One of the greatest evils in our world is abusing the creation God has given us. To commit “evil” can be seen as abusing something that was intended to be good. For instance, sex, something that has always been God’s good intention, is certainly abused more frequently and maliciously in our contemporary culture. Alcohol is a wonderful substance that has even been included in the holy Christian communion, but there are certainly ways to abuse that. I bring these two examples up first to describe what I believe most Christians view as “the great evils.” People who have sex in the wrong contexts are creating a much more cultural evil than others. “Drinking and partying”, as it is often referred to by youth in the Bible belt, is one of the worst high school crimes a person can commit from the vantage point of a youth group student.
“Alcohol and sex, the two greatest evils.” This can be and often is phrased as a joke to describe a certain sect of Christianity that most modern evangelicals do not wish to associate with. But if we can joke about it and act as though it is just a fundamentalist ghost of our evangelical past, why do we still handle it with a nasty attitude? Many Christians, although they recognize that it is not actually sinful to drink alcohol or participate in sex in the proper contexts, still get very negative intuitions when the words are spoken. I have had many, many Christians tell me that it is wrong for a Christian to drink alcohol simply because it will “ruin your witness” or something like that. The problem is it is only Christians who actually seem to be concerned about this, not anyone else. I care nothing about being a witness to other Christians, and if a non-Christian were ever to tell me that drinking alcohol or smoking tobacco was offending to them, I would immediately drop the activity so as to not ruin my witness. I have yet to hear a non-Christian say this. And I am not harshly condemning those Christians who make this claim, because I have been there myself. But the root has nothing to do with alcohol, cigarettes, or sex, but this infectious idea that certain activities are permissible for the Christian to do and certain ones are not. The whole “smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol will ruin your witness” is a modern fad that is influenced by theological dualism, not biblical Christianity.
Let me be clear, I am not in any way, shape, or form saying Christians should start lighting up and drinking. Not in the least bit. But the real sin does not lie in participating in a certain activity because it is inherently evil. We cause non-believers to wonder why Christians are opposed to “certain things” when we purport this condemnation. It is unbiblical. I am just as guilty as the next person when it comes to being judgmental of some of the things certain people do, such as partying or whatever. I am also just as guilty as committing the same sin. I am thankful that I have never had a personal problem with alcohol or the abuse of some substance, but I am committing the same sin nonetheless.
I have a problem with moderation. As someone who is emphatically impulsive and ADHD, I have a huge self-denial issue. For instance, I eat way too much. Yeah, gluttony is a real sin for me. I often will find pleasure in large amounts of pizza, donuts, oreos, fried chicken, etc. I also have an exercise problem (too much). Again, when I say I have a moderation problem, that includes everything. I tend to exercise way more than I should in a single period of time, sometimes for the purpose of relieving stress or finding comfort from my hectic schedule, or maybe because I ate one too many oreos. Is this bad? Not necessarily. Is it bad to find comfort and release in normal, healthy, day-to-day activities? No. My problem has little to do with what I am doing and much to do with how much I am doing it, and for what purpose. If I am feeling stressed out and anxious, I will either consume a large pizza to “stress eat” or go run 9 miles when my body really does not need it at the moment. Either way, I am looking for fulfillment in something that ultimately cannot supply it. I idolize it, and if I’m being honest, I idolize a lot of things. I am no different than the alcoholic or the cigarette addict who are looking for fulfillment from material products. Consumerism is a very American thing and can be hard to resist. But I find in the times where I need comfort and I look to the cross for fulfillment, I find a much greater satisfaction than when I seek it in food, exercise, watching TV, or something else. The real sin is not “doing something bad”, but “worshipping the creation rather than the Creator.” Idolatry is the real evil in all this. God has created us as creatures who are to enjoy the beautiful creation He has given us, but to find ultimate satisfaction and fulfillment in Him. A tendency toward excessiveness, which ultimately leads to idolatry, will crush this picture every time.
“Late modern society is principally concerned with purchasing things, in ever greater abundance and variety, and so has to strive to fabricate an ever greater number of desires to gratify, and to abolish as many limits and prohibitions upon desire as it can. Such a society is already implicitly atheist and so must slowly but relentlessly apply itself to the dissolution of transcendent values. It cannot allow ultimate goods to distract us from proximate goods. Our sacred writ is advertising, our piety is shopping, our highest devotion is private choice. God and the soul too often hinder the purely acquisitive longings upon which the market depends, and confront us with values that stand in stark rivalry to the only truly substantial value at the center of the social universe: the price tag.”
-David Bentley Hart