Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Lust as a Sin

I think a lot of people have a tendency to take the seven deadly sins at face value, and forget that they are only deadly in so far as you indulge in them excessively to the exclusion of other important things in your life - specifically, from a religious perspective, your duty to God. It's very similar to the concept of addiction. In moderation, none of the sins are necessarily a bad thing - despite the fact that they are considered to be vices.

Take gluttony, for example. There's absolutely nothing wrong with eating - in fact, it's necessary for survival. And I personally don't see any problem in taking enjoyment out of eating. It's only when your love of eating overcomes other considerations - like your health, spending time with friends, being able to concentrate on your job - that it becomes dangerous and loses its virtue. If you'd rather put down a sandwich than play ball with your son, for example, your love of food is a problem.

What are the other sins? Sloth? It's perfectly fine to enjoy some relaxation now and then, so long as you're not resting so much that you're not getting things done that you need to be getting done. Pride? It's a good thing to take a certain amount of pride in your achievements - it only becomes insidious when you start to overinflate your ego and put down other people to hoist yourself up. Greed? This is a tricky one, because the desire for material possessions is tempting, but who's to say a reasonable desire for enough wealth to live a comfortable life is something that poisons one's humanity? That excessive greed is a sin doesn't mean that you have to be a penniless ascetic to preserve your virtue. Wrath is a hard one to argue because even a little bit of anger can cause problems - but everyone is entitled to feel angry at times in their life. In fact, it's healthy - bottling up that anger can cause even more problems. The important thing is not to let your anger get control over you to the point that you hurt others.

People seem really quick to label anything sexual as being lustful. We can argue the definition of the word "lust", but in terms of the seven deadly sins, having an appreciation for sex and an interest in the vast realm of sexuality does not itself indicate that a person has been consumed with vice and fallen off the path of virtue. Get your head out of the Puritan sand - sex was not invented by the devil. Pleasure is not solely a device for temptation. Pleasure is a gift that God gave us. And sex is divine.

The different sins depict different qualities of varying virtue (or lack of virtue, one might say). Wrath and envy are generally seen as being negative things. Pride and greed and sloth are all viewed as vices, but this depends on the excessive application of their behaviors. In moderation, none of them are all that bad. Just like with gluttony - we don't define eating for survival, or enjoying feasting in moderation, as gluttony, it only becomes gluttony when it crosses the line into unhealthy addiction. Why shouldn't we view lust the same way? If your love of sex is getting in the way of things, then that can be unhealthy, but whose to say that all things sexual are demonic, that any sexual activity is a vice, that sex cannot be pursued as a virtue, like one who pursues the culinary arts for the purpose of brightening the lives of others?

Well I think it can.

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