Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Seven Deadly Sins in the Moral Decline of America


Apathy: lack of interest or concern, especially regarding matters of general importance or appeal; indifference.

Do you ever ask yourself why folks are so apathetic about God these days? And why is it so hard to make a dent in this apathy? What spawned the apathy and indifference we face in America today?

The word apathy comes from the greek apatheia, "freedom from suffering" or "impassibility".

Interesting. Freedom from suffering and impassibility. (Keep this in mind.)

Some of its synonyms are spiritlessness and  (this is a big one) acedia.

Okay, now we are getting somewhere.

 Acedia is the "real" name of one of The Capital Sins. These days we call it sloth.

 People today tend to think of sloth as a kind of "not-so-deadly sin". As if it were on the level of mere laziness or a bit of sluggishness.

Nothing could be further from the truth. "Mere laziness" is more of a "mere accident" of sloth than a definition of it. Sloth in its fullest meaning is very deadly and rightfully holds its honored place in the hierarchy of "worst possible sins ever". It is a root sin out of which many other sins sprout. Sloth is against God, against joy. Sloth pits itself against life itself by not acknowledging the very importance of life. It receives its power from the way it deeply intertwines with several other deadly sins and this is what makes it exceptionally hard to remove. It is also the reason for the words: “I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth."

Sloth is "fundamentally a sadness in the presence of eternal or spiritual goods, and ultimately God Himself."

Yes, you read that right. You know how  "spiritual envy" sorrows over another's relationship with God? Well, sloth sorrows over God Himself. Or as Peter Kreeft, in his book Back to Virtue states:

""Sloth is the most depressing thing in the world. It is hell on earth. It finds our very highest joy - God himself - joyless. If Joy himself is joyless, where can we find joy? If salt has lost its saltiness, how can it be restored? If the very light in us is darkness, how great is that darkness?" 

 But why? Why is sloth just so darn bad?

Because it is so uncaring that it does nothing in the face of evil. (Nor does it do much in the face of good, for that matter.)

If the deadly sin of anger spits at the foot of the Cross, sloth walks by the Cross without ever even acknowledging it is there. Sloth isn't the nails driven into the hands of the Savior, nor the mockery of the soldiers who scourged Jesus. No, it's the apathy of a people who know Christ died for their sins but simply do not care. 

And it is the sin of our generation.

Remember when I said to keep in mind the Greek root apatheia as "freedom from suffering"? This is why:

 Sloth in its most heart-hardening form results in the absolute refusal to acknowledge the crucified Christ on the Cross, along with the utter refusal to pick up one's own cross and carry it. Sloth avoids suffering. It also avoids those who suffer.

When dealing with the current anti-christian stance we see pervading our society today, we should note that  the deadly sin of pride directly opposes Christianity, while sloth, on the other hand, simply undermines it every chance it gets. We often believe we are facing off with pride when we are actually seeing sloth unfold itself behind the scenes in all its unholy majesty as well. Thus, the failure to protect Christians today while glorifying evil of every sort. There is nothing quite so ugly as pride and sloth working in tandem.

Sure, pride may be known as the deadliest of the deadly sins but sloth takes no notice of that. No, no. Sloth hides behind other deadly sins. You'll often find sloth creeping behind gluttony or walking in the shadow of greed as well.

But do you know what the oddest thing is? The sadness that is sloth's intimate partner is one of the heaviest burdens of all. It is a heart so estranged from God that in its full measure the person becomes utterly enclosed in himself. He or she cannot feel joy or awe. This is why we have to be diligent in avoiding the things that can open us to this particular deadly sin.

What many of us are coming up against in this secular society is the deadly sin of sloth. Those blank eyes when you mention God? Sloth. The failure to speak up or to make waves? Sloth. When good men/women stand around and do nothing when faced with evil? Sloth. A people who could care less whether they go to church or not? Sloth. Have you heard the phrase,"spiritual but not religious"?  Sloth loves to prevaricate.

A most unusual thing about sloth is that it can mask itself as virtue. It is not uncommon for a workaholic to suffer from sloth. It often disguises itself as humility as well.

And you know that crazy, exaggerated form of political correctness we face daily in our society? The one that makes people afraid to speak up in fear of offending anyone?

Yes, you can lay this at the feet of sloth. Sloth loves to avoid direct confrontation.

The problem with The Deadly Sins is they all make gods of something other than God. Pride makes a god of self, greed makes a god of money, gluttony of food. Sloth is an odd one though. Sloth makes a god of many things since the true God brings him nothing but sadness. You can find sloth at the root of the panoply of "strange gods" we find ourselves confronted with today. The New Age Movement with its umbrella of strange and unusual gods comes to mind here, along with its avoidance of giving the true God His due. Rather, the Lord is swept to the side to take His place among "lesser" gods. It's a very odd thing and one could say it's one of the trademarks of sloth. Sloth is written all over the face of the New Age Movement. This is also why we see such confusion and disorder in this movement. You will always find this confusion and disorder when confronting sloth.

I tackled sloth first in this series because it is the most misunderstood of The Deadly Sins.

Yet, its effects are everywhere today.

(For more on sloth, its signs and symptoms and how to recognize it: see The Joy Thief)


  1. Mary, I am so happy to see you writing again. This post gives us all a lot to think about.

    I think many people who are sad about God, who take no joy in Him, do so because they have chosen to settle into a rut, afraid of conflict, and just don't want to be bothered. I'm not sure if they realize they are rejecting God's grace that comes with His call. It sure is easier to go shopping at the mall, if that is one's thing, or head out to the lake to drink with friends on the boat all day, or whatever trips one's trigger, rather than to answer the needs of one's neighbor or take a few minutes to chat with Jesus about life. I wonder if most of us realize how much of our lives we've given over to the insidiousness of sloth, even if we're not sad about God...yet.

  2. Hi Barb,
    Thank you for your insightful comment. The truth is that a great majority of people do not recognize the seven deadly sins at all anymore. They are often looked upon as a "good" thing. Our country is infested with the deadly sins and people aren't aware that these sins are the root of so many problems we face today. They also don't know that virtues form a "protective shield" for the soul, something that was clearly understood in previous eras and taught and practiced regularly. As you said in your comment we take the easiest road instead of troubling ourselves with what may be a bit less "fun" for us. I am guilty of this too.

  3. What a powerful post Mary. In the last few months I have been thinking of how I have been dragging my feet about a number of things, especially those things in my spiritual life. I like what you said, " The sadness that is sloth's intimate partner is one of the heaviest burdens of all. It is a heart so estranged from God that in its full measure the person becomes utterly enclosed in himself. He or she cannot feel joy or awe." How true! Thanks for writing this post!

    1. Thank you, Monica. "Feet dragging" is a problem for me But you know this about me already! Sloth, is always burdensome, even in its venial form. What so many need to understand about the deadly sins is what our compromise with them can lead to. Ven. Fulton Sheen wrote, "We would like to get back to our innocence and joy, but they are cold and sepulchered." The deadly sins encase the heart in stone. (Hmmm...I might have to use Archbishop Sheen's quote again - I like the imagery in it!)

  4. This is just..... well, I am genuinely at a loss for words. I see that I am guilty of this, more than I would have imagined.... AND I have great hope! Because I am throwing myself on the mercy of God! Thank you!!!

    1. I love your comment, Nancy - we all need to throw ourselves on the mercy of God. Without this mercy there would be no hope. ( Did I steal the Fulton Sheen quote from your blog too? Lol!)

  5. Looking at things from a UK point of view; it is said that the British can stir themselves into a total condition of apathy. However, when it comes to Christianity I don't think apathy or indifference is the actual attitude over here. We've reached the situation where Christianity is actually mocked and laughed at on TV and radio quite regularly.

    This is not apathy; but almost direct conflict against Christianity. To believe in "an old bearded man sitting on a cloud" (actual words used on TV) is seen as old fashioned and not enlightened in today's modern sophisticated world. Opinion formers and celebrities often hint on TV/radio that you shouldn't believe. Often they say "I don't believe in God and all that, of course, but ..." thus setting the tone of the whole debate and encouraging easilu susceptible minds to follow suit.

    God bless.

  6. Victor, we have the mockery as well. And a recent mass shooting here in the US specifically targeted Christians:
    Things are just getting bad all over the world. We have both apathy and the direct opposition to Christianity here. I can very much relate to your comment.

    1. I knew a girl once called Acedia. I didn't care much about her !!!

      Mary, are you going to write a post on each of the 7 Deadly Sins? If so, look forwards to the series.

      God bless.

  7. Ha! Ha! Funny, Victor :) Well, I don't know about posting about each separately since I have posted so much about them over the years but possibly a few more on how they relate to the condition of the world right now. I am currently working on one of them. Thanks for your comment.

    Think I should get my daughter a new hamster? Lol.

    1. Either a new hamster; or swimming lessons for the others!

      God bless.

    2. Oh funny!! Yes, swimming lessons should do it! Lol! I think I'll wait another year or two before I tell my daughter what REALLY happened to Tootsie though. I'm not sure she's ready to hear that her hamster perished in a dog's water bowl yet. Though it has been 3 or 4 years since "the swimming incident" occurred.

    3. And Victor? In case you don't believe me - this is simply too strange to make up! If I wanted to "put one over on you" I would have simply said she fell in the toilet. A water bowl would have never occurred to me...

    4. Oh I believe you all right. But ... will your daughter?

      Perhpas you should break the story gently. The dogs were teaching the hamster how to swim ... and an accident happened.

    5. Hilarious, Victor!! Maybe I better wait a few more years...

      (But oh the mental picture that painted...)

  8. Mary, this was quite a post! I certainly never saw sloth from so many angles. And yet, when I look back on my life, my childhood, I see how sloth has marked the family I came from, and how it slowly had God replaced, and ultimately killed the joy of the Lord. I knew it was the work of the devil; just didn't know the name it went by: sloth.

    I'm glad you posted on it. It is insidious and it creeps up on you. It's certainly something we must watch out for. Caitlynne Grace.

  9. Hi Caitlynne Grace,
    "It is insidious and it creeps up on you." Yes, exactly! Your words,"and ultimately killed the joy of the Lord" expresses sloth's effects, perfectly. That's how sloth works - it doesn't directly oppose, it side swipes people. I am working on a post, A Portrait of Sloth, that further "fleshes" (lol) out the characteristics of sloth. I want people to understand exactly why sloth is such a danger to people today. It's everywhere but very few people see it or they don't understand how it destroys the spiritual life. Thanks for commenting :)

  10. Mary, so nice to see you posting again, and tackling a topic that is very top of mind for me these days. Thank you for articulating it so well and for such an informative post. God Bless you!

  11. Mary I missed your writing. This is fascinating! I have read Peter Kreeft'S Back to Virtue but always seek more help in understanding both the deadly sins and the virtues.

  12. Colleen?! Oh my gosh! How are you? It's so good to hear from you! I'll go follow you on Google Plus so we can keep in touch :)