Ok, this might not be my most popular post, but it's what I'm thinking about this July 4th.
We have a lot of doomsayers out there today, and I confess I'm leaning toward agreeing with them. I'm not sure why the 7 deadly sins jumped into my head in conjunction with our nation's 235th birthday, but the more I thought about it, the more I decided there's a message there. Let me list each of the sins, one by one, and our national status on each one:
Sloth - We are one of the fattest developed nations on earth. While a significant segment of our population exercises religiously, the rest of us sit on our butts watching TV, surfing the net, writing notes on Facebook, riding elevators to the 2nd floor, taking escalators instead of real stairs, and driving cars one block to buy the crap we eat. Even those of us who work every day find ways to do the least possible and still collect our paychecks. Our nation barely produces anything by the sweat of our brow anymore. For possible eventual consequences, read Jared Diamond's "Collapse."
Gluttony - Yep, fat again. We don't just eat too much, we also eat crap. Fat is the most popular ingredient in just about everything we eat. Fast food, ice cream, meat, potato chips - fat, fat, fat and we cannot get enough of it. We have invented the notion of comfort foods - an admission that we eat for entertainment, for solace, for stimulation, for pleasure. We have developed the eating disorders of anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating, which are all by-products of this particular sin. Because of the combination of sloth and gluttony, we spend millions on pills, operations, diet fads, none of which will help us escape the consequences of these two sins.
Greed - No matter how much we have, we want more. There is no such thing as "too rich" in this country. In this time of recession, when so many are struggling just to hold onto house and home, CEO's increased their income last year by 23%. Corporations seem to exist only to make those at the top filthy rich, and when their ability to feed the greed at the top is reduced sufficiently, they are pillaged and destroyed. There are just too many examples of this greed to list. This sin especially flies in the face of the teaching of our dominant religious leader, Jesus Christ, yet we find ways to ignore his teaching to justify our greed. The state and national lotteries feed on this greed, for the most part taking money from those least able to spare a dollar from their family budgets.
Envy: This is the sin that lets greed survive. Those CEO's are our heros. We let them get shamefully and shamelessly rich because, secretly, we want the chance to do that, too. It's terrible that Bill Gates has a house that could just about qualify as a small country, but, oooh, I want that house, too. It's terrible that John McCain can't remember how many houses or cars he has, but, man, I'd love to be in his shoes. If we envy those at the pinnacle of the greed pyramid, we are validating that greed.
Lust: This has become a national sickness and disgrace. The number one use of the internet is still pornography. We have a TV show dedicated to catching sexual predators. We all rush to find out what color panties Britney Spears is wearing, or to find out if she's wearing any at all. We have congressmen - the leaders of our nation - caught sending lascivious pictures to casual acquaintances as if it's perfectly normal and ready to point out that it's at least perfectly legal. Our leaders, our stars, our heros, all flaunt their sexual appetite, and we can't wait for more. In one poll, over 60% of married American men admitted to having extramarital affairs. Over 40% of married women admitted the same. We use sex to sell and to condemn. We have MILF political candidates. My God, can no one see the horror of this? Hollywood movies cannot be successful without pandering to lust. We seem to be a nation of dogs in heat, either openly or repressed.
Wrath: Even Christ got angry - once - so there seems to be room for some righteous indignation. But as a nation, we seem to be angry all the time. We were angry at Bush, mostly because he wasn't a Democrat. Now we are angry at Obama, mostly because he's not a Republican. We are angry at France. We love our country, but we're angry at the government. We have an entire political movement, the Tea Party, that is fueled by anger. To me, we suffer terrible consequences from this wrath. See, anger is outward. We are angry at something, but it's out there and never in the mirror. But if we are angry at our government in this democratic republic, then we should certainly be angry at ourselves, for we have created it, or tolerated the corruptions that have appeared over the decades. The other problem with anger is that it generates a "no compromise" attitude at a time when we need competent, smart men and women from both sides of the political spectrum to sit down and come up with reasonable, pragmatic solutions to our nation's problems. But we're so angry, we don't want to negotiate or compromise. We want to fight. This wrath has the greatest potential to destroy our country.
Pride: When did we forget that pride was a sin? About 7 years ago, I came back to the US after 5 years in Japan. Everywhere I looked, I saw "Proud to be an American" bumper stickers. There's even a "Proud to be an American" theme song. My mother raised me to believe that pride goeth before a fall. And what's wrong with this pride? It blinds us. Despite all the sad things going on in our country, we want to ignore them, to focus on being "the greatest country in the history of the world." This way, we can pretend that it's ok that 25% of American children live in poverty, or that we're the only developed country in the world without decent health coverage for all citizens (no, even Obamacare didn't get us there), or that we still have a nearly 50% divorce rate. We even take pride in an over-extended, financially unsustainable military. Ultimately, pride is the sin that lets us ignore our failings in the other 6.
I don't believe God will strike us down as a nation. I do believe He will let us suffer the natural consequences of our sins. All of these sins, we commit openly and knowingly. So happy 4th of July. Celebrate it now, but I wouldn't take our 236th birthday for granted if I were you.