The Washington Post

A Sinning City on a Hill

Let’s dredge up the Seven Deadly Sins and spread them out on the table here for a look. Wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. Naturally, I’ll eventually get to greed, and eventually isn’t very long around here in my world of three or four paragraphs.

SIN. Sin was a very prominent part of my educational formative years. SIN. It’s a funny little word that can still pack a wallop in my head. Not so much in our society. It’s curious how the “values” party has managed to avoid wrestling with a number of these sins, changing them around by economic miscalculus to be virtues. The taskmasters who lashed my youthful soul with warnings of sin and it’s fearsome consequences got one thing very very wrong. They said that even THINKING about these temptations was nearly as bad as acting on them. That is the formula for making a person CRAZY, and you are free to judge the results in my case.

Take greed, as I told you I would. When I was a kid, I’d look in my comic book and see Scrooge McDuck swimming in his roomful of gold coins and think, “I’d like that!” In fact, even today, if someone offered me a Doubloon-filled Olmypic-sized pool of my very own to swim in, I’m pretty sure I’d say “Yes, please!” I already swim for exercise every day, and swimming in gold coins seems every bit as satisfying a workout as chlorinated water. Gluttony? I have fantasized about an entire city of hot Buffalo wings, and in fact I used to live in one! Lust? Don’t even ask.

The problem isn’t the fantasizing, the problem is when you allow these ideas into your behavioral value system. That’s when the sinning starts. You know that. Why is it that as “one of the most religious countries on earth” we have we so thoroughly neglected this wisdom? I’ve seen first-hand how greed can hollow out a person and leave the rest of his life a brittle, empty shell. Are we not now witnessing how the same thing is happening to our society as a whole? What is the proper response? Maybe a bit of Wrath, properly calibrated, of course.

Tom Toles is the editorial cartoonist for The Post and writes the Tom Toles blog. See all of his cartoons here.


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