For Abramoff and the crew, why not blame original sin? |

For Abramoff and the crew, why not blame original sin?

Rich Mayfield

How else to understand why multi-millionaires seek to become multi-multi-millionaires?Watching Jack Abramoff exit the Washington, D.C., courthouse following his guilty plea, resplendent in black fedora and blacker overcoat, had me giving more than a slight nod to the Christian doctrine of original sin. For all its limitations, the theological premise that humankind is, to put it in liturgical language, “by nature sinful and unclean” helps not just to explain the dark deeds of dastardly Jack but the impending indictments of more than a few politicians as well. I plan to pay attention in the coming days and weeks to see just who has fallen victim to Abramoff’s tantalizing apples. Rumor has it that a plethora of political careers will be coming to a quick end. I suspect we will be hearing all kinds of frantic explanations of illicit behavior from certain representatives in congress. Politicians, both red and blue, will be wearing an embarrassed shade of pink as they try and convince us that they can’t even spell “Abramoff” let alone ever knew of him.

On the day of Jack’s guilty plea, Dennis Hastert, the Speaker of the House, dumped $69,000 of Abramoff’s campaign contributions into a charity. Others began quickly following suit, including President Bush. Excuses were plentiful. Indicative of the collective reasoning could be found in the new House Majority Leader Roy Blunt’s spokesperson’s announcement: “While we firmly believe the contributions were legal at the time of receipt, the plea today indicates that such contributions may not have been given in the spirit in which they were received.”The many winks and nods contained in those few words may give even the most idealistic of citizens pause. As a citizen, I am curious as to the defense that will be employed by those tainted in the scandal. As a theologian, I have a suggestion: original sin. If, after all, such larcenous behavior is simply a matter of heavenly breeding, why not blame God?

The comedian, Flip Wilson, used the punch line, “The devil made me do it!” Tom DeLay could lay it all on Yahweh. It doesn’t take much to imagine the former whip of the right snapping back to a judge on the bench, “You can’t blame me! I’m made this way. It’s all God’s fault.” This natural tendency toward transgression can also explain my own semi-jubilant response to the news. Although it is obviously sinful, I can’t deny that the thought of watching innumerable politicos pleading before various courts fills me with more than a certain, well, glee. I know I should be ashamed of such behavior but in this case I too am going to lay it on the Creator. I was made this way. I can’t help but get a kick out of watching the high and mighty slithering down the slide of perdition. I am beginning to understand the self-righteous pleasure so many of my fellow Christians seem to find in declaring the ultimate damnation of others. It really does feel kind of good. So I admit to savoring this revengeful spirit as I remember some of the pious proclamations made by those now caught in the most unsavory of behaviors, especially Mr. DeLay, who once declared, “He (God) is using me, all the time, everywhere, to stand up for a biblical worldview in everything that I do and everywhere I am. He is training me.”

And God apparently has done a very good job. Who wouldn’t believe in original sin after having Tom “The Hammer” DeLay as an inspirational leader?In the end, of course, I must purge myself of such sinful satisfactions and I will – but first I’m going to watch the evening news. Rich Mayfield writes a Saturday column. He can be reached at Rich Mayfield’s new book of days, “Reconstructing Christianity,” is available at or your favorite bookstore.

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