Activity time: 20 minutes
Materials for Activity
- Leader Resource 1, Seven Deadly Sins and Seven Heavenly Virtues
- Handout 1, Sins and Virtues Meanings for each team
- Index cards
- A pencil for each team
Preparation for Activity
- Find a good, safe place for a lively relay race, if that is the approach you decide to take.
- Prepare separate sets of the seven deadly sins and the seven heavenly virtues written on individual cards, one set of each for each team.
- Photocopy Handout 1, Sins and Virtues Meanings, one for each team.
Description of Activity
This activity introduces youth to the seven deadly sins and the seven heavenly virtues, and includes a quick examination of ways that religion and faith relate to virtue and sin. Your presentation of the activity can be as lively as a relay race or as quiet as a discussion or even a short lecture from you. The description that follows assumes that you will use the relay approach, but adapt it as you wish.
Introduce the relay with a brief statement such as this:
The version of "Pandora's Box" that we just shared said the box contained not just sins but all sorts of other evils, such as diseases. Other versions of the story describe the contents differently, though they all include hope. As a matter of fact, people have very different ideas about what the worst things in the world are-and the best things. Now we are going to find out about a very famous list of the worst sins in the world. These are called the "Seven Deadly Sins." The list comes from the Roman Catholic Church. They are called "deadly" because they can destroy the sinner's good life unless the sinner is forgiven through confession. During confession, Catholics tell a priest about everything they have done wrong and the priest gives them ways to correct their wrongdoing. Now we will figure out which sins the Catholic Church thinks are deadly.
Divide the group into teams of no more than seven. Give each team a copy of Handout 1, Sins and Virtues Meanings, and a pencil. Say that each team will send one member at a time running (or walking as fast as possible, with one foot on the floor at all times) to get a card with the name of one of the sins from one of your leaders. These team members should then race back to their own teams and read the card aloud to the group. Next, the team must refer to the list of meanings and write the letter of the correct meaning on the card. Then another team member will race up to get the second sin and bring it back to read to the group. This will continue until each team has all seven sins. The first team to match all definitions correctly wins.
As the game progresses, be available for questions about definitions, and help out as needed with useful suggestions or hints.
When all have finished, pronounce the winner (without much fuss). Ask what the seven sins and their definitions are. Offer simple definitions for those you think might not be familiar to your group, and any further explanations you think are appropriate. The sins are: lust (letter E on the list, an uncontrolled desire for something like power, or especially for sexual activity), gluttony (F, too much eating or drinking), greed (B), sloth (A, laziness), wrath (D, anger), envy (C), and pride (G).
Then introduce the seven heavenly virtues with words something like this:
Remember, our program is Amazing Grace: Exploring Right and Wrong. So it is not just about sins. The Catholic Church talks about virtues as well as sins. In fact, it has a list of seven heavenly virtues that are opposed to the deadly sins. Let us find out about the virtues.
Repeat the game, this time introducing the virtues. Vary the teams if you like, to help ensure that the winners are different this time.
After the game, pronounce a winner (again, without making much of this victory) and ask what the seven heavenly virtues and their definitions are. They are: chastity (I, moral purity, especially sexual innocence before marriage), abstinence (L, staying away from bad things like too much food or drink), liberality (N, being generous), diligence (J, paying attention), patience (M), kindness (K), and humility (H, being modest about yourself).
Ask the youth what they think about the lists. Tell them that this is just one set of sins and virtues; others exist. It is not necessarily the best or the worst, but it is very well known. Point out that the seven deadly sins and the seven heavenly virtues are based on what the Christian scriptures say. The Bible does not have those exact lists, but it often talks about both sin and virtue. You might also say that it would take a lot of study and thought to really understand what the Catholic Church or any other religion says about sin and virtue. Simply listing sins and virtues is just a beginning. It is easy to disagree with the lists or say that we would have included something else. We should not dismiss other people's ideas without taking the time to really learn about and understand them.
Conclude with something like this:
Unitarian Universalists have their own spirituality, their own religion, and their own faith. We also have our own list of Principles, or ideas about what is good. Yet, we do not have rules of exactly how to behave. We believe everybody has their own ideas about that.
Including All Participants
If your group includes youth with limited mobility, do not conclude automatically that they would not enjoy this activity. It might be fine to include youth who use wheelchairs or crutches. If that will not work, consider a more stationary approach, maybe assigning one leader to each group of seated participants and having the leaders pass out the cards to their group one at a time. The youth would be challenged to explain the meaning on the card to the leader’s satisfaction before going to the next one. The first group to finish all the cards would be the winner.