Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Prayerful sin

Did you know that prayer can be sinful? It's true. The great moral teachers say that some things are intrinsically evil, i.e., they are always sinful, under all circumstances. But no human act is always and without exception virtuous. Even something like prayer which is ordinarily good can, under certain circumstances, be sinful. Here's an illustration:

Scenario #1:

Suppose you're walking all alone on a quiet, empty beach. Suddenly you hear a cry for help, and, looking out to the water, briefly see a child's head, with arms flailing about uselessly. Then the child goes under again. That child is drowning! Though an adequate swimmer, you're not sure you can swim well enough to reach and save the child, so instead you kneel on the sand and pray for God to save him. Such prayer is a sin, a sin of omission. It is a sinful prayer, or, if you prefer, a prayerful sin.

Scenario #2:

Now suppose that the beach is not empty, but crowded with thousands of people. And, out in the water, not one but hundreds of children are drowning. Some of the people on the beach seem not to notice the children. Others notice, but are deliberately ignoring them. Still others are watching with interest, some even laying bets as to which child will last the longest. Finally, you find a large group of people who are kneeling together on the beach, praying for the children. Two individuals are in the water, actually attempting to rescue some of them, but many will surely perish for lack of assistance.

Scenario #3:

Finally, suppose that the children are deliberately being drowned by an armed detachment of government agents. Any attempt to rescue the children or even to interfere is immediately quashed. Moreover, everyone on the beach is being compelled to assist in the drowning operation. Some people are praying for the children, for a miraculous rescue, even as they willingly comply. Some are also fasting. Some are mailing red envelopes in protest.

From a moral standpoint, the biggest difference between scenario 3 and scenarios 1 & 2 is that the sin has become one of commission, not omission. To actively cooperate in evil is of greater moral magnitude than to passively omit doing good.

Please consider how your taxes pay for the slaughter of the innocents, and what your willing cooperation in that slaughter really means.

Related: A citizens' movement to refuse abortion taxes

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