01 April, 2008

What we consider sinful

One of the weblogs I read recently mentioned a survey on what Americans consider sinful. (I cannot for the life of me recall which weblog—my apologies.) A lot of hay has been made about the differences between various demographics, as well as the differences between what the leaders teach and what the faithful follow. They even managed to take a few swipes at the stupidity of "this country" in the process.

Bah. I was more amused by the topics the pollsters thought might be sinful, and by what they omitted. Respondents were not asked whether the following acts (or failures to act) are sinful:

  • honoring one's father and mother;
  • murder (!!!),
  • refusing to pray for one's enemies, or wishing them ill;
  • charging someone more than normal, simply because you can sucker the fool into it;
  • lying about one's qualifications or character in order to obtain a job or start a relationship;
  • not paying one's workers a competitive wage;
  • giving someone false hope;
  • not helping the "undeserving" poor.
You see the first one? Not asking about one of The Ten Commandments is the surest sign, I tell you, that we live in a post-Christian society. The culture wars are over, and MTV won.

They did ask about sex, and lots of it. Is it sinful before marriage? Outside of marriage? With people of the same sex? What about pornography? What about having sexual thoughts about someone you're not married to? About the only sex they didn't ask about was in a marriage: contraception, demanding it, refusing it, lying about it, wife swapping, etc.

They also paused to ask about harming the environment, gambling, playing the lottery (isn't that gambling?), tithing, gossiping, watching an R-rated movie (Gibson's Passion of the Christ, anyone?), taking drugs, getting drunk, taking "proper" care of one's body, spanking, and, yes, showing up to church. Most religious people seem to think that honoring the Lord's day—whatever day it be—is passé, so I won't trouble you with the score on that question.

Whether "dancing" was a sin was also surveyed. Oh, come on; we are no longer in the 1950s, folks. (At least "reading comic books", "playing cards", and "listening to rock-and-roll music" did not make the list.) These days some of the worst of that "devil music" comes from cars driven by the (fervently religious) grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the anti-rock crowd. Ever heard of Christian metal? Christian rap? Praise music? Modern Catholic hymnody? I have personally endured all of the above in any one of my many failed attempts to conform to the Christian mainstream, Protestant and Catholic alike.

On the other hand, "making a lot of money" was also quizzed. Amazingly, 4% of respondents think it's sinful to make a lot of money. Considering that responding to this survey implies that they were making enough money to own personal phones—whose monthly bill constitutes "a lot of money" to most of the world's population—I hope they have arranged to take some heavy-duty air conditioning into the afterlife.

There was one question on not speaking up if the cashier gives you the wrong change, and one on not reporting some income on your tax return. Only half of respondents thought cheating Uncle Sam was sinful.

Think about that. Only half of respondents thought that cheating Uncle Sam was sinful.


Anonymous said...

"Amazingly, 4% of respondents think it's sinful to make a lot of money."

Why the amazement? too little or too much?


jack perry said...

As I tried to explain (apparently unsuccessfully) it's self-contradictory for anyone replying to a phone survey to think that making a lot of money is sinful. The phone bill itself is a lot of money; to pay it, they have to make a lot of money. Thus, they must think they are sinners.