The Seven Deadly Sins

Take courage – now there’s a sport
An invitation to the state of rigor mort
And purity – a noble yen
And very restful every now and then
(from "The Seven Deadly Virtues," Alan Jay Lerner–Camelot)

The question has been raised in a number of places across the Internet: why do Christians consider sexual sin to be so much worse than other sins. Why, for instance, are we so upset about Ted Haggard’s sexual sin, when envy and pride and anger and  greed and sloth and gluttony are sins, too?

I have some thoughts about the matter, and I offer them without meaning to judge anyone in particular.

The trouble with lust is that it is so easily hidden.

Let’s take gluttony as an opposing example. Unless you happen to also be bulimic, gluttony leads almost inevitably to being fat. Please accept my testimony as a full-figured woman, for I know what I’m talking about. And although there are medical reasons for being overweight, and heredity plays a part, that’s not my point here. If I am an overeater, it shows. (Believe me, it shows.)

I don’t like the word glutton. It sounds unattractive. It makes me thing of Henry VIII pitching animal bones aside as he grabs for the next one on the banquet table.

Since we’re talking about Henry, here’s a picture of him toward the end of his life, sporting a 54 inch waist.

It’s hard to hide this particular sin.

If I were to stand up and preach healthy eating to my congregation, to tell them that they are abusing God’s temple by being overweight, to tell them that their joint problems and diabetes are a result of their sinful actions, I would be hooted right out of the church because I am in no better shape than a lot of them. My sin, if we want to call it that, is right out there on the surface.

What Pastor Ted did was different, and herein lies the problem. He preached and preached and preached the value of heterosexual marriage over and against the "sin" of homosexuality. He was concerned about it because of his own desires, but because those desires were not obvious on his person, he got away with it for a long, long time.

Here’s my problem with Pastor Ted. Instead of facing up to what he considers his sinful nature (and what I would call who he really is), he encouraged his huge congregation, a church with a membership equal to the population of one of our neighboring towns, to live in a particular strict way while he traveled out of town to break his own rules, repeatedly, yet maintained an idealized family life for public consumption.

He has offered up his own explanation for what drove him to keep the secret: pride. And some have suggested that he had reason to wish to maintain his financial empire: greed, perhaps? But I would like to add another sin to the list and ask, where do we categorize abuse of power? It was power over others–his staff, his family, his congregation–that allowed him the freedom to travel out of town overnight to "write." It was an abuse of the "headship" so beloved by the religious right.

Now, in a fascinating display of dominance and submission, he will be under the authority of others, in an attempt at healing and restoration. They will do their best to restore him to his role as hetero head of household. They will rebuild the dungeon walls he created for himself, the walls that have been blown open in the past week.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if he simply walked out the door to Jesus?

16 thoughts on “The Seven Deadly Sins”

  1. I think you are correct here. Complicated situation trying to work itself out in an environment where nothing but heterosexuality is allowed.
    I feel sorry for all of them, all 13,000.
    I’ve never thought about lust being “hidden”. Thanks for the insight.

  2. Yeah. Wow. You really help put the pieces of the puzzles together. We had a discussion about this very thing at the dinner table. Wished you could have been here to join in with us.

  3. Great stuff Songbird, I love these reflections. While I do agree that he should embrace his true self rather than try and fight himself some more, I am not sure it would all be wonderful though. I only say that because of his wife and children who I am sure are praying for his “healing” and return to headship. Sadly at this point because he has been denying his true self, there is no wonderful outcome because those who love him are invested in his continuing this path of delusion. There will be pain for them either way.

  4. Hey – I’m adding my wows. Started to cmment here, but it got too long, so you can find more at my place. (I’m also grinning because I know I’ll have “you’ll never find a virtue unstatusing my quo…” in my head all night now.)

  5. Yes, Christine, there is no “wonderful” outcome for his wife and children, since they are likely to always be waiting for the other shoe to drop.
    Unless, that is, they can all come to a different way of understanding being human…and being saved.

  6. Hmm. With all due respect (and that is considerable), I think that the reaction to Haggard is just as informed by Christianity’s historic uneasiness with sexuality and the human body, and I don’t believe this stems from the “hiddenness” of this type of misbehaviour, although that might play a part.
    Christianity, which is my faith as much as anyone’s here, just can’t quite accept the fact that we screw and are intimate with one another (let alone all the other things we do with our bodies). Remember as well the fatal Greek dichotomy, body vs soul, which shaped Christian theology for centuries.

  7. Right on, Miss Songbird.
    It will be hard for his family, but it’s the lying and hypocrisy that ultimately will be more difficult for his wife and children to bear than than having dad come out. From personal experience, I know that families are remarkably robust and adaptable when a parent comes out, as long as they love and respect each other. This family has to wrestle with a lot of loathing (of both self and other) before it can heal, no matter what happens, and no matter how much they “submit to authority.”

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