By MARIA SERMERSHEIM
I believe we need to recover a healthy hatred of mortal sin.
Much of popular culture has few qualms about showing grotesque or explicit content depicting mortal sin in books, movies and music; and I believe we are growing too comfortable with this excessive exposure under the ruse of fighting ignorance. We esteem knowledge and emphasize the value of transparency, but I believe we have pushed too far. In the quest to equip ourselves with the necessary education or experience to pursue the good life, we have sacrificed just that: the holy life.
Innocence is not ignorance, and I want to reclaim this virtue for society today. Jesus teaches us in the Beatitudes that the pure of heart are blessed, for they shall see God. This assertion finds precedence in Psalm 24:3-4, which reads, “Who shall climb the mountain of the Lord? Who shall stand in his holy place? The man with clean hands and pure heart, who desires not worthless things, who has not sworn so as to deceive his neighbor.” Clean hands and a pure heart do not mean that the man must be unaware of sin and evil; in fact, he must be well aware of it in order to choose decisively against it. We form our minds and hearts with the materials we engage in, and I fear that the abundance of accepted sin is conditioning us to be slack in our zeal. In August, I wrote that we should forget our idols and seek the Lord singleheartedly. Today, I write that we must not only forget, but banish our idols and other harmful influences.
As Isaiah 33:15-16 says, “He who practices virtue and speaks honesty, who spurns what is gained by oppression, brushing his hands free of contact with a bribe, stopping his ears lest he hear of bloodshed, closing his eyes lest he look on evil. He shall dwell on the heights, his stronghold shall be the rocky fastness, his food and drink in steady supply.” This man must know what is gained by oppression in order to spurn it, he must know what a bribe is in order to eschew it, he must know of bloodshed and evil in order to turn away from them. The important point is that he turns away, and this is where the emphasis must lie. He who knows of evil and strikes out a course in strict opposition will prosper, so let us encourage innocence with all our strength.
James 1:21-22 admonishes us, “Strip away all that is filthy, every vicious excess. Humbly welcome the word that has taken root in you, with its power to save you. Act on this word. If all you do is listen to it, you are deceiving yourselves.” Next time you’re tempted to turn on that raunchy show to pass the time, give the show a pass instead. Next time you flip to the radio station playing music that condones violence, retribution and obscenity, flip past it. We can choose how we form ourselves; and though human culture is certainly not irredeemable or inclined to evil in its entirety, we need to examine our consciences. We must rid ourselves of the evident excesses first, and then take the second step to continue the project. To be pure of heart is not only a matter of intention or desire, but it is also a matter of will; so how will you strive to be innocent?