Hip Views of Sin

MTV has made a business of depicting lust, vanity, and violence-glorifying the very things Christians renounce as sin. But not long ago MTV itself decided to tackle the subject of sin. It was a special MTV news report called "The Seven Deadly Sins" featuring interviews with both pop celebrities and ordinary teens. They were asked to talk about the seven sins condemned by Christian tradition as the most dangerous: lust, pride, anger, envy, sloth, greed, and gluttony. The program was intended to show that people still grapple with the same sins that have plagued human nature for millennia. But what it really showed is that modern young people are woefully ignorant of even the basic moral categories. Take lust. Rap star Ice-T glared into the MTV camera and said, "Lust isn't a sin . . . These are all dumb." Not much moral enlightenment from that quarter. One young man on the street seemed to think sloth was a work break. "Sloth . . . Sometimes it's good to sit back and give yourself personal time." Anger didn't fare much better. "Kaboom! That's anger," said one not-so-articulate young woman. The hardest sin for the MTV generation to grasp was pride. Actress Kirstie Alley would have none of it. "I don't think pride is a sin, and I think some idiot made that up," she snapped. "Who made these up anyway?" When told that the seven deadly sins are a heritage of medieval theology, Alley showed a slight spark of contrition. She didn't mean "to knock monks or anything," she said. But really-the anti-ego thing didn't work for her. That just about captures the tone of the whole program: No one seemed concerned about whether the seven deadly sins represented moral truth; the interviewee's only standard was whether something worked for them. The predominant form of expression was the language of therapy: of feelings and self-esteem. "Pride isn't a sin-you're supposed to feel good about yourself," one person said. Envy is wrong because it "makes you feel bad about yourself," said another. Even the program narrator joined the chorus: "The seven deadly sins are not evil acts," he intoned, "but rather universal human compulsions." It's amazing that even in the context of talking about sin, there was not a word about moral responsibility, repentance, or objective standards of right and wrong. Moral reasoning was thoroughly replaced by psychotherapeutic jargon, where sin is only a sickness, a compulsion, an addiction. The goal is not holiness, it's health. Of course, this failure of moral insight is not limited to the entertainment industry. If you listen closely, you'll hear the same language in serious news shows, best-seller books, and even Sunday morning sermons. You and I may never watch MTV, but we are all affected by this degeneration of our moral discourse. Do you ever use the biblical vocabulary of sin, guilt, and repentance? If someone asked you to define the seven deadly sins, would you stumble over the answer? MTV might just be giving us a clue about our own moral confusion. And our own need for serious moral reformation.


Chuck Colson



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