Perhaps the Grand Old Party (GOP) should change its name to the Party of Galatians (POG). After all, verses in that book of the Bible outline the crux of the modern day Republican ethos: “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” (Galatians 5:16-17).

The Christian Right, the Bush administration, and its acolytes have been trying to fight sins of the flesh for decades. Under Dubya, today’s Republicans have successfully defined morality solely in terms of sexual attitudes. As the movement continues to splinter over issues like uncontrolled spending and the legality of wiretapping Americans, one reliable bugaboo never fails to galvanize the right: Lust, defined as “unlawful craving for pleasures of the body.”

A controversial speaker at an event for Texas Governor Rick Perry caught the attention of The New York Times. Columbus, Ohio senior pastor and “Silent No More” author Rod Parsley said that Christians would not cave to requests for legalization of gay marriage because “we are not to sacrifice our children on the altar of sexual lust of a few.”

Similarly, Billy Graham’s son, Franklin, said that New Orleans — the City of Sin — was rightfully in the Lord’s crosshairs for a hurricane disaster because of its libertine mores. “This is one wicked city, okay? It’s known for Mardi Gras. It’s known for sex perversion,” Franklin Graham said. His rant also included references to the Big Easy’s “Satan worship” (aka Santeria) and laissez-faire attitude toward drug use.

Whether it’s the recent Senate porn hearings held by Kansas Republican Sam Brownback or the reliably loopy Senator Rick Santorum’s equating same-sex marriage with dog-shagging, calls to action taken under the aegis of Christian values have meant calls to thwart non-Church-sanctioned petits morts.

In pursuing sins of the flesh with such a vengeance, the modern GOP-Christian Right amalgam has taken on just one-seventh of the biblical battle against sin. Lust prevention occupies much of the Right’s time and efforts, often trumping niggling questions of health policy and common sense. Last year, conservatives stated their intention to block mandatory vaccinations of young girls against HPV, a sexually transmitted disease that can lead to the development of cervical cancer. Why? They feared that newly protected girls may (as a spokeswoman for the Family Research Council said) “see it as a license to engage in premarital sex.” For all the fervor surrounding Lust, the GOP seems downright lackadaisical when it comes to curtailing the remaining deadly sins: Avarice, Sloth, Gluttony, Envy, Wrath, and Pride.

As one of its calling cards, touts Proverbs 14:34: “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” Perhaps it’s time to take a close look at the other six sins. Scattered throughout the book of Proverbs, the seven deadly sins have evolved into shorthand for the basic tenets of Christian thought. The big guns of Christian theology — Pope Gregory the Great, Thomas Aquinas, Milton, Dante — have referenced them for centuries. When he first cobbled together the sin scorecard, Gregory himself deemed Lust the least serious of the transgressions.


Ranked as a sin more grave than Lust, Pope Gregory’s list named Avarice — the insatiable desire for wealth. The greedy have been called upon to answer for their lapses, thanks most recently to lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Christian Coalition founder and Georgia gubernatorial candidate Ralph Reed’s ambitions have been thwarted by his Abramoff ties, with a Christian Coalition member telling The Washington Post, “it became pretty obvious [Reed] was putting money before God.” Concurrently, the Securities and Exchange Commission’s probe into Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist’s stock sales, Tom DeLay’s charges of money laundering and conspiracy, or California Republican Representative Randy “Duke” Cunningham’s tearful apology for his long-running bribery scheme, demonstrate the need to tend to this particular sin. But while the investigations into these Republican Party members continue, so does a party-wide commission of what’s Phyllis Tickle called “The Mother of All Sins.”

Quoting former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, Tickle said that to blame “infectious greed” for the rash of corporate scandals associated with Enron and Tyco “feels a bit like a betrayal. We’d been told all along that greed — well harnessed and regulated — was good, not only for corporations, but society as a whole, even the poor.” Indeed, the Bush administration takes that tack when promoting the elimination of the estate tax, higher standards for filing bankruptcy, and tax cuts for Americans in the top 1 percent income bracket. Nearly five months after Hurricane Katrina, Gordon Gekko’s Wall Street mantra “Greed is good” isn’t as popular as it once was.  


Affected residents of the U.S. Gulf Coast were not just victims of great rains, but of another Republican sin — Sloth. This sin might appear to be the biggest anathema to today’s GOP members, who have long prided themselves on the “hand up, not hand out” meme and who extol the virtues of hard work and entrepreneurship. They seemed to follow the advice found in Romans: “Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord.” Then came a certain former commissioner for the International Arabian Horse Association, and their sin was revealed.

Few would argue that saving the residents of New Orleans from the storm would qualify as God’s work, and Michael Brown’s less-than-zealous attitude toward his job as head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) became apparent within hours of the hurricane’s deadly landing in New Orleans, Mississippi, and Alabama.

Brown, a Bush crony with questionable emergency management qualifications when appointed to the post, penned some telling emails while the storm was at its height. According to CNN, some of those missives included, “Can I quit now? Can I come home?” the morning of the hurricane, as well as questions to his aide about what to wear when appearing on television. “Tie or not for tonight? Button-down blue shirt?” he asked. The reply was “Please roll up the sleeves of your shirt, all shirts. Even the president rolled his sleeves to just below the elbow. In this [crisis] and on TV you just need to look more hard-working.”


FEMA’s inability to get food and water to Katrina victims puts the Republicans at risk of committing yet another transgression — Gluttony. Withholding food from the needy, after all, is part and parcel of the sin, which refers specifically to overindulgence of food and drink, and, more generally, to consuming more than one needs. In the realm of resources — oil, money, and the like — modern Republicans are hoarders of the first order. In Congress, Alaska Republican Don Young showed himself a glutton for federal dollars (and punishment) when he insisted on using $200 million in federal spending on his “bridge to nowhere,” connecting two communities with a combined population of only about 14,550. Despite entreaties from his fellow Congress members, and even some of his own constituents, Young would not relent when asked to forgo his project in favor of allocating the funds to hurricane victims. Today’s economic policies (see Avarice above) seem geared to keeping resources concentrated within a small group of … Republicans.


A while back, some characterized the Republican hatred of former President Bill Clinton as stemming from an obsession with the 40th president’s lifestyle. With his supposed in-your-face sexuality, his recreational drugs, his rock and/or roll, Clinton exemplified the longhaired hipitude that the Republicans despised precisely because they wished they had his job. The result of this GOP envy was a two-year, $40 million investigation and a Starr-penned book that, one could argue, read like the same soft-core porn the Republicans were trying to eradicate (see Lust).


The doggedness involved in toppling Clinton was part of a phenomenon that’s grown exponentially since the days of impeachment — Republican anger. One sees it in the face of the aforementioned O’Reilly whenever he’s confronted with Mexican undocumented immigrants, or Bob Novak when he’s about to be asked about his role in the Valerie Plame case. Fox News traffics in a type of anger that is both frightening and, if they weren’t being paid quite so much, quite hilarious.  

On the topic of trying to get at the root of Islamic terrorism, Ann Coulter famously wrote:

“They hate us? We hate them. Americans don’t want to make Islamic fanatics love us. We want to make them die. There’s nothing like horrendous physical pain to quell angry fanatics. So sorry they’re angry — wait until they see American anger.”

Her response probably wouldn’t have sat too well with the apostle James who advised that “everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”


Listening is not chief among current Republican priorities. The president’s inability to hear any voice other than his own has contributed to his commission of the sin of Pride. Most recently, the New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh has documented that the president’s current policy in Iraq is being guided not by information from his generals on the sandy ground, but by the belief that in five or 10 or 20 years, his mission into the desert will be deemed an unparalleled success, catapulting him into the annals of history as one of the nation’s greatest commanders-in-chief. “Mission Accomplished” was a boast (also a no-no according to Corinthians) that, ultimately, could not be backed up. And yet, here is America in the middle of an intractable war, which originated with a deadly presidential sin.

So, is Lust (Gregory’s least concern) the sin which has gotten the Republicans and America into its current state of disarray, or do the six other transgressions really deserve a closer look? The fourth book of James hints at an answer:

“What causes wars, and what causes fighting among you? Is it not your passions that are at war in your members? You desire and do not have; so you kill. And you covet and cannot obtain; so you fight and wage war.”

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