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A Reflection on Sin and Illness

April 9, AD2013 2 Comments

Foxfier - Sin and Illness

I mean the similarities of the two, not some sort of sin-makes-you-get-sick theory. Well, a lot of sins do make you sick, but it’s a side effect of what the sins involve, not caused by the fact of sinfulness.

A while ago, I was involved in an argument on a blog about whether some diagnosed disorders exist or not, such as ADD, ADHD, autism. It was triggered because the site host mentioned the reaction that she and a bunch of friends had to a boss whose interactions with them were…strained. He was talking about his son being diagnosed as autistic. While there was general agreement that these diagnoses are over-applied, I found myself reaching for known disorders to explain how something that is an extreme version of what normal behavior in healthy boys (including himself) could still be a disorder.

That got me thinking about female fertility. It’s pretty rare for a problem to be “this body part is broken.” It’s usually more along the lines of several aspects being slightly out of order — a high level here, a low level there, unusual sensitivity levels to this or that.

That train of thought got me thinking about how most forms of “being sick” consist of things being out of order or off-balance, rather than flatly broken; fever, aches, depression, ingrown toe nails. Things like a broken bone or bleeding wound are examples of things not working because they’re broken, and the most familiar sort of “not well,” but they’re sort of exceptions. It’s kind of useless as a guideline, but “too much” or “too little” is a pretty common problem. I say it’s kind of useless because it’s a relative measure; the thing that makes it “too much” is that it’s a problem.

Unfortunately, a lot of things aren’t as obviously broken as a leg bone that is snapped in two, or a bleeding gash. You may not be able to tell that it’s a problem until too late, and once you figure out it’s a problem, you have to figure out what to do about it. Scrupulosity, for example. Or constantly talking about the opposite and equal problem when a problem is identified, to the point where you have a mental image of a path — you’re in the ditch on one side, and before you even get out you’re focused on not going into the far ditch. It can be useful to identify where the path is, but focusing on it “too much” means you never get out of the ditch in the first place, or maybe even go further into the ditch trying to avoid the distant, and more identifiable, possible problem.

Moderation is a good thing, as my family quips, in all things including moderation. Moderate exercise is healthy, but sometimes you need the release of exercising until it’s really going to hurt tomorrow; cleanliness is a good thing, but children raised in sterile environments have health issues. Kids have a lot of hard value judgments, from being too harsh or too lenient in discipline to little things like “Is she too warm? Is she eating enough? Is she refusing to eat the banana she asked for because something is wrong, or because she’s being contrary? Or both?”

Food is one of my weaknesses [insert your own fat joke here]. I think it’s mandatory, and I’ve yet to meet a woman who doesn’t insist she’s too heavy, but I’ve come to realize that rather than just having a tendency to really enjoy eating, I also have a tendency to fixate on aspects of eating. A lack of moderation, or maybe just an undue elevation of eating in importance. Much like anorexia is the flip-side of gorging yourself, and can be inspired by over-focus on the bad aspects of eating. Eating is a good thing, a pleasurable experience of God’s creation and the skills of the cook, needed for life.

It is not right that man should be alone, God mentions in Genesis — but oh, the things we do to avoid being alone! Obviously, sexual urges towards unsuited persons (the same sex, children, parents, those who are married, animals, on and on) are disordered, but less obvious wrongs born of loneliness are very common, from sex outside of marriage (which reduces the person who is supposed to be your other half to something to salve your pain, and yes– “lonely” is a real pain) to IVF (which reduces the child to something that can be produced, planted and quality controlled.)

Of course the desire to be united in love with another person is powerful and good. Of course the desire to give life to children, raise them and love them is incredibly powerful and good. I’d be hard pressed to pin down which aspect of the urge to family is stronger, honestly; it’s like trying to separate the front of a coin from the back. You can visualize dividing a coin so one is heads, and the other tails, but it doesn’t work so well in reality.

Marriage is, well: “The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Article 7, The Sacrament of Matrimony) If you cut out the aim of creation and raising of children as an organizing theme, they’re just company. If you cut out the good of your spouse, not only is it unlikely to work, but Matthew 12:25 comes into play: “But he knew what they were thinking and said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste, and no town or house divided against itself will stand.'”

The mental image that I’m trying to get myself to form, instead of a path with ditches, is an arch; there’s good on both sides that supports the center stone, but none of it works if you knock stones out.

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About the Author:

Wife, mother, cradle Catholic; former naval aviation technician and life-long geek who wants to help others find out how much really cool stuff the Catholic Church has to share, especially in terms of pop culture and misconceptions. A millennial who graduated in '01, former raid tank, raid healer and raid leader for a fairly casual raiding guild in the second and third WoW expansions, a Star Trek fan and fell in love with the X-Men from her uncle's comics, and even with kids a low-level MMO and sandbox gamer.

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