Friday, November 21, 2008

Seven Deadlies: Wrath

Since mankind first believed in the gods or God, depending on who was doing the believing, we have had the concept of sin. Large sins, or small sins, each religion has penalties for sinning against the gods or God which vary by the religion as much as the concept of what is sinful behavior. Since I’m Christian, the God I follow is the God of the Hebrews and Muslims, since God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are the same. The sins are, for the most part, the same amongst the three religions; however, Christianity, especially certain segments of it, separate sin into categories of commission and omission, and of venial and mortal. There are other divisions, but the main one that interests me is that last: mortal sin, also known as the deadly sins.

Thomas Aquinas, one of the main philosophers of the Catholic Church, defined mortal sins as “something said, done or desired contrary to the eternal law, or a thought, word, or deed contrary to the eternal law.” The Catholic Encyclopedia online further clarifies that as “an aversion from God” caused by a “preference given to a mutable good.”

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be dealing with the seven deadly sins, and their applications in the modern world by those who give lip service to being Christian, and those who declare that sin doesn’t exist.

The seven deadly, or serious, sins are wrath, greed, envy, sloth, lust, gluttony, and pride. This week’s sin I plan to discuss is Wrath.

What is wrath? Anger, yes, but is it a sin? The Bible, in whatever edition you choose to read it, details the wrath of God falling upon those who sin against him. Read that way, no, not all anger is a sin. What makes wrath one of the deadly sins, if not all anger is sinful? Once again, we’ll turn to the Catholic Encyclopedia for the answer:

“…if one desire the taking of vengeance in any way whatever contrary to the order of reason, for instance if he desire the punishment of one who has not deserved it, or beyond his deserts, or again contrary to the order prescribed by law, or not for the due end, namely the maintaining of justice and the correction of defaults, then the desire of anger will be sinful, and this is called sinful anger.

Secondly, the order of reason in regard to anger may be considered in relation to the mode of being angry, namely that the movement of anger should not be immoderately fierce…”

In other words, if the person is irrationally angry, and takes vengeance upon those who do not deserve it in ways that are illegal (and, indeed, because the individual willfully refuses to see truth in the matter, and willfully refuses to consider the law of the land sufficient or even as having jurisdiction over the matter), he or she is committing a mortal sin.

The current actions of the gay activist movement in California is sliding from justifiable and commendable anger over a perceived inequality of treatment into the mortal sin of intemperate wrath. How did I get there? “Ye shall know them by their fruits.”

What have they done? They’ve vandalized churches, beat up little old ladies, sent hoax anthrax to Mormon temples. They’ve protested loudly and violently, blocking members of the media from interviewing the victims of their violence. They’re demonstrating the hollow nature of their professed dedication to multiculturalism through racist epithets thrown at the 70% of the African-Americans who were Proposition 8 supporters and their complete lack of respect toward all who do not share their opinions.

I will fully admit that wrath is the mortal sin I’m most prone to. It’s hard to fight it—not impossible, just difficult. The difficulty lies in fighting off the lower parts of your own nature. However difficult that fight is, though, it’s worth the struggle. It’s the fight to be better than your nature that separates human from animal.

Some people don’t bother. Some people let their own worse natures dictate their behavior. When that worse nature steps between them and whatever face of God they follow, that’s when righteous anger turns to the deadly sin of wrath.

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