Sanitizing Sin

A little article from the Daily Telegraph has brought out the Jeremiah in me this morning…

In England a couple of lads with stout appetites have been banned from an “all you can eat” restaurant. The story’s here.

These boys should get on a plane to the USA. We have chains of “all you can eat” restaurants. They specialize in the lowest grade food possible, and there is as much of it as you want. “Yessir. Step right up. Quantity not Quality. That’s our motto.”

Not only would the English lads be able to eat all they want, but the gluttony is served up with typical American cheerfulness. The restaurants are clean, happy places where the whole family can put snouts to troughs with playful abandon. Nice waitresses serve bottomless cups of soda and iced tea and there’s even a dessert bar that makes the kids go crazy with delight.

That’s one of the things America does best–we’ve sanitized sin. Not only is gluttony a happy family outing, but we’ve done the same to all the seven deadly. Lust? That’s not a sordid thing anymore. The girls are all bright and cheerful. Like the cheerleaders at football games they have straight teeth and spray on tans that are just, well, delightful. Wrath and Murder? Abortion is legal. It takes place is a warm, clean room with “counsellors” and “customer care”.  Greed? “Greed is good!” C’mon! It’s the American way! We call it “the pursuit of happiness.” Get more, more more! That shows you’re a success don’t you know? Envy? Pride? It’s all tied up with materialism too and all the shiny things we want. Even sloth is sanitized as sports.

Here endeth the morning rant saith the prophet.


  • John

    Boom goes the dynamite, Father…!

  • Dr. Eric

    Preach it, Father!

  • Paul Stilwell
  • Sherry

    I would stipulate that we have created a whole new way to engage in sloth, vigilant sloth as indicated by virtual reality games, RRPGs, i-pads, i-pods, Wii sports and Rock Band which allow us to spend hours practicing without actually acquiring a real skill. We surf the net for hours waiting for some Pavlovian joy to come from discovering a nugget of news or clever thought, and hours fritter way.

    • Dr. Eric

      As someone who put in tens of thousands of hours to master the guitar, I agree with your assessment of Rock Band and Guitar Hero. What a waste of time, why not spend the time to actually learn how to play those songs on a real guitar.

  • Ryan

    Yes, eating at a buffet is a mortal sin. Snob.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      Pigging out at a buffet is gluttony. Eating at a buffet is not.

  • tz

    Usury is no longer sinful. Even now that college graduates are debt slaves. Not to mention (like the bishops but not #occupy) bailing out billionaires so they could collect bonuses. The silence on this is deafening.

    And we allow torture and airport-rape and anyatricity or violation, no matter how obscene, degrading, or disgusting in the name of national security.

    There are 5 forms of gluttony if I remember Aquinas, pigging out might be the least bad. Sloth as commonly defined differs from acedia.

    Of course health is important, but is there varicose vein glory?

  • Patrick

    “allow us to spend hours practicing without actually acquiring a real skill.”

    I don’t see how spending hours “not acquiring a real skill” is slothful. In fact, what’s more distressing is that people think leisure is for “acquiring a real skill”, or “acquiring” anything. Does a good conversation and a pipe of tobacco give you any skills? None. And yet, a good conversation and a pipe is about the best way to spend leisure time.

    Frankly, I think you’ve got to stretch the truth to paint America as “slothful” in order to make the rant balance perfectly. Americans, especially the Boomers, are *obsessed* with their work. They can hardly carry a conversation that doesn’t revolve around their jobs. What would that they were as obsessed with quality leisure (instead of hedonistic consumption passing as quality leisure) as they are with their careers.

  • Jay

    1st Opinions – Chapter two, versus 1-6

  • Jay

    1st Opinions – Chapter two, versus 1-6.

    Hey if it feels good do it, right?

  • Charles Horn

    Father, I assume you mean “watching sports” is sanitized sloth. Indeed! Fantasy Football is treated as an intellectual pursuit in our time.

  • john cronin

    why has the pope got a butler? I thought there was supposed to be a vow of poverty or something? I can’t afford a butler.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      He’s the pope’s personal assistant. I suppose the world leader of a billion people is entitled to a personal assistant? Franciscan friars take vows of poverty. Other priests are supposed to live “in simplicity.”

    • jy

      Jesus had a butler. Her name was Peter’s mother-in-law. Oh, and another one named Martha.

    • jy

      Also, you can afford a butler. When we read David Copperfield and we think, “If the Copperfields are supposed to be so poor, how come they have Peggoty, a live-in maid/cook/nurse?” Well, we all have them today, but they don’t live in our houses, and lots of these servants pitch in to make up the labor force of our personal convenience. They are the workers at Taco Bell and Chipotle, the Olive Garden and your dry cleaners, all the places where people earn their living by menial labor which used to be combined into the services of the BUTLER.

      So maybe you CAN’T afford a butler. But if not, then you can’t afford a super cheesy crunchy beefy super-duper layer burrito for 99¢ either.

  • Fr. Daniel Trout

    Sadly, how our society celebrates coming around the table routinely licenses the showcase of MANY deadly sins. Buffets and other “all-you-can-eats” certainly put a wholesome face on gluttony, but I have noticed that more “family restaurants” are constantly featuring lust in the form of provocatively-clad servers. No, it’s not just Hooters and Wing House anymore. I know of one chain called the Tilted Kilt whose servers equal the sexiness factor of the two aforementioned. Even the TGI Fridays outfits for the girls are becoming scant in the material. It’s not really surprising, though. Sins rarely manifest themselves in isolation; lust and gluttony have historically been a popular pair, anyway. The dangerous part of this in America, though, as Fr. Longenecker has rightly said, is that our culture has “sanitized” it with a veneer of patriotic acceptability. No longer are these displays hidden in the luxury and ooh-la-la of a French salon; raucous indulgence is an expression of the American dream. I find it very sad that “the pursuit of happiness” is now just an excuse for craving excess. Regrettably, Christians have been very selective about how they warn about these temptations in their preaching and teaching. I heard plenty of Baptist pastors rage against many other sins from the pulpit growing up, and yet few were out-eaten at the church potlucks.

    The point is that tolerating indulgence in one sin typically leads to weakness in others. Even if we remain unaware of our vulnerability, minimizing the seriousness of any sin hampers our ability to be strong. This is why, as the Fathers constantly counsel us, we must remain vigilant and remember the hour of our judgement whenever we encounter any enticement from the world, the flesh, or the Devil.

    How much our culture could expel sinful excess from such wonderful expressions of being made in the image and likeness of God if we just renewed them with their original praiseworthy intentions?!

  • TeaPot562

    From religion class – 60 or so years ago – Pride was labelled the first of the seven “deadly” sins – in that overconfidence in our own judgment, righteousness, etc. leads us into other sins. When was the last time you heard a homily on the seven deadly sins, or even on Pride?
    When the OT reading is from Genesis chapter 3 might be a good time to work a discussion of the vice of Pride into the homily. Per Milton’s *Paradise Lost*, Satan was ejected from Heaven (God’s presence) because, given a command, Satan said “Non serviam” – “I will not serve.”
    As God’s creatures, we owe our existence and continued preservation to Him. Therefore, when we learn of His commands (His yoke is easy and His burden light), we should obey. I realize that in our daily life that is easier to say than to do; but Pride (“I can follow my own preferences instead of obedience to His law, but God won’r care” leads to downfall in many things.
    Just a meditation.

  • Charles E. Mac Kay

    Its the same in the UK. There is no such thing as the seven deadly sins, you do what you want. We have girls who have had at least two abortions before they leave school. They are not told that this can lead to sterility and one more is a disaster for the body. The teaching of chastity is not encouraged in fact promiscuity is being developed thru something called sexual health. so you find 13 and 14 year olds behind the bike shed practising at being adult and the children are losing all dignity. And we have eat all you want places as well and obesity is accepted. How would you like to be told you are obese by a nurse who is the size of a 4×4, wears a smock to cover her folds of lesh, smokes and is full of STIs. The church points all these out to us because it loves us and is concerned not with our spiritual health but our physical health as well

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