Sunday, February 8, 2009

More Than the Sins of the Flesh

Two days ago our battalion commander spoke to several hundred of us on the parade field about what he expects for the training ahead and the deployment to follow. Since the deployment began and most recently last night, we have been getting official warnings about the sins of the flesh, but very little about the sins of the spirit.

If you need a brief refresher, the Seven Deadly Sins (from least to worst):
Anger (murder)

The first three are the sins of the flesh. The last three are the sins of the spirit. Sloth can be either.

We get warned regularly about all the penalties of lust: No sex with other soldiers being the primary warning. We have also had many warnings about porn, but several thousand young men with DVD players and computers makes that warning hollow at best.

Gluttony gets two mentions: We cannot drink during training or on deployment, and those who do not meet weight standards don't get promoted, no matter how proficient they are as soldiers or technicians.

Anger gets covered in Rules of War briefings.

Sloth (meaning lack of motivation in a military context) is penalized in many ways, both official and social.

Of the sins of the spirit, greed gets mentioned mostly in the context of stealing, but is very little tolerated.

But when our commander spoke he brought up Envy. He said specifically that envy can destroy unit cohesion--which is the military way of saying it destroys community. He then said, "If someone else is getting something you are not getting, go find out how to get it. Don't sit back and complain." He's right, of course, envy does destroy community. It's just the first time I have ever heard it condemned in a military briefing.

I don't suppose I will ever hear Pride condemned in a military formation. It is hardly ever condemned in Church. But Envy is a big step forward. My friend Bruder Timotheus of the Franciscan Brotherhood in Darmstadt Germany was my roommate at Wiesbaden Air Base in 1978. He left the military to become a Franciscan and lived in Germany ever since. He has said more than once that his vow of poverty, chastity, and obedience lets him and the other brothers get on with the really difficult work of living in community for the rest of their lives. By pushing aside the sins of the flesh, they can begin the difficult work of spiritual warfare against Envy and Pride, the sins Dante put at the very bottom of Hell.

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