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Perspective: In Defense Of My Besetting Sin

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Years ago in my hometown, there were only three churches: the Presbyterian, the Methodist, and the Baptist. The three ministers met every month, but there was little to discuss in such a tiny town, so they decided to liven things up by gathering to confess, to each other, their besetting sins.

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The Presbyterian minister said that his was lust. He was having a torrid affair with the church organist.

The Methodist pastor said his was greed. He had long been stealing from the collection plate.

The two turned to the Baptist preacher in puzzlement. After all, the whole thing had been his idea. The Baptist preacher said his besetting sin was gossip: "I can hardly wait to get out of here and tell this."

Gossip is not an attractive practice. It is linked to envy and malice. But evolutionary psychologists say it is an all too human adaptation. Through gossip we learn whom to avoid and whom we might be able to cooperate with profitably.

The concept of adaptations has been both a great scientific insight and a frequent moral excuse.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm meeting a group of friends. We'll be discussing the latest rumors.

I'm Tom McBride, and that's my Perspective.

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