What is happening to the world we live in today? It is mind boggling as to what is going on globally, within respected corporations, religious institutions, organizations and the three branches of our government. The world is plagued by conflict, poverty, human suffering and injustices that violate the basic values of humanity. Are we witnessing the last hours of civilization? If we no longer allow morality and the sense of fundamental concern for humanity guide our decisions, then the kind of world we leave behind is facing a moral Armageddon.
Mark Foley, Florida Congressman was exposed as a child sex predator, Charles Carl Roberts, a truck driver armed with three guns, two knives and 600 rounds of ammunition stormed a school in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, lined at least 11 girls against a blackboard and shot 10 girls “execution style,” before turning the gun on himself. Duane Morrison, the gunman from Bailey, Colorado killed a student at a high school, methodically selecting six girls as hostages, apparently favoring blondes---and sexually assaulting them. Three young children were found dead in East St. Louis hours after a woman was charged with killing the pregnant mother and her fetus in a gruesome attack which her womb was cut open. The list goes on.
The Bible tells us, “A corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit.” So we dare not forget that beyond our outward politics, there is a backbone, there is a moral character that underlies the legacy that we leave our children. Without a sense of moral striving, we are, as individuals, condemned to formless lives. It is morality that provides an absolute point of reference with which to discern between right and wrong. From this morality springs a set of rules for living together. Without this foundation we can see only a daily basis, one merely living from whim to whim, moving neither toward nor away from anything. Therefore the great mediator of any community is human morality.
I know there are pedophiles, murderers, liars, and cheats out there who scoff at the phrase “moral absolutes.” They believe all things are relative. They reason that if there is no universally accepted system of morals, if one man’s sin is another’s virtue, then any kind of behavior is acceptable and nothing is wrong. And so they place themselves—their own wants and desires---at the center of the universe. I often fear that America is embracing this sort of decadence. With our notions of psychology and science, I worry that we have become so sophisticated that we disregard the simple concept of good and evil; that we disregard the notion of moral absolutes.
The remarkable thing about stories of good and evil is that everyone can identify who or what is good and who or what is evil. We can change these stories so that the characters are human beings and not gods or demons, and they will not lose any of their impact. Their message will still be the same. This proves that morality and virtue are not unalterably connected to religion. They are however bound to certain moral absolutes.
Is it merely coincidence that it is against the law to murder someone in Argentina and also in Korea? Or that theft is a punishable offense in both Saudi Arabia and Canada? Is it just an accident that people the world over agree on more things than they disagree?
It can’t be that simple. The preponderance of the evidence seems to say that there are certain things that are right for all people and other things that are wrong. Murder, rape, pedophilia, man/boy society, and cheating on your spouse are wrong. We don’t need the Bible, Torah or Koran to figure that out.
Today, we live in a country that is obsessed with its economic prosperity. We are comfortable enough to spare ourselves the rigors of moral striving. Same-sex marriages, eroding family values, ambushing innocent children in class rooms, elected officials with a fetish for underage kids, absentee fathers—these things cause concern but little more.
We proceed with the knowledge that American life will go on. We are confident that we are the greatest empire in the history of empires. This belief in the inevitability of our way of life breeds certain carelessness to the truly important stuff of life. This is the decadence that precedes the fall.
We need to continue passing the torch of moral excellence to our children so that, down the road, they may realize something greater than violence, sexual promiscuity, making celebrities out of a former Governor who had secret and openly gay liaisons while married, and disintegrating family values. For the true measure of our success is the world we leave for our children.
If we strive for the high ground of moral excellence, we will have improved the only corner of the universe that we can be certain of improving. And that is ourselves. If we do this, our morality will overflow from our own lives and trickle into the lives of others. And then, in quiet moments when we’re alone, we will suddenly realize that knowing the good, we have done it; knowing the righteous, we have served it, knowing the truth, we have embodied it.