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)