We first talked about the so-called “seven social sins” more than seven years ago. At the time, we accepted at face value the common attribution of the following list to Gandhi. And while it is true that the great moral leader’s publication of the list in October 1925 did bring it wide notice, he did not come up with it himself. Credit, rather, is due to this fellow, the Rev. Frederick Lewis Donaldson, Canon of Westminster Abbey, who proposed the list in a sermon preached at Westminster on March 20, 1925.
Donaldson, a priest in the Church of England, was a Christian socialist, a fierce advocate for the poor, and a harsh critic of the political, social, and economic status quo prevailing in late Victorian and Edwardian England. He was a champion of the unemployed, campaigned for women’s suffrage, against Britain’s participation in World War I, and was a leading voice in the post-war peace movement.
As this article from The Living Church explains, Donaldson’s list of social sins does not stand in simple contrast to the seven deadly sins we are more familiar with – envy, gluttony, greed, lust, pride, sloth, and wrath – but are instead related in a complex way. As with the seven deadly sins, these too are individual shortcomings, but each of the sins below is accompanied by a “without,” which takes a modern sphere of life – wealth, pleasure, knowledge, commerce, science, religion, politics- and twists it into something less that what it ought to be, something that works against human flourishing. As the article puts, it, “However valuable each of these spheres may be, none remains safe from the possibility of cheapening and corruption.” That’s where we come in, and where we’re going to take our conversation. Here is Donaldson’s list of the seven social sins:
- Wealth without work
- Pleasure without conscience
- Knowledge without character
- Commerce without morality
- Science without humanity
- Religion without sacrifice
- Politics without principle
As the article linked to above reminds us, it would be a misuse of either of these lists to use them only to criticize others. Rather we should use them as an opportunity to examine ourselves, first and foremost. So we’re going to talk about these seven social sins in our conversation this evening, and especially how they apply to each of us. Join us for the discussion beginning at 7pm at 313 Pizza Bar in downtown Lake Orion.
Finally this is a reminder that this will be our final gathering of the year as we take the next few weeks off for the holiday season. We’ll be back with more conversation in January.