A couple of days before we were scheduled to leave for Chautauqua the Ninth District Court in California ruled that the insertion of the words under God in our pledge of allegiance was an unconstitutional violation of the separation of religion and state.
In response to that important, courageous ruling, I decided to write a new sermon for the annual service I was about to do for the Unitarian Fellowship at Chautauqua. I’ve put the text of that sermon on our website. I’ll do an updated version for you in September.
The weather and the news has been hot this summer: the out-of-control forest fires; the out-of-control rage in Israel; the out-of-control stock market with selling stimulated by out-of-control greed on the part of so-called executives who have been pillaging companies they were hired to serve; and more reports about the out-of-control sexual abuse in the Catholic (and others) Church.
The seven deadly sins march across the pages of the New York Times like legions of termites intent on eating away at the foundation. The sin of pride is always in the lead, followed by greed, envy, anger, lust, gluttony and sloth.
But what is a deadly sin, anyway? It’s that which deprives us of vitality; it’s fatal to the soul or the spiritual aspect of life. We lose heart when we hear about the violence-a little girl taken from her yard and murdered is offensive beyond description. We may even try not to think about it, but it is there-the insane evil, the shadow side of the human soul, as Jung called it.
We may hear about occasional acts of heroism and exceptional love and devotion, but most of the virtues are lived out quietly by the vast majority of people every day-simple acts of kindness and of love: the nurturing and devotion heaped upon children and the infirm, the day-to-day devotion of people going about the business of making a living and making a home.
The deadly sins are balanced by the vital virtues: humility, generosity, love, kindness, self-control, faith and enthusiasm.
Just as the heat and humidity can be over-bearing, sending us into the safety of some cool shelter, so can the endless reports of vile human behavior drain the spirit, sending us to the temporary relief offered by sects which too often separate us into tribes. The old orthodoxies can create dangerous internal divisions in the mind and spirit, separating us from the reality of this human existence with which we must struggle-the real, here-and-now world.
Yes, it’s been a hot, humid and heavy summer so far. I’m looking forward to a week in Maine with Lory and Carlyn. Alex and Hannah will be with us at the cabin for part of that week-these little grandchildren of mine aren’t so little anymore. Time marches on.
I hope you’ve been able to keep out of the hot sun, and I hope the problems in the world aren’t doing too much damage to your spirit. Take a closer look at a flower, sunset, or stars and enjoy!