Baby Sugar Ain’t No Sin

Oshkosh, Wisconsin is a Mecca for Adventist Pathfinders. I need to break that down for you. Pathfinders is the Adventist Christian version of the Girls and Boy Scouts mixed into one, and you get all kinds of badges for swimming, tying knots, and SWEARING YOUR ALLEGIANCE TO THE ALMIGHTY CHRIST.

At this Christian moshpit, I heard a story about a women who had come to Jesus after living near Adventists her whole life, but engaging in a life full of debauchery and revelry, which included drinking, smoking, and having the premarital baby sugar slip-and-slide. And I’ve heard more than one pastor take this approach.

The antagonist in the stories always seems to be a person of ill repute, and what constitutes “ill repute” really seems to encompass these and other pastimes people might have. But a problem with the church is the routine failure to distinguish between something that is bad for you and something that is morally wrong.

Failure to Distinguish

Now, I don’t really go in for the whole “sin” word, because as far as I’m concerned, that’s a made-up thing. But we can loosely translate the word sin here to “morally wrong.” Christians think that things that are sins are morally wrong, but they also, unfortunately, teach that things that are bad for you are morally wrong. And this makes it more difficult for people to even identify what the truth is.

Here’s an example: There’s nothing morally wrong with having an orgy. Shocker, I know, but it’s true. You have a room full of people who are all deciding to participate in an activity, consent is requested and received at multiple points throughout, and if it is not, the activity is stopped. That’s fine.

Another would be smoking. There’s nothing morally wrong with smoking (unless you’re pregnant). It has been quite successfully linked to varying types of cancer and you almost surely will suffer as a cause of that activity, but that’s not what we call morally wrong.

This inability to distinguish between the two makes it so someone doesn’t know what the truth is. And that’s dangerous. In this day and age, we need people who can objectively tell the difference between something that legitimately constitutes an unfair or unjust harm to others, and just something that is a choice a human can make.

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4 thoughts on “Baby Sugar Ain’t No Sin”

  1. Is it morally wrong to smoke in public?

    Is something only a moral issue once other people are involved or can actions which only harm yourself ever be considered a moral issue (for example, suicide)?

    NOTE: I don’t care what your stance is on this; I’m more asking for a clarification on your definition of morality.


  2. In my view, if a person was the only person, animal, living thing, etc. on planet Earth, then any action that they could complete would be a moral one.

    Suicide would be an interesting topic to explore that philosophy with, because if a person were completely and utterly alone, I’m not even sure what their concept of life and what it was would be, and it’s possible that it’d be much less heightened, so maybe they would think death was much less of a “deal.”


    1. But since we live in an ecosystem where any action we make affects the world around us to a certain degree and we don’t live in a vacuum, where do you draw the line in the real world between a moral decision and a “non-moral” decision (perhaps a decision based simply on what is bad for you).

      I generally understand the Christian concept of morality: it is a set of laws given by God which are ingrained into us and are recognized through our consciences. And of course I understand my own concept of morality: it is an accumulation of lessons of things that one generally should and should not do. So for me, whether or not I put my hand on top of a red hot stove is a moral decision. I compare the pros and cons of that action based upon previous experiences of similar actions and based upon the type of life which I want to live (generally pain-free), and I come to a decision. So when you said “a problem with the church is the routine failure to distinguish between something that is bad for you and something that is morally wrong” it sparked my curiosity since for me the decision not to do something because I see it as bad for me is a moral decision. Also, I don’t see there being any right or wrong answers with morality; so I don’t see things as morally wrong, but as morally inadvisable.

      I’m honestly unclear about what you mean when you talk about morality. It seemed like your concept of morality includes situations whenever an action forces others into something they’re not consenting to. And this is a fine concept of morality, but it requires clarification as to whether somebody indirectly and unintentionally causing others to enter a situation that they didn’t consent to is also a moral issue. For example, some people see recycling and driving hybrid cars as moral issues; they see driving Hummers as an immoral decision since it indirectly negatively affects the environment. Do you see being environmentally conscious as being a moral issue? And if so, why do you distinguish between those actions that indirectly affect others and the action of making a poor health decision which also indirectly affects others? When somebody eats too much sugar or smokes, they are slowly deteriorating their body, which indirectly causes society at large to require greater medical expenses to take care of them and to have a less productive citizen since an unhealthy worker is less productive.

      I apologize if I’m pestering you, but you did say that it is dangerous if people don’t know how to distinguish between a moral issue and a non-moral issue. So please bear with me, how do you distinguish between the two?


  3. To me, I would imagine that it is impossible to be as conscious as one would like to be. Impossible to know all consequences of a given action, present and future, intended or not. Beginning from there, I would move towards pragmatism and say that it is reasonable to change your course of action when a clear connection between cause and effect can be drawn.

    A good example is the movie Lord of War, where Nicholas Cage is an arms dealer with his brother, undoubtedly responsible for millions of deaths in the countries of people they’ve sold to. In one scene in the movie, his brother realizes that the meetup place for the gun sale is taking place on a knoll atop a village that their customers WILL wipe out at the end of the transaction. His brother feels very differently about the gun sales when he knows that if this deal goes down, THESE people will die.

    Those with a little more room in their brains for more than one idea at a time may even be able to expand this to things like climate change, manufacturing, recycling, etc, but at some point, I do believe it futile and ultimately unproductive to attempt to pose yourself as ridiculously responsible for the far-reaching meta-consequences of every choice ever, while keeping eyes on the fact that everything you do has many consequences.

    I understand that we can all have different definitions of “clear connection”, but that’s where I’d draw the line.


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