Thoughts on Sin from Dorothy Sayers

Once again, as I read “Letters to a Diminished Church,” I am struck by the dullness of most of the work of contemporary writers. Yes, it is somewhat about style; Sayers has a wonderful way with words. But it is really the thoughtfulness behind the style that is so engaging.

In the essay “The Other Six Deadly Sins,” she first laments the modern reduction of the term “immorality” to being equated with lust, referring only to sexual sin. (And today, the teeth are being pulled from that category as well.) What follows is a wonderful exposition of the nature of the other six traditional “deadly sins” and how they build on one another. Beginning with wrath, moving through gluttony, covetousness, envy, sloth, culminating finally in the “head and origin of all sin,” pride, Sayers pulls no punches.

Gluttony makes us drive for more and more of everything regardless of need. This leads us the want what others have that we do not, covetousness. When we can’t get it we turn to envy simply because we see that someone else might be happier or have more than we do. When we see that having more doesn’t satisfy, we abandon hope, belief, knowledge, etc. and fall into the torpor of sloth. Finally we decide that we must be master of our own destiny and judge of our own actions, making ourselves god of our little universes, taking up the original and master sin, pride.

This piece is well worth a thoughtful, brutally honest read. Sayers asks some hard questions about how these sins are applicable to Christians and the Church. We do well to ask them of ourselves in these times.

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