Saturday, January 31, 2009

Is the Crunch a Catholic? The Seven Deadly Sins and the Credit Crunch

Though the Catholic church seems to have recently mislaid its moral compass, it was not always so. Long before they were linked to the churches own financial scandal, the Seven Deadly Sins were commended as a medieval precursor of PSHE. Since nothing else seems to be working, gimme some old time religion....

Greed is the desire for material wealth or gain, ignoring the realm of the spiritual. It is also called Avarice or Covetousness.

Gluttony is an inordinate desire to consume more than that which one requires.

Envy is the desire for others' traits, status, abilities, or situation.

Hang on, I thought these were drafted in the 4th century? It all sounds strangely familiar. All you need to do is add 'marketing' to link Envy to the other two, and you have consumer capitalism. You could draw other lines from Gluttony to the obesity problem, or global warming, and one from Greed to Thatcherism.

Lust is an inordinate craving for the pleasures of the body. where were we? Oh yes. That makes 4 sins which are about having stuff we don't currently possess, which is the engine room of consumerism. When this instinct spills over into relationships you get affairs, rape, and a whole load of stuff which stems from seeing people no longer as people, but as means to satisfy our own desires. Meanwhile the tabloids print pictures of naked women opposite a story on a sex offender and never do the maths.

Pride is excessive belief in one's own abilities, that interferes with the individual's recognition of
the grace of God. It has been called the sin from which all others arise. Pride is also known as Vanity.

I don't know if phrases like "we have abolished boom and bust" would count, or a consistent habit of blaming our economic woes on the USA (whatever happened to the special relationship?). One of the many troubles with pride is that, because you never admit to any mistakes, you never learn from them. So much energy is put into maintaining a public facade of competence that we tie ourselves, and others, in knots.

And before we point the finger (oops, too late), it's not just politicians who do this. When did you last read a blog post where, after the comments, the author writes "sorry everyone, I'm obviously talking complete nonsense, you are right and I was wrong."

Anger is manifested in the individual who spurns love and opts instead for fury. It is also known as Wrath.

Seeing the protests around Europe in the last few days, I wonder if we could do with a bit more anger. We've probably got enough going around, but we misdirect it - the middle classes at Jonathan Ross, the young at each other. Anger is a great agent for change if it's directed at the right things, but much of ours is blind fury, a catharsis of our own feelings rather than moved by compassion and a sense of justice.

Sloth is the avoidance of physical or spiritual work.

At last! A sin recognised by the government. Unfortunately this is one we're going to have to get used to. The recession is good news for the slothful, as it's much easier to blend in with the rest of us. Not the best time to launch a welfare-to-work push, though I guess if it fails nobody will notice (see Pride).

The avoidance of spiritual work is perhaps the more serious. Who we are - as individuals and as a society - is to a large extent what we have decided to be, or what we have let ourselves become. We can be proud, greedy and angry, or we can be humble, generous and kind. We have a choice, daily, over which way to go. The path of least resistance leads to all of the above, the road less travelled goes to that old place of myth and legend, Virtue.

And here are the 7 virtues: Faith, Hope, Love/Charity, Courage, Restraint, Justice, and, um, Prudence. It would be interesting to sit down with this list and Obama's inauguration speech and tick them off, one by one, but that's another post. (Meanwhile if you'd rather just have a giggle, go here.) Plenty of money is currently being thrown around to fix our sputtering economies, but we also need to address the questionable morality which got us here. If the debt crunch is at root a moral problem, then how do we fix that?

this is a cross post from Touching Base, a weekly column hosted by the Wardman Wire.

1 comment:

  1. I don't think anger is a sin, and it needs to be distinguished from wrath (which is a sin). If anger was a sin then we'll have to let go of the idea that Jesus was without it...