It was conservatives -- usually religious conservatives (whose social attitudes I so often identify with) -- who were particularly disturbed. If they had applied this notion of moral bank accounts to Bill Bennett, they would not have been.
Without a moral bank account, who among us, at some point in our lives, is not doomed to being perceived as having a moral balance in the red?
And at the same time, some people who have done true evil are given a free ride. I will never forget the attorney for a man who had kidnapped, tortured, raped and murdered a young girl describing his client as "a good man who'd had a bad weekend." No good that murderer ever did could outweigh the evil of that weekend. What I am asking for is moral perspective. If your spouse has been a good and loyal man/woman and a good and loving father/mother for 10, 20 or 30 years and had an unfaithful night on a business trip, do all those years of deposits into his/her moral bank account count for nothing?
Without the moral perspective a moral bank account gives us, good people are usually the greatest victims of our loss of moral perspective and bad people are the greatest beneficiaries. We exaggerate the good done by the generally bad, and the bad done by the generally good.
God, of course, is the ultimate judge of us all. But in the meantime, moral judgments must be made by us humans here on earth. And to do so we need perspective. Charles Ponzi heroically saved a woman's life at a great personal price. His scheme was awful; but he was not. Likewise, Oskar Schindler saved many Jews during the Holocaust while regularly being unfaithful to his wife. Yet, we, correctly, I believe, regard Schindler as a moral hero.
I am for moral clarity and calling good "good" and evil "evil." But we lose the war against evil and the war for good when we lose moral perspective. We all have moral bank accounts, and it's good to make deposits because, God knows, we all make withdrawals.
Dennis Prager is a SRN radio show host, contributing columnist for Townhall.com and author of his newest book, “The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code.”
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