The Revd.

Matthew J Hughes

01689 856931

Associate Rector

The Revd.
Stephen Broadie
 01689 852843

Assistant Priest

The Revd.

Bill Mullenger

020 8462 9624


January Leader

SLAG-HEAP can be a helpful acronym for remembering the seven deadly sins, namely; sloth, lust, avarice, greed, hatred, envy and pride. All of us are guilty of some, if not all of the above in an average day. Is one worse than any of the others? In traditional Christian spirituality pride is seen as the most ‘deadly,’ because it is reasoned that it has the potential to cut us off from God and others, as someone once said ‘The greatest distance between two human beings is a proud heart.’ Taking pride in oneself or in one’s achievements can be healthy, but pride as an expression of arrogance can be very unattractive. In a sense pride is an over emphasized sense of self sufficiency, that requires or needs nothing from others, including God. This makes it the worse of the seven, as a proud heart can have little sense of the need for repentance, which Jesus always maintains is a prerequisite for faith and love.

Pride is often part of our interactions with others and its effects will be localised and limited.

However, the consequences are very different when pride is at the forefront of international interactions. An example of this can be seen in Ken Burn’s extremely moving and disturbing documentary on the Vietnam War. In it he charts how amongst many things human vanity and pride contributed to the unnecessary deaths of 58,000 American service personnel and probably 2,000,00 Vietnamese. For over a quarter of a century successive US Administrations escalated the conflict, deceived their own people to fight a war that they themselves knew in their hearts was unwinnable and unnecessary, for what? How easy it is for pride to blind judgment, and to make it impossible for people to acknowledge when they are wrong and to back down. It is not completely rare to meet people who boast that they have never apologized in their life and wear this fact, it as if were some badge of honour, or should I say pride. At a personal level that is hard, at a national level it can be disastrous.

During the height of the Vietnam War Robert McNamara was US Secretary of Defence to Lynden Johnson and is he widely attributed as being responsible for its escalation and prosecution. Johnson and McNamara’s response to the war’s stagnation was to send more troops and order more bombing. In the documentary you can see how they both struggle to extricate themselves from their own aggression, inflexibility and pride. Years later, in 1995, McNamara confessed that the war had been ‘wrong, terribly wrong.’ Life is indeed short and when people die we do not have the chance to put right that which we regret. When McNamara was 85, the film maker Errol Morris conducted over two hours of documentary interviews with him. What emerged was the film, Eleven Lessons from the Fog of War. McNamara’s lessons are worth reading if you get the chance to do so. I will leave you with two of them that are really applicable to all of us, but are, of course best applied at the time, rather than when it’s too late.

Lesson 7 Belief and seeing are both often wrong, we all see what we want to believe.

Lesson 8 Be prepared to re-examine your reasoning.




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