simple act of listing sins we might commit. There are more than a dozen “vice lists” in the New Testament, modeled on the ancient Greco-Roman “ethical catalogue” and covering everything from murder in 1 Timothy 1:9 to Ephesians 5:4’s “obscene, silly, and vulgar talk.”
The best-known vice list arrived later in the Christian tradition. The seven deadly sins—wrath, sloth, pride, envy, greed, gluttony, and lust—as we now list them came to us in the Western church through Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century, Pope Gregory the Great seven centuries prior, and a mystic named Evagrius two centuries before that. These aren’t the “‘deadliest’ sins or the worst crimes against humanity,” explained Calvin College philosophy professor Rebecca DeYoung, who researches virtues and vices, in a brief history of the list. They’re rather “the most familiar, recurring pitfalls everybody deals with sooner or later.” The 2020 election gives occasion to deal with them all.
Wrath is the most obvious, perhaps. Anger itself isn’t a sin, but this wrath is not plain anger. It’s bitterness indulged and accommodated (Eph. 4:26), made into a habit of mind that colors our encounters with those frustrating people on the other side who can’t or won’t see what seems to us the clear …
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January 19, 2021