Unveiling Jamaica’s 7 deadly sins
Did you ever watch the film Seven, circa 1995? A film about two homicide detectives, starring two of my favourite actors, Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt, who hunt for a pathological serial killer who justifies his crimes as absolution for the world’s ignorance of the ‘seven deadly sins’.
The movie takes us from the tortured remains of one victim to the next as the sociopathic “John Doe”, played by Kevin Spacey, preached to Detectives Somerset and Mills — one sin at a time. The sin of gluttony comes first as the killer unleashes his wrath, illustrating each sin in methodical murder.
Growing up in a predominantly Christian country, I would always hear of sin, categorised mainly by the Ten Commandments outlined in the Bible starting with: Thou shalt have no other gods before me; thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, and so on.
However, the seven deadly sins, also known as the capital vices or cardinal sins, are a grouping and classification of vices within Christian teachings. According to the standard list, they are pride, greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony, and sloth, which are contrary to the seven heavenly virtues (humility, charity, chastity, gratitude, temperance, patience, and diligence).
The idea of listing the vices began in the fourth century when an ascetic Christian monk named Evagrius Ponticus wrote to other monks about how “eight evil thoughts” — gluttony, lust, avarice, anger, sloth, sadness, vainglory, and pride — could interfere with their Christian virtue.
Ponticus’s student, John Cassian, brought these ideas to the Western Church, where they translated them from Greek to Latin. During the sixth century, St Gregory the Great, who eventually became the Catholic Pope Gregory I, rearranged them in his commentary on his book of Job. He removed pride. Instead, it was used as the overlord of the other seven vices, later known as the seven deadly sins. They are called “deadly” because they lead to the death of the soul.
Now that you have a little context, let’s delve into what this is really about.
First, I was raised as a Christian. But I don’t go to church regularly. I am not and do not purport to know the Bible inside out. So, I am not a student of religion. Rather, one of history. Yet, I have lived by the golden rule my entire life: Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you. I have tried to walk humbly, recognising that we are all here to help others if they fall on hard times and cannot help themselves, or if they were never given the opportunities in the first place.
As a result of these values, instinctively, I never developed motives around being greedy, lazy, angry, lustful, prideful, envious, or gluttonous — perhaps because I always consider how my actions would impact the other person present. However, I never learnt this from the Church or any religious or Christian coaching. I learnt it from my parents, who were not religious, but were examples of compassion and kindness.
Looking over many events that led to our news headlines in Jamaica for 2023 has made me emotionally drained and cautious about Jamaica 2024.
You name it, Jamaica did it in the name of the seven deadly sins. From angry high school students beating, stabbing, and killing their fellow students over what should be considered easy to solve events, to greedy ’employees’ at Stocks and Securities (SSL) and other deposit-taking institutions theft of their depositors’ monies. The killing of innocent bystanders and children from vengeful spraying of bullets. The envious, wrathful contract killings orchestrated by heinous members of the family and other loved ones.
Then there were the businesses who increased their prices, claiming global inputs increased, but failed to act with equal zeal in bringing their prices down when the same material prices decreased worldwide. Additionally, the proud leaders who failed to act with integrity but sought accountability from regular citizens.
Even the Church made headlines with the lustful pastor who was sentenced to 15 years in prison for rape and the other one who was arrested for using his church as a place of cultism, sacrifice of congregants, and sexual orgies.
Most recently we witnessed angry entertainers who disregarded their responsibility to uplift others through their art, but instead chose wrath by proudly abusing the police forces while onstage, in front of patrons, and, worse, fighting each other, ending the stage show in arrest.
When did we get here as a nation? It certainly wasn’t overnight, but it was a slow and steady erosion of our humanity towards one another driven by soulless values that have zero understanding of how to uplift and care for each other at all levels of our society.
This dark and biting underbelly is disguised as the new normal in Jamaica. The violence and vulgarity of our disagreements, the sheer volume of our antisocial attitudes, the apathy and silence of those who know better, the greed of people in control, and the fear of torture and murder inflicted on our courage are just a few of the daily realities holding our country hostage.
These seven deadly sins are screaming at Jamaicans to wake up and smell the moral decay into which Jamaica’s proud history of decency and mutual respect has plummeted.
“Respect for self, caring for our neighbour, discipline, civility, and just plain decency have been overshadowed by greed, materialism, and a worrying moral decline.” (Former Prime Minister P J Patterson, Jamaica Observer, December 14, 2023)
We cannot continue this way into 2024. Whatever we choose to call these depraved and deadly approaches toward one another, which are only leading to the denigration of Jamaica, must be left in 2023 if we are to forge forward with elevating values and attitudes.
It’s time for a united front to confront and vanquish these challenges, ensuring a future in which every Jamaican can live “triumphant, proud, and free”.
Therefore, I join with former Prime Minister Patterson calling for the National Partnership Council to take the lead for a national moral crusade of Jamaica also suggested by Howard Mitchell at the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) awards banquet.
I am wishing you all well for 2024.
Lisa Hanna is Member of Parliament for St Ann South Eastern, People’s National Party spokesperson on foreign affairs and foreign trade, and a former Cabinet member.