Monday, February 25, 2008

what's in Memphis stays in Memphis?

From Forbes, a survey of America's most sinful cities-- complete with an "interactive map" (hat tip: Albert Mohler)...

Forbes used the seven deadly sins and then came up with metrics to estimate greed, lust, envy, pride, gluttony, laziness, and wrath. Their choices of metrics are quite debatable, but it's still a mildly interesting exercise.

By the way, Louisville shows up in the "Top" Ten for sloth and pride.

They say geography is destiny, but perhaps it is damnation as well.

We have unveiled the American city that has fallen the farthest from grace in each of the seven deadly sins (lust, gluttony, avarice, sloth, wrath, envy and pride). For each sin we stretched our imagination to find a workable proxy--murder rates for wrath, per capita billionaires for avarice--then culled the available data sources to rank the cities. Some of the results were surprising: Salt Lake City as America's Vainest City. Some were not: Detroit as America's Most Murderous.

As Mohler points out...

Interestingly, the Bible and the Christian tradition often associate sin with cities. The concentration of human beings in cities often fuels the business of sin and presents opportunities not available elsewhere. From the "cities of the plains" [Sodom and Gomorrah] to Nineveh, Babylon, and Rome, cities often became symbols of human pride, lust, and egoistic sin. [For the "sin of Sodom" as it is defined biblically, see: Ezekiel 16:49-50.]

Similarly, John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress -- perhaps the most influential book in English (other than the Bible) among Christians -- symbolized the sinfulness and allure of the city in its portrayal of Vanity Fair.

I would also note that cities are often correlated with government-- and so, at least implicitly, there is a Scriptural caution about government as well.

But what about the Forbes list? In the final analysis, it is probably not worth more than conversation points. Are the folks in Salt Lake City really more vain than those in Atlanta? Are citizens of Memphis really more jealous than those of Houston? Who can know? The statistics chosen for the report tell only part of the story.

Still, it is interesting to ponder the question of whether sins are particularly celebrated and concentrated in certain cities. It would be hard to ignore the self-advertisement of Las Vegas. Yet, it is not true that what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Sins spill over quite readily, and sin is a powerful contagion.

In reality, the whole world is a Genesis 3 world -- a fallen world inhabited by sinners. Sin is a universal problem and every single human being is a sinner. Put sinful humanity in close quarters, and sin inevitably multiplies.

The other oddity is that Christianity is meant to be lived out in community. It is not merely a faith of individuals. In fact, most virtue requires interaction-- in at least minimal community. So, the temptations and the opportunities of community are quite interesting...

Mohler's conclusion:

If anything, the Forbes sin listings should remind Christians of the great challenge of evangelizing the cities -- a task that demonstrates Christian failure to date. In that sense the Forbes list is haunting, humbling, and heart-breaking. Yet, in another sense, it may also be motivating. We can hope.


At February 25, 2008 at 7:43 PM , Blogger Bryce Raley said...

This in a very interesting excercise. It's lost all validity with me- after my recent trip to Vegas. If Vegas only makes the top 10 in one category, and Louisville makes 2- color me confused to say the least.


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