When is it Sin? When is it Evil?

A good friend posted an article by Dennis Praeger and suggested that I read it. I’m good with that. I have several of his books and I have enjoyed his writing. No red flags there… Well, maybe one.

Praeger has many books, a radio show, and he has many speaking engagements per year. He also has Praeger University.

I dunno, I see a small red flag waving when you found a university, then name it after yourself. I mean there are billions of choices, some horrible, some might even be brilliant. Settling on your own last name seems iffy. Maybe he named it after his parents?

Still, we all make choices and some may be mistakes.

In the article Praeger makes the statement that most of us haven’t come across a major mathematical formula. Good intentions minus Wisdom equals Evil.

Interesting formula, but one that I find too simplistic, therefore, it slightly misses the mark. I find that the threshold for evil is quite a bit higher.

His formula works very well for a mistake, or an error of thinking, but to classify that as evil seems harsh. I agree it can be the first steps on the road to evil, but there is still time to change direction.

I am not saying that every mistake leads to a correction. I’ve known plenty of people that have made a mistake, recognize it, and continue to make it, everyday for years. It still doesn’t make it evil.

I’m about to make some of you reading this uncomfortable. The basic definition of sin is “missing the mark”, comparable to an arrow not hitting the bullseye. It has taken another meaning in religious circles and I find that unfortunate.

We should have a word that describes our failures. A word that is stronger than mistake/error but not so strong as damnation.

I’m thinking that the original definition of sin fits the mark, perhaps that is why it is so unpopular.

Is sin evil? Possibly, evil is certainly sin, but I don’t think they are interchangeable.

Sin is an action that causes the spirit to be grieved. Sometimes we plow ahead thinking that it will somehow be resolved. Mostly it isn’t. When we analyze it enough to recognize that the action benefits you to the detriment of others, that’s when it crosses over to evil. I suppose there are small evils and larger evils.

Praeger contends that embracing communism was evil. I certainly believe it was a mistake, and I also believe that most leadership began to embrace it for their own power, and justified horrible decisions with the idea of the greater good. That tiptoes into evil. “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely”.

Thank you Lord Acton. (Most folks ignore the “tends to”.)

But it would be a moral mistake to classify millions of people who once believed in communism as evildoers.

When we sin we have the option of redemption. Some of us do that faster than others. The same can be said of true evildoers but the conviction is far more difficult. It is not only a knowledge issue, it is often a deeper rooted thinking issue. It can truly be described as a personality shift. Evil is pernicious. Sin is unfortunate but we can make a change.

About johndiestler

Retired community college professor of graphic design, multimedia and photography, and chair of the fine arts and media department.
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