Y’all Suck At Sinning

It was the common belief 40 years ago, and still for some living today, that the beautiful liberation the modern world now experiences – in its freedom from sexual taboos, freedom of ‘choice’, redefinition of love and marriage, denial of basic moral principles, etc. – was all very bold, very brave, very rad, man. If the movement could be personified, it would have been a tall, lusty woman who spoke confidently and sweetly, with dark eyes and flowers adorning her naked body. One doesn’t have to read to much of the literature published in the 60′s and 70′s to indulge in this vision.

But dreams fulfilled are often less sweet than those only ever dreamed, so it is with a certain sense of awkward embarrassment that we – the 21st century, the fulfillment of everything demanded in the 60′s and 70′s – look in the mirror and realize the actual personification of the dream; she is an old, decrepit woman, desperately propped and pulled up by Botex, bleach and tattooed eyebrows, with a deep, wet, hacking, smoker’s cough.

The reason for her decay is simple. In her eradication of virtue, she can barely even sin, and thus she is content to rot. To move from metaphor, let me speak clearly: I hold that the modern world sucks at sinning.

The first, and most obvious reason for this fact is in that modern morality allows everything. Perhaps I should be kind: Modern morality has slowly converged to the point in which the only thing you can do wrong is rape a child, and no one has a good idea why that’s wrong. But what does this large-scale allowance mean?  It means that sin is boring, yet committed more often. (God, what a terrible sentence to write.)

Think on this. 200 years ago, if a young man and woman were filled with passionate love-lust for each other, and said ‘to hell with morality, we’re making love’, they were doing what they knew they shouldn’t. They were tasting the forbidden fruit. And, in all likelihood, they were very happy doing it. I hold that the modern world has no idea what it’s like to taste forbidden fruit – not for any lack of eating it – but because it is fed to them from kindergarten.

Seriously, public school sex-ed is common for 7-year-olds these days, and by 13 you get a red-faced education in basic contraception and sexual acts. Thus the exhilaration of vice has been reduced by our educated elite to an act of homework, to carrying out what you learned in school. And, given that our girls are handed birth-control by their teachers, and our boys taught that masturbation is healthy, the fruit taken can only ever be something stale and already tasted, readily available and boring. Do I exaggerate? Perhaps, because the pleasure granted to sex is a powerful thing, but does our language not reflect a boredom with sin? Sex is “just a biological act”, or just “for fun”, as if it were some rather involved game of Twister. When we lumped pornography, masturbation, disordered desire and sex into one, hulking, “It’s okay, kids!”, we devalued pre-marital sex – which was once a sin exciting enough to have the poets filling books with wickedly brilliant lyrics – to an extension of our pornographic practices. (Compare John Donne and Weezer, and you’ll see what I’m getting at.) We’ve taken the forbidden fruit, pickled it, and are handing it out on playgrounds.

Now obviously, sinning is an awful thing. But the modern world hasn’t stopped sinning, only made sinning unexciting and stupid. Again, less than 100 years ago, I suppose I could safely assume that people sinned because it made them feel good, because it made them happy. Sin was reckless. Now sin is responsible. Think of the reality behind the modern act of pre-marital sex. The woman is on The Pill, making her less attracted and less attractive to her man. She takes it every day, at the same time, as if indulging in a monastic rituals, despite all the health risks involved. The man wears his condom, removing himself from the very act. Really, that’s how you sin? Like clever businessmen, carefully calculating maximum rewards with minimum risk? As often as not, girls having sex with their boyfriends are doing it to instill commitment in their man, to reward him for acting properly in their relationship. Need I point out that this is a far cry from having sex because it makes you happy?

A wise man once said, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” And I truly believe that at one point this was the choice we were presented with, the world or our souls. Now, stupidity of stupidities, man loses the world and his soul. He sins and doesn’t even gain the happiness, the full pleasure or the wild anarchy of the world.

Modern sin is not brave. It’s not even arrogant. It’s submissive, sniveling and cowardly. The list of justifications for sin has grown exponentially, and is usually obligatorily spewed as an opening monologue to any evil. I’m a public school kid, so I ‘ve had to deal with literal hours of explanation of the health benefits of marijuana, the wonders it works in society, the endless I-can-stop-any-time-isms. I’ve even – in some what of a weird situation – been Facebooked an extensive list of the psychological benefits of masturbation. My point is not that these things are bad and shouldn’t be done. That much is clear. My point is, once again, that the modern world, having lost the joys of virtue, is now losing even the joys of vice. The amount of time and effort spent justifying something to oneself is ridiculous, and works – with everything else I’ve mentioned – to make sin more frequent and more boring.

Gone are the days of the alcoholic Irish Catholic. He knew it was wrong to drink so much, did it anyways, felt bad as a result, and went to Church. I’m not saying that was particularly good, because all sin is evil, but look at the alternative the world offers us: the entire cast of Jersey Shore. These are odd times indeed, when Catholics are better at both virtue and vice, and I want to inform the people surrounding me, talking about their miserable sex lives, that I could sin way better than you.

But is this not what Satan would want? Is this not the ultimate victory of the one who hates us? Real hatred against you wouldn’t have you sinning happily. Real hatred would have you sinning awfully, bored with your very sin, addicted to shallow things, unable to taste even illicit happiness, much less real joy, sinning out of commitment, spending long nights justifying your actions, burning your bridges to wholeness, forgiveness and peace. Contrast this with sinning like an actual human being, with intent. When you actively deny God, you always invite him to pull you back, and always make it harder to sin in the first place.

So rather than lose the world and your soul, I invite you to choose one, with the recommendation that you – and I – pick the joy that will last forever, that will overflow within you in this life and allow you a life fully alive. The joy of virtue.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06673189086874824209 Katy

    You just put into words what I have been thinking a lot about recently. Another thing that is related to this subject is how sinning used to meant rebellion. But now that "everyone is doing it", it really isn't rebellion any more. To be a true rebel is to follow Christ. (Yes, that was corny…but true!)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12989066078043866209 NewRiverMommy

    So true Katy. The world is into wordly things, materialism, money, prestige and power. To follow Christ, embrace our sufferings and live a life of True Love is contrary to what the world believes.It amazes me that many of these people are just seeking happiness. They think in some distorted way that pleasure equates with joy. Or if they have a particular house or car. It doesn't matter what we have if we don't have God in our heart.

  • http://aodhagain.deviantart.com/ Jay Egan

    "My point is, once again, that the modern world, having lost the joys of virtue, is now losing even the joys of vice." Conclusion: modernity sucks. :D This is rather well put, which is good because I've been trying for years to satisfactorily make your precise point, and at last someone has adequately made it for me.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09357573787143230160 Leila @ Little Catholic Bubble

    What a great and fresh perspective! And yep, now the ones walking that dangerous line of exhilaration are the faithful Catholics! So counter-cultural. :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09488051857541040772 Karie, the Regular Guy’s Extraordinary Wife

    Oh dear. 7 years old? Really? I think I had better grab a syllabus from our public school to see when this "information" is presented. My child will unhappily be "sick" that day – I'm sure.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16201061179479380167 Paige Kellerman

    What a wonderfully written post!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10799735487633942848

    Great post =D

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04568652187821916186 Liesl

    I wish I had been even half this wise when I was a teenager! Definitely an interesting perspective!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08698702076517626368 Kellee

    You're not wrong. The majority of my public education had to do with sex. I was honest to goodness bored with the very idea of sex long before I started having sex! How very stale sin has become, not just sexual sin, but all sin for that matter. When one can tell a lie without it haunting and taunting, only because it has become so commonplace. Thank you for the great post.

  • Laura

    "Modern sin is not brave. It's not even arrogant. It's submissive, sniveling and cowardly" Awesome, and what I needed to be reminded of right now. Pretty interesting stuff.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07632005486245515873 Calah

    Marc, fantastic post! Have you been reading Chesterton? This is very Chestertonian. I love it! Well done, as usual.

  • http://herenvardo.livejournal.com/ herenvardo

    Lewis, it's all in CS Lewis! What are they teaching in Catechism these days? (No, no, that's rhetorical!).Marc – you most definitely rock.As Uncle Screwtape said: 'To gain a man's soul, and give him nothing in return – that's what gladdens our Father[below]'s heart' And,'As one unfortunate said on coming here [to hell], "I see now I spent my life doing neither what I wanted, nor what I should!"'And Lewis himself said that setting up something other than God in God's place leaves you with neither God nor the good you put in its place.Yes, I'm a Lewis geek. So sue me. You should hear me on Tolkien! :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09555685532251043920 Laura

    bravo.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07621415048338361021 Greg

    Catholicism is SO counter-cultural. Rad.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07621415048338361021 Greg

    Wait, does that make us the new hippies…?

  • http://www.steveskojec.com Steve Skojec

    "The act of defending any of the cardinal virtues has today all the exhilaration of a vice" – G.K. Chesterton

  • Melissa

    Because there is at least one Chesterton quote for every occasion–The Song of the Strange AsceticIf I had been a Heathen,I’d have praised the purple vine,My slaves should dig the vineyards,And I would drink the wine.But Higgins is a Heathen,And his slaves grow lean and grey,That he may drink some tepid milkExactly twice a day.If I had been a Heathen,I’d have crowned Neaera’s curls,And filled my life with love affairs,My house with dancing girls;But Higgins is a Heathen,And to lecture rooms is forced,Where his aunts, who are not married,Demand to be divorced.If I had been a Heathen,I’d have sent my armies forth,And dragged behind my chariotsThe Chieftains of the North.But Higgins is a Heathen,And he drives the dreary quill,To lend the poor that funny cashThat makes them poorer still.If I had been a Heathen,I’d have piled my pyre on high,And in a great red whirlwindGone roaring to the sky;But Higgins is a Heathen,And a richer man than I:And they put him in an oven,Just as if he were a pie.Now who that runs can read it,The riddle that I write,Of why this poor old sinner,Should sin without delight –But I, I cannot read it(Although I run and run),Of them that do not have the faith,And will not have the fun.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02359492539226825134 One Man

    Perhaps now, in the boredom of vice (that happens to lead to a COMPLETE lack of excitement in hell) will swing those looking for a real challenge back to the forever-excitement of faith.Just came across your blog and loving it!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08057654080632377742 Kara

    Oh wow, amazing! Great post!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02958084273028753944 Paige

    Love this! I just stumbled upon your blog and I applaud you! This is something that I am always trying to argue, too, but I don't come as close!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14635230627334111792 Jeni

    You are really awesome. I enjoy all your stuff and this is one of the best yet! keep on telling the truth!

  • 19yearslater

    I'm Presbyterian, not Catholic, but I agree with much of what you've written here. Sin and morality have become one and the same to many modern people. I will consider my life more carefully, choose my sins with more caution, after reading this.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02376328227614243842 Ian

    While I totally get your point, I find this somewhat bogus. The things you mention here are nothing new. People have been indulging in their fantasies for ages. It's like the alcoholic that no longer gets much of a kick from drinking, or the cocaine addict that can't achieve the same high he or she once had from the initial hit. Too much of anything tends to render us numb to the experience. How many times can a person listen to the same enthralling song only to have it lose its effect over repeated listens? Life is a series of choices and consequences. Food is good, but if you eat too much or eat the wrong things and you may become obese. Sex is fantastic, but without a connection to the partner (i.e. making love), it becomes routine, which is what the song you posted is trying to point out. Many folks engage in premarital sex because they feel an emotional connection with their partner, it's not always lust. It's not as black and white as you portray it.The problem with premarital sex is that most young people, in this country especially, are not yet mature enough to fully grasp the consequences. A piece of paper that indicates a legal marriage doesn't make this fact go away. Period.Blatant ignorance and lack of education is what promotes this thing that you call sin. Continually telling somebody that what comes naturally is "wrong" or a "sin" is what contributes to a lot of dysfunction in society. But, the burden of proof is on the person that makes the declarations that indicate what is a sin or is wrong. And so far, I have yet to see one person, beyond a very reasonable doubt, make such a case to me.If God exists, and considers the things that you have mentioned as sinful, then surely God knows that he must personally rip open the sky for me to take him seriously. Otherwise, I cannot be blamed for my lack of conviction.

  • http://www.ironiccatholic.com The Ironic Catholic

    You, blogger comrade, are GOOD. Great post.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Ian,I hate being dutifully polite, but you've made a few good points. Points that Catholics agree with, partially."The problem with premarital sex is that most young people, in this country especially, are not yet mature enough to fully grasp the consequences. A piece of paper that indicates a legal marriage doesn't make this fact go away. Period."You're right. Catholics would add that it isn't just the consequences that matter, but the act itself. Because it's not just the impact of a person's life that matter, but the person himself is valuable. "Blatant ignorance and lack of education is what promotes this thing that you call sin. Continually telling somebody that what comes naturally is 'wrong' or a 'sin' is what contributes to a lot of dysfunction in society."John Paul II, before becoming pope, wrote that the Church had failed to promote an adequate catechesis on sexuality, in a book called "Love and Responsibility". It was an attempt to integrate common human experience and Church teaching into a solid theory about the meaning of sexuality, as well as an ethic. In a brief sum, the Church holds that sex outside of marriage is sinful because we see marital sex as sacred. We understand sex to mean a renewal of marital vows between husband and wife, committed to the good of each other entirely.In this view, sex is saying with your body, "I give myself entirely to you." But to say with your body what you're really not saying (because you aren't married), is to lie.It may not be so intentional as a fat kid saying, "I didn't eat those cookies, promise!" when his little fat face is full of oreos. But any human being with a healthy sense of the uniqueness of personhood has an intuition of the sacredness of two people "becoming one flesh." Even if its just ignored.For all of our sakes, I hope God doesn't have to rip open the sky for you.

    • Maria

      You strike me as a very bitter, fallen-away Catholic who knows deep down you’ll never find what you had as a Catholic anywhere else but are still trying to deny this fact and to do this you try your hardest to criticize the Church…I feel very sorry for you; I think you’re all the evidence we need of how people have turned their backs on virtue and truth for sin but are miserable even in sin.

      p.s. A marriage is not just a “piece of paper” but a sacrament that, when carried out correctly (in church, by a priest) makes a holy spiritual union that rightfully precedes the physical union. Consequently, it makes a huge difference whether sex is within marriage or not.

      • Maria

        p.s.s. this was meant to be a reply to a different post, apologies.

  • Anonymous

    **Dammit, that last line sounds as stupid as I thought it would. If it sounds as equally stupid to you, feel free to ignore it.–same poster as the above.

  • jordan signor

    what i love about your blog is that you pick out the best most unthinkable topics and nail them out of the park. keep making my life better my friend

  • Anonymous

    This post is very bold: to presume to understand the depths of joy, forgiveness, and peace that a person who "sins" in these fleshy ways and feels no remorse can experience. very, very bold. It's this kind of exclusivity that preaches to the choir, glorifies your own misgivings, and paints warts and corns on the imagined persona of anyone who doesn't believe in God or religious ideology. I leave this site with the feeling that the only thing that convinces you about virtue is the meaning of it given to you since you were also in kindergarten. which is the sin? i think these issues are far more complex than you present them to be.

  • Jess

    Good post :)And Ian, I highly doubt you'd notice God ripping open the sky for you, if creating the entire universe or launching the earth in a perfect orbit around the sun so that you get to wake up to a gorgeous sunrise every morning wasn't enough to get your attention.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05194127784395197998 Paul Rimmer

    I am a committed secularist, and realize that there are many wrongs that can be committed in the secular sphere. It is evil to kill children, or adults, even for the sake of capital punishment. It is evil to deny a fair chance at a job to someone who is black, a woman, gay, etc. It is wrong to deny adoption rights to a gay couple.In fact, all you need to do is look at any blog that's encouraged bigotry toward gays to see that we secularists have a strict, unwavering and even at times fundamentalist morality.One that is very well justified.—To Jess:Though the existence of this universe and planet are indeed grand mysteries, worthy of our study and even our adoration, they do not seem to establish the existence of God one way or the other.

  • Gregory

    Paul,You said: "secularists have a strict, unwavering and even at times fundamentalist morality.""One that is very well justified."What do you mean by that? How do secularists justify it? I know you are probably tired of answering this question, but even quickly could you explain how, without recourse to God, you justify your morality?Gregory

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05194127784395197998 Paul Rimmer

    My last comment vanished, for some unknown reason.Hopefully the original comment will rematerialize.The gist of the former comment was that there are many moral frameworks that can be justified without reference to God.The moral framework I reason to be correct, though possibly not exclusively so, is deontology. It is justified in this way: the existence of another person logically necessitates the right consideration of that other person as an end unto himself or herself, and not an object or means to an end. This is the basis for all right action, and treating people as objects is the cause of all moral error and evil.If you wish to discuss implications to this framework with reference to the original post (how do I determine specific wrong acts from this premise, etc?), we can discuss this here. If you want a more complete justification of this moral system, I recommend reading Kant’s “Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals”, or we can discuss this further via e-mail, because this topic is rather far afield from the topic of the original blog post.

  • Gregory

    Thanks Paul! I will have to read Kant before even trying to discuss it with you. Thanks again.

  • Tour86rocker

    Dear Gregory seems to have combox diarrhea.

  • Editor

    This is a sad, poorly written and reactionary mess. The leaps in – well, I can’t call it logic, but I’m not sure what else to call it – are just laughable. A flower child begets a botox-enhanced septuagenarian? Pretty thin at best and wait-while-I-snicker-and-shake-my-head at worst. And coming from the organized criminal gang known as the Catholic Church (child rape anyone?) makes this even more priceless. As in, so crappy nobody would ever even think of paying for it.

    • Jane

      #WhenYouTryReallyHardToSoundSmartButYouStillDon’t

  • http://sweetridgesisters.wordpress.com/ kate

    So, I totally feel that I could have/have had this conversation while deep in the midst of bottles of wine, but am impressed that you thought it out and wrote it in the light of day- which leads me to my biggest quibble with the article. Gone are the days of the alcoholic Irish Catholic?! Oh no my friend. Hard drinking sinning repenting Irish Catholics are alive and well.

  • Soul Oriented

    What’s disgusting is that even the one act that you listed as being wrong in society’s eyes (child rape) may not even remain taboo forever. At least that’s what these great intellectual minds got together to hope for: http://dailycaller.com/2011/08/15/conference-aims-to-normalize-pedophilia/

  • http://ideasaboutgodandtheworld.wordpress.com/ Alejandro

    I’m linking this to my blog. Funny and so true. Though I do disagree with contraception. I agree with abortion, but contraception is a pretty fundamentalist and radical position. As someone said, prohibiting in this world full of STDs is tantamount to murder, not to mention overopopulation. The church should at least relax it’s stance on it.

  • beth turner

    This sounds a lot like something that Reinhard Hutter was getting at in an April 2012 article in First Things titled “Pornography and Acedia.” I wish I could link to it, but you have to be a subscriber to view it online. You might be interested in hearing a Thomistic, virtues-based perspective to this problem of boredom.

  • Christie

    This post, plus the silly Twilight vampires standing in a river, inspired this poem:

    http://spinstrawintogold.blogspot.com/2012/05/poem-vampire-lover.html


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