Sinning Like a Christian // 01
Have you ever thought about how boring most sin is? Particularly the so-called seven deadly ones: pride, envy, anger, sloth, greed, gluttony, and lust. In Sinning Like a Christian, Will Willimon begins by admitting how mundane these sins seem to be – how normal, how simple, how uninteresting when compared to other sins. As he puts it, “Gluttony, lust, and pride, while not the most attractive of personal attributes, can hardly compete with sexism, racism, and the bloodletting actions of [insert hated politician here]” (14). Or again, “Hitler’s genocide is so much more significant and interesting than my inner thoughts about Nicole Kidman” (21). (Few Christian writers are as honest – and thus entertaining – as Willimon.) He admits that while in his first book about sin he discussed it in a large, cosmic, systemic manner, after twenty years in the world, the academy, and the church, it’s the more mundane sins that scare him, just the sort in the Seven. Why are these seven so important? Gregory the Great, who first gave us this particular list of seven, claimed they were deadly because of their generative power. They generate other sins; they lie at the root and produce them. Willimon recounts a story about a man who had recently stabbed his wife to death? Motive? A $100,000 life insurance policy. “Greed is called deadly because of its children” (21).
We do well to remember that we are not exempt from the roots of such disgusting behavior. We do well to remember that we, too, contain within our hearts, habits, and habitats the seeds of genocidal violence, poverty-creating corruption, grotesque sexual improprieties, and whatever else detests us. We do well to remember that it was the good people who nailed Jesus to a cross. This story “teaches Christians that our virtues are not merely the opposite of our vices but sometimes the royal road to the worst of our evil. Jesus was crucified for the very best of human reasons such as peace, justice, doctrinal fidelity, national security, and on and on” (29). It’s the boring sins that bite us in the . . . well, that bite us.