You know there are many deadly vices. We have a whole list of 7 of them in our religious lexicon, which you may know: extravagance (also known as lust), gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride. A quick check of wikipedia shows that there was an even more original list of eight evil thoughts from the 4th century: Gluttony; fornication; avarice; sorrow; anger; discouragement; vainglory; pride.
It strikes me how much these not only have an affect on the person life of the person practicing them, but also on the community. How is your community affected if you have much more food than is good or healthy for yourself and others are going without? What happens if your anger goes unchecked in your community?
I say this because I need to add a couple more: bitterness and gloating.
I have been looking with some interest at "flair". For those of you unfamiliar, "flair" was originally what restaurants called the buttons that they had their servers wear: "Ask me about the Big Burger!", supposedly meant to show that servers had personality and/or knew something about the restaurant--much like a walking billboard. Flair has now made it into online social networking sites, and you can put virtual buttons on a virtual bulletin board or send buttons to your friends. You can even make your own flair.
The flair that has popped up all over the central warehouse for flair on facebook has been remarkably bitter about the election--most of the ones on the first page say things like, "O crap" or "Got change? Hide it before Barrack [sic] can take it" or "Obama: wrapping socialism in a smile". My favorite: "To [sic] smart to vote for Obama." I don't know if the creator of that flair realizes the irony.
I submit that this, in addition to all of the similar badges that showed up about Bush 4 and 8 years ago IS NOT HELPING. I don't know whether it can truly be cathartic (as some of my friends tell me) to post or make statements like this.
On the flip side, gloating has to be among those things which kill community as well. And I don't know where the line truly is drawn between celebrating a victory and gloating over your enemy. Four years ago, I had a prayer service the day after the election for all those who had not been elected as well as those who had. Last night, I had a similar service. They are never very well attended, either because it's difficult to get the word out about them or because people simply don't want to let go of their immediate reactions in order to find a new pathway with God.
I like that one site says these aren't just sins--they are vices. I like "vice" better as a descriptor for what these things do because a vice is something I do to make myself feel better...either about myself or about my cause. But it doesn't do anything to help anyone else, and in the end it hurts me too. The practice of vices is not what we need right now.
So, I submit that it might be better to practice those things in the wake of this election that create and sustain community, rather than the vices of bitterness or gloating...no matter what side you chose to support. This election talked a lot about change and a lot about hope and a lot about heroes and a lot about strength.
Now is the time to embody those things in ourselves and in our communities, whether they are embodied on a national or local political front or not. To pray that they are--to be sure!--but not to depend on others to embody those things for us.
Intangible Religious Benefits
3 weeks ago