In 30 years we have seen a radical shift in how this country views Democrats, not to mention liberals. Why this has occured has been argued, debated and beaten into a mashed pulp. I don't plan on rehashing (much) of those issues.
What we face today is as damaging as McCarthy's Red Scare, where merely the hint of socialism could lose you your job, brand you as a traitor, or worse, put you in jail. Today, to discredit someone, all you need to say is "you are a liberal".
Since the Religious Right feels the need to examine everything through the lens of Christian teachings, I felt that perhaps we ought to review exactly what some of those teachings say - using Sermons written by The Reverernd Arthur L. Sargent (retired).
The Seven Deadly Sins are (cue ominous music): Envy, Anger, Gluttony, Sloth, Lust, Avarice, and Pride.
The sin of Envy: As a People do we resentfully desire the traits, status, abilities, or situations of other societies? Are we unable to rejoice in the good fortune of other societies? Do we rejoice in their misfortune?
It is important to note that at one point many in this country were very concerned about the rise of Japan as an economic power (especially in the automobile industry). How did the U.S. respond? Poorly, at best as represented by this article co-authored by Howard H. Baker.
Rather than address the fact that corporations were making poor decisions (as witnessed by the bailout of Chrysler), they sought to blame Japanese corporations for planning ahead and making good decisions. In other words, punish the Japanese for being better capitalists.
Anger: Do we respond with indignation at the behaviors, practices, customs or beliefs of other societies that differ from our own? Is our indignation justified in terms of injustice done or do we act like an angry self centered people?
This is where the United States is a mixed bag. We support democracy... yet at the same time we support those who became President through military takeover (see Pakistan).
When the man who is seen by the world as the leader of the United States argues that "they hate our freedoms", he seems to all but ignore the fact that there are other free societies in the world. When the same man argues that he can't abide by the laws that protect our freedoms, then one has to wonder which freedoms "they" hate.
If we believe in freedom, then surely we wouldn't have American Marines killing innocent civilians. Or do we just believe in freedom for ourselves?
Gluttony: as a People do we extravagantly desire more or consume more than we reasonably require? Are the physical luxuries we seek or enjoy unreasonable?
The United States consumes approximately 25% of the worlds oil, approximately 20 million barrels a day. What is surprising is that the United States at one time had a very strong railroad industry. Rail is only second to pipeline in transporting goods for the lowest cost. Not surpising, trucks are the most costly of the three. But rather than address these issues, we have actually attempted to kill railroads off.
We also engage in behavour that means, many times, wasting the Earths resources. Americans not only don't try to leave a shallow imprint on the Earth, we appear to attempt to make the imprint as deep as possible.
Sloth: do we seek to or in fact avoid productive work that is rightfully ours so that others must support us? Are we spiritually lazy? Do we expect spiritual growth or blessings without effort?
Gambling is founded on the notion that everyone is a loser and only a few are winners. Despite that fact, gambling has only increased in the U.S (see State Lotteries at the Turn of the Century). Why do we expect others to use their hard earned money to support us? How is this morally justifiable?
At this point someone is bound to jump up and say "aha! Isn't that the point of Social Security?".
No. Social Security is we the people deciding that no one should have to live their elderly years in a cardboard shack. Yes, we hope that they manage their income wisely, but for those who are either a) not brilliant at Wallstreet (I count myself as one of those people) or b) bet on the wrong stock, it is a excellent back up plan.
As for spirituality, we are in America, spiritually lazy. We turn on "The 700 Club" and give to Pat Robertson who uses the money to invest in his gold mine. No doubt those people feel they have cast a hook into heaven. "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." Matthew 19:24. Or do we believe you can buy piety?
Lust: do we seek sexual gratification without regard for the consequences for the larger community or our neighbor? Do we treat sexuality as a joyful gift to be shared in love and mutual giving or do we use it to exploit others? Can we be proud of what we teach the young by our words and deeds about sex and its place in Creation?
This one could be a section all on its own! We, as human beings, have a strange relation with sex. When people lived in one or two room structures, no doubt, the children learned about sex in a, ahem, at a far earlier age. Fast forward to today, and we have a U.S. where breasts on statues are covered up (to avoid lustful feelings towards stone?) and the Justice Dept. is actually trying to bust purveyors of internet porn. Lets just say they've been just as good at doing that as this Administration has on catching Osama bin Laden.
Do we consider sex a gift? Considering there is only one state in the Union that will teach sex education, it seems more like we view it as an ugly act.
Texas was the first to have abstinence only education. It also has the highest teen pregnancy. It is amazing how we will teach kids about drugs but talking about sex is forbidden.
Rape statistics can also be sobering. Since 2000, rapes, especially violent rape, have increased (32.2 per 100,000). You are more likely to be raped in the South than other regions. You are least likely to be raped in the Northeast, the so-called "godless" area.
Avarice: are we greedy for ever greater material wealth or gain beyond our reasonable needs or even reasonable luxuries? Does greed give rise to an unjust distribution of wealth where the few are extremely wealthy and too many are poor? Is Enron a matter of individual misbehavior or does it reflect a national culture of greed and corruption? Does our desire for wealth impoverish or marginalize other people or societies? Does our greed translate into a craving for national power so overwhelming, that we can ignore the legitimate desires of other societies with impunity? Do we revere God's own creation and strive to use its resources wisely and prudently in the service of others and of future generations? (Book of Common Prayer, p. 388)
I had thought about putting a few examples here, but they would be merely repetitive. One only need read about Bush's so-called plan to save Social Security or the Medicare-D plan to realize that the country has fallen into the "Greed is Good". Or at least it is good for a small portion of the U.S. citizens.
For the rest of us who actually work for a living, it is bad, very bad.
Pride: is frequently cited as being the root of all other sins, is an excessive belief in our own abilities and intrinsic worthiness. Do we as a nation and as individuals live as if we believe all things come through the grace of God and not through our own merit? Do we act as if we are indeed made of dust and will return to dust? Are we disdainful of other societies? Are we willing to compromise, or do we demand our own way? Are we over bearing in our wealth or power? Do we act as if our might makes right? Are we willing to forego opportunities for increased wealth, power or luxuries for the greater good of all God's creation?
It is said that we all stand on the shoulders of those who come before us. This is true, from the person who decided to farm that weed that came to be called wheat to the person who decided to eat that fruit called the tomato (prior to that time it was considered poisonous).
When came to Iraq, this Administration decided that we would embark on a course of nation building, not to help others, but to help ourselves. It was argued that doing so would make us safe, when indeed all it was about was enriching the rich. This administration has indicated it was willing to drop a nuclear device on another country that posed no threat to us.
As a child, I would have called this type of person a bully. As an adult, I would argue that we are no more than terrorists.
We do little to help those in dire need (Darfur). For the amount we have spent in Iraq, we could have eliminated world hunger ($300 Billion / 5 million = 4 years). We are not only spending our money poorly, but we are doing so at the expense of others in the world. In fact, as a percentage of national income, we are stingy.
What it comes down to is...
All of this boils down to what I would consider to be some simple rules: avoid doing the bad stuff and try to do the good stuff. And when you screw up, admit it, apologize, and try to make it right. It is the best we can do as human beings.
Okay, it is more than that, but I am tired and I think the rest speaks for itself.