Wednesday, January 21, 2009

We can't recognize low ethics anymore

Reuters published a good article about ethics recently. The article opened with a question, asking if America is undergoing a crisis of ethics. "The swirl of corruption, fraud and greed stretching from Wall Street to Main Street has many U.S. church leaders saying the answer is a resounding yes -- America is facing not only an economic meltdown, but also a moral one."

"The list of examples of dishonest dealings ranges from disgraced financier Bernard Madoff, who has been accused of fleecing investors out of $50 billion in what may be the largest Ponzi scheme ever, to Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, accused of trying to sell the U.S. Senate seat formerly held by President Barack Obama, to the more than 400 people charged last summer in a $1 billion U.S. mortgage fraud investigation."

Example after example of unethical behavior parade across our news screens, showing liars and cheats who in many cases are unrepentant and even gleeful. Brazen too. Just think of the Wall Street Executives, exhausted from having to carry so much bailout money from the Federal Reserve to their pockets, ran off to pricey spas to recover.

As it is, today Congress is extolling the virtues of an appointee for Secretary of the Treasury who failed to pay his taxes. Does it seem like a good idea to you to promote a person to a government position who cheated the government, and who would be in charge of the money no less? Yet the debate rages, that that is the heart of this essay.

We have lost our moral compass when we debate a wrong into a right. Right is right and wrong is wrong. Just today a fifth grader stared me in the eyes and lied straight to me, without blinking and without remorse. I said, a fifth grader, a boy who is only 11 years old looked at an adult in authority and lied through his teeth without thinking twice. I was sad to see that and yet his actions are the same ones that we have been accepting for years in our nation's leaders, our community adults, and in our homes.

God is not surprised about all this. He knows the end from the beginning. He said: "But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power." 2 Tim 3:1-5

We cannot recognize low ethics anymore because society has set aside the standard. Once you throw out a universal standard, you get gradual creep but it's devastating. My favorite movie is Broadcast News, a movie about a lot of things but mostly about ethics. At one point, Holly Hunter, the ethical reporter, accuses William Hurt, the new guy, of low ethics. He had manufactured tears and directed the cameraman to capture them on his face in order to elicit sympathy for his interview subject.

Hunter says, "You totally crossed the line," and Hurt replies, "They keep moving the little sucker, don't they?"

Yes, they do keep moving the little sucker. Once you remove the benchmark it means you can put the starting place any place you want. High, low, here, there, up down, or move it today and then move it tomorrow. Ethics means anything you want it to mean because you have nothing to balance it against.

God will judge us by the things written in the "books," that is, His Word. The Bible contains God's laws, the standard of righteousness by which everyone is judged. He says so in John 12:48: "He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day." The bible is the one true standard for morals, ethics, and behavior. Pray that the current ethical crises will bring people back to the pews and back to the bible. People are confused and lost, searching for something to cling to as the world judges everything as appropriate. This is a great time to pray for people to find that surety, those standards, that wisdom, back in the bible and in churches with good bible preachers to speak it.

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