Apr 18, 2011

The "how to" stay out of hell book.

The Bad Catholics Guide To The Seven Deadly Sins reminds me of the "for the complete idiot" books of years past. What made these "how to" books great was the fact they had no information gaps. You could repair almost anything because they never skipped a step in the instructions and identified necessary parts with colors, illustrations, and pictures. Who would have thought that a theological subject, the Seven Deadly Sins, could be written with no information gaps and be accompanied by classical and commercial art, posters, portraits, and my personal favorite, cartoons!

This is the first book where I actually laughed at the Table of Contents especially chapter fourteen: Pack a Magnum in your Animus. You have to read this wonderful chapter to realize how funny and how important the virtue of Magnanimity is. John Zmirak lets us know in his introduction what he intends to accomplish: "... this book is meant to help its readers stay out of hell ... but even bad Catholics should aim a little bit higher than that". The use of hilarious and insightful quizzes helps us determine where we land on the Virtue, Vice, Neurosis spectrum.

Zmirak uses the Aristotelian concept of the Golden Mean which hangs in tension between virtue and vice while keeping us on the path to heaven. This book is decidedly masculine, don't take my word for it, read chapter two on Chastity where the author admits to his manly bias and explains "The Orange Traffic Cone Hypothesis". Chapter thirteen Envy: I See You in Hell, brilliantly teaches us the damage caused by this deadly sin "that craves evil for its own sake". This same chapter explains how "Envy worms its way into the nooks and crannies of Catholic discourse" which Zmirak bluntly calls "The Amazing Catholic BS Generator".

This book is more than just a good read, it is a great commentary on those people who represent the good the bad and the ugly in the world of virtue, vice and neurosis. John Zmirak has accomplished his objective and written a much needed and remarkably joyful book, but what would you expect from a student of the saintly catechist Fr. John Hardon, S.J.  JMJ.  Mick, SFO

Crisis Magazine interviews John Zmirak