The eighth deadly sin

Published 9:11am Thursday, May 22, 2014

By Rev. Bob Henderson

For centuries, the church has recognized what are known as the Seven Deadly Sins. These seven deadlies are the sins which are the root cause of all other sins. The seven deadly sins are: sloth, envy, anger, lust, pride, greed and gluttony. (You can remember them and impress your friends by using the acronym SEAL P[i]GG).

These days, however, there appears to be another deadly sin which seems far more horrendous than any of the seven. It generates much more talk, emotion and protests, consumes much more energy and causes more controversy both in the United States and around the world, than all other sins.

This “sin” is homosexuality together with and all the issues surrounding it: same sex marriage, partners receiving the same job benefits as married folk and the like.

I wonder what it is that makes homosexuality so much more terrible than the seven deadly sins or worse than the sins which other people commit. All churches have had and have bishops and clergy who were alcoholics, addicts, adulterers and who even denied the divinity of Christ. No worldwide condemnation was raised or protest rallies organized against them.

And, truly, does anyone really believe that there is a priest, preacher, pastor or other clergy who isn’t a sinner; who doesn’t commit one of the seven deadly sins every day, every hour?

I mean, just look at that list of seven deadly sins. I know some clergy, I know myself, and know that we are not immune. How can anyone live and not be a sinner, not break the seven deadly sins in all their forms and variations constantly – unless they are much holier than I am and holier than most clergy I know.

Don’t get me wrong. Clergy, at least most of them, are no more sinful than most of us. They are just people, like all of us. They do the things all people do. They sin, love, fail, repent, pray, just like all people. So, what makes homosexuality so much worse than the sins of other clergy or other people?

John H. MacNaughton, then Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of West Texas, addressed sexual morality, which includes homosexuality, in the early 1980s:

“I want to observe that when most of us get incensed about a moral issue, it is usually an issue of sexual morality, as though sexual morality was the only moral issue of consequence to the Church. We do not get equally indignant, or for many not indignant at all, about the moral issues of the poor, the disadvantaged, the inability of our state legislature and our criminal justice system to deal effectively with crime of all kinds and especially with the criminal who preys on the elderly, those who are alone and those in our society who are the most defenseless.

“Perhaps it is one of the core sicknesses of our age that we are so preoccupied with sexual behavior, driven to that preoccupation by the movies, by television and by the enormous social pressure under which we live … that we fool ourselves into believing that the only critical moral issues before the church are sexual, a serious misconception that has the effect of leaving many other critical moral issues without spokesmen and without champions. And our society and the richness of the Gospel are the poorer for it.

“I resent elevating homosexuality to the status of an eighth and overriding deadly sin. While some consider homosexuality a sin and some do not (and truly there is biblical evidence either way), that’s not the question.

“The question is: if a sin, why is homosexuality worse than other sins? Why do we pounce on homosexuality and not other sins? If indeed a sin, why is homosexuality a worse sin than spiritual pride that says: I’m right, especially about what God wants, and there is no possibility of my being wrong; of sloth that says: It’s too much trouble to help the helpless, just let them keep on being helpless; than greed that says: I’ll never have enough and it doesn’t matter what I do or who I get it from; lust, adultery and on and on and on.”

Sin is a slippery thing, and I don’t believe one sin is worse than another. If we first remove the log in our eye about our own sins (Matt. 7:3-5), try to become aware of how we commit the Seven Deadlies daily, over and over, seek forgiveness when we do, we probably won’t have time to worry about the sins of others, much less which ones are worse than our own.


The Rev. Bob Henderson is rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Wetumpka.

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