ClashPoint: Character in a Crappy Culture

Posted: Jun 12, 2004 12:00 AM

?It?s only wrong if you get caught.?
               -Michael Moore

Don?t know if I can definitively tell you where character has landed ? but it?s no secret that it took the red eye flight out of here sometime in the early 60?s.

You know, until recently, character and substance served as the funky bottom line bass note to our Western culture?s earth blessing groove. But since the early 60's it seems as if character has packed its bags, kissed its kids bye-bye and taken a one way flight out of our country.

From Plato to the Apostle Paul to the original American architects and builders, character was viewed as a non-negotiable component of liberty and justice for all.  Unfortunately, what was an essential ingredient in our national blessing is now more absent from our postmodern milieu than Jessica Simpson during an Oxford Lit discussion concerning Shelley?s symbolism in Frankenstein.

Character used to be the staple of great nations, leaders and people.  To lead, a few hundred years ago, you had to bring to the table faith, character and virtue.  Nowadays, all you need is a killer $500 haircut, good taste in pop music, several botox injections, the right number of syllables in your last name and an off-the-chain marketing agent.

Another reason character has gone to the gallows in our current culture is that the majority of those who bring up character issues usually only vilify the obviously profane ?and do it in a pompous, self-serving manner.  They don?t bring up the issues of character for character?s sake, but for their own personal gain.  You?ve seen it ? some Boss Hogg on TV ? some modern day Pharisee who?s got his own mistresses and vices that contradict his personal (or his party?s) scream for virtue. 

Hey, Captain Obvious ? we know adultery is wrong.  But you know what?  So is gluttony, and so is being a jackass.  So, you drop 300 pounds, get some grace about you?and then we'll talk contrition.  Okey Dokey?  Well, alrighty then.  The cry for character from contradicting caricatures actually ends up with people being more sympathetic with the flaws of leaders and people in general? it emboldens them to actually revel in their contemptible qualities.

Also, who cares about character anyway?  The 21st century has put a premium on style, not substance.  Within our shallow and slushy society, charisma is whuppin? character like a Texas redneck would whup a sarcastic and tubby French tourist. 

It used to be that you actually had to do something to become noted ? kind of like President Ronald Reagan did.  You had to win a war, cure a very sick economy, slay a dragon, right a major wrong. 

Nowadays, all you have to do to get out of the ignored muck of humanity is get silicone implants and do jumping jacks in a mini skirt.  Or, get silicone implants and temporarily relocate to a deserted island with other morons and try to survive.  Or, get silicone implants and marry a Kennedy.  Or, get silicone implants and eat maggots in a burning car that's been shoved off the Golden Gate bridge suspended only by a frayed bungee cord.

My ClashPoint is this: if we?re going to see our nation pull out of the external debacles we?re currently cooking in?and stay out?we?re going to have to go to work on ourselves internally.  We?ve got to re-inject a mega dose of faith, character and virtue back into the personal and national mix.  That is, if we want to continue to enjoy a free and just society.

Let?s put a moratorium on the banal and the inconsequential.  Let?s duct tape the charismatic who?s void of character.  Let?s blow off how tight a person?s abs are and appreciate how fit their mind and spirit are.  Let?s get to the place where  ?We, the people? don?t feel the least bit compelled to acknowledge anyone who isn?t internally worth noting.

Doug Giles? latest book, ?Ruling in Babylon?, is available via . He pastors a church in Miami and hosts two award winning radio programs [].