John Zmirak’s The Bad Catholic’s Guide to the Seven Deadly Sins

by Jeff Warren

John Zmirak is Roman Catholic.  “He graduated from Yale in 1986, where he studied religion and literature.  He completed his MFA and Ph.D. in English at Louisiana State University, where he focused on Southern literature.”

John’s book is not a treatise on how we are saved. Rather, his book discusses how a Christian should live.  While his writing is politically incorrect, it is orthodox, historical and culturally pertinent.

John writes in the introduction, “The book you are holding covers subjects that are near and dear to my heart, as I know they are to yours – namely, lust wrath, vainglory, sloth, envy, gluttony, and greed. I’ve wondered what ordinary (i.e. fallen) human life would be like in their absence.  Cable TV would certainly suffer.”  “Without ‘man’s first disobedience,’ there isn’t much of a story, and in light of that, I decided to start with sin.”  In addition to the seven deadly sins, John also addresses the seven corresponding virtues, chastity, patience, temperance, generosity, diligence, humility, and magnanimity.

Following are some excerpts from his book:

On wrath: “I later learned from a spiritual director that the best way to deal with wrath is to liberate yourself from it. To break its hold over you by invoking a Higher Power.  Or as he like to put it, ‘Pray for the jerk.  It won’t necessarily make him less of a jerk.  But it might make you less of one.  With God, all things are possible” (paraphrased)

On gluttony and temperance: The habit of temperance is key to the loving treatment of other people.  “Excessive indulgence of short-term, instant pleasures is a sure sign of overpowering self-love, which leaves little room for concern with other’s needs.”

On sloth: “The source of sloth: sneaking back into Eden.”  What was the garden like?  There was immortality, impassibility, freedom from concupiscence, freedom from ignorance, freedom from sin, and lordship over the earth.  “Most of the project of secular modernity could be summed up as the technological and ideological crusade to achieve all these ideals – and shove the pesky business of the Fall and Redemption – down the memory hole.”

On diligence:” Of all the virtues, diligence wears the least perfume.  Its odor of sanctity is honest sweat … The book of Genesis says boldly that scarcity, like death, comes to us as punishment for sin.  Absent the fall we still would have worked, St. Thomas teaches, but every task would have felt more like a hobby.”

Due to the author’s mature topics, I recommend this book to older readers (i.e. college student or older).