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PRIVATE SINS OF PUBLIC MINISTRY

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As something of a spoof, Harper's magazine recently commissioned seven advertising agencies to develop full-page ads promoting each of the Seven Deadly Sins. The agencies' efforts included, for instance, "The world's foremost authority speaking out on the subject of greed." Santa Claus is pictured in a business suit defending avarice (and Christmas wish lists) by saying, "Greed has always motivated men and women . . . to make better mousetraps . . . to create greater art . . . to find cures for diseases and pathways to the moon."

Another ad proclaims: "Any sin that's enabled us to survive centuries of war, death, pestilence, and famine can't be called deadly." Underneath is a 1930s-ish photo of an amorous couple. The caption: "LUST: Where Would We Be Without It?"

The series satirizes today's ambivalent filings about sin. How easy it is to come up with good reasons for bad behavior! And sexual temptation, in particular, offers great potential for rationalization and self-deception.

What guises ...

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