Social Justice

Gandhi's Seven Deadly Social Sins - A Reflection

posted on 03/09/10 03:41 pm by Fr. Paul Hansen, C.Ss.R.  

In the ‘good old’ Catholic tradition we used to hear sermons and read reflections on the Seven Deadly Sins. Remember them? Pride, Covetousness, Lust, Gluttony, Anger, Envy and Sloth. In fact we still hear about them. Once in a while the Globe & Mail newspaper makes comments on the list and tries to put a post-modern interpretation on it.

A few years ago I ran across a sense of these realities that invited one to move from a personal self-consciousness to a common or species self-consciousness. Gandhi listed what he called the Seven Deadly Social Sins. They make a lot of sense to me, so I hand them onto you for reflection:

1. Politics without Principle 2. Wealth without Work 3. Commerce without Morality 4. Pleasure without Conscience 5. Education without Character 6. Science without Humanity 7. Worship without Sacrifice.

When I reflect on these social sins of Gandhi’s concern, I cannot help but think of the power and rule of money and greed. We are constantly being told that “there is no alternative” to the way that the economic order has been organized. There is a fundamentalism in the land, both in the field of economics and religion, and both are very dangerous. Someone once said that a politician is someone who thinks only about the next election, whereas a statesman or stateswoman thinks about coming generations. We have had too many politicians who so often play into the shady side of most of us. Then again, perhaps every generation gets the type of politician it deserves.

Years ago I read all the literature I could find on a subject called: The Holocaust Theologians. I thought that I could find some insight here into deadly social sins and I did. I read Elie Wiesel, Hannah Arendt, Emil Fackenheim, Etty Hillesum to name but a few. I especially liked the writings of Irving Greenberg and Marc Ellis. Here were scholars and artists reflecting on an event in human history that is really beyond all reflection and imagination. But the Holocaust does raise major questions about God and the future of humanity— the children and generations to come.

According to Irving Greenberg, the victims of the holocaust ask us above anything else “ not to allow the creation of another matrix of values that might sustain another attempt at genocide.” After Auschwitz we can speak only of “moment faiths,” instances where a vision is present, interspersed with the “flames and smoke of burning children” where faith is absent.

Believers should never forget Dostoevsky’s assertion that the suffering of children is the greatest proof against the existence of God; and we must ever contemplate the awful Day of the Lord, the coming destruction of our wealth and security, the razing even of the bastions of our faith, the temple levelled and YHWH gone.

For without justice, there is no God.

Paul E. Hansen

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