Brand-new sins are just what we need
Once again showing impetuous disregard for the First Canon of Columnizing ("Thou cannot write a good column about religion or a bad one about pets"), we venture forth, brethren and sistren, into a lighthearted discussion on the heavyhearted subject of mortal sin.
A lot of humor columnists wouldn't dare to take on the subject of mortal sin because, well, they know better. But good taste and good judgment have never darkened the doorstep of this particular word mill. Many times we have walked through the valley of the shadow of death and feared no evil because, frankly, we were lost and refused to ask for directions.
The subject of mortal sin comes up because many people are upset that the Vatican just added seven NEW mortal sins to the seven original mortal sins that have served the world so well for so long. Is this a case of releasing a theological New Coke when the original-recipe Coke was just fine? And is it acceptable to suddenly unleash new mortal sins on the world? Isn't that like a football team driving 99 yards for a touchdown only to have the play called back for violating a suddenly created new rule that you have to genuflect while passing the 50-yard line? Coming up with new rules and new sins late in the game just doesn't seem sporting.
And the new sins do seem a tad esoteric, compared with the old standby, easily understood deadly sins of gluttony, sloth, greed, lust, wrath, envy and pride. (Personally, I think making sloth a deadly sin was kind of harsh. Sloth, utilized judiciously, can be highly therapeutic in these fast-paced times.)
The new sins include polluting, manipulating genes, accumulating excessive wealth and "morally debatable experiments." Those are kind of fuzzy areas of behavior that don't seem to necessarily rise to the level of moral wrongs, let alone full-fledged sins.
Making genetic research a sin seems like making it a sin for scientists to consider whether Earth is the center of the universe, which the church did in the 17th century. (Ask Galileo how well that turned out.) Throughout history, "excessive wealth" always has been defined as "the amount of wealth my neighbor has but I don't." And pollution isn't a good idea, but it isn't exactly like shooting your parents with a shotgun.
Some would say that the various religions are like private clubs allowed to make up whatever rules they want. If you join a club, then you obey that club's rules. So, it's doubtful that the world's 1.2 billion Muslims (or Baptists and Presbyterians, for that matter) will be losing any sleep over the Catholic Church's new and improved sins. Every religion is free to define its own sins, and I'm ready to join the first one that makes the use of mayonnaise a crime against humanity. The evil condiment should be driven back to the depths of hell where it belongs, along with all its wicked adherents. Amen.
Buy Charles Memminger's hilarious new book, "Hey, Waiter, There's An Umbrella In My Drink!" at island book stores or online
at any book retailer. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org