I have a book that is presently my before bedtime reading; Acedia and Me by Kathleen Norris. Great book, especially as I see that it is an affliction (or sin) that besets me too. Last night what I read was profound. I usually don’t read stuff out loud to Leo but this was good. Acedia is often called laziness or sloth but as the author understands it, it is much more than what those words mean to me. She describes the concept of sin as something given to us to encourage us to believe that we are made in the image of God and to act accordingly. (p.114) Then she quotes the words of preacher Fred Craddock which “define the sin of sloth so clearly that it stings like a slap in the face.”
What we casually dismiss as mere laziness, he says, is “the ability to look at a starving child…with a swollen stomach and say, “Well, it’s not my kid”…Or to see an old man sitting alone among the pigeons in the park and say, “Well…that’s not my dad.” It is that capacity of the human spirit to look out upon the world and everything God made and say, I don’t care.
She goes on to describe some of the injustices that do happen in North America by people hardened to other’s suffering. And then continues with this profound insight:
But even as such outrages are exposed, we are beset by a curious silence: the more that societies ills surface in such evil ways, the less able we are, it seems, to detect any evil within ourselves, let alone work effectively together to fix what is wrong. The philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre finds that while our “present age is perhaps no more evil than a number of preceding periods…it is evil in one special way at least, namely the extent to which we have obliterated …[our] consciousness of evil.” … Acedia, which is known to foster excessive self-justification, as well as a casual yet implacable judgmentalism toward others, readily lends itself to this process. (114-115)
I had never thought of Acedia in these terms before; never thought of it as that kind of profound indifference and callousness that sets in and keeps us from keeps us from acting as people changed by Jesus.