Whatever happened to decency?

15 07 2019

decency“Whatever happened to . . .” books abound!

“Whatever happened to faith?”  “Whatever happened to truth?”  “Whatever happened to justice?”  “Whatever happened to worship?”  “Whatever happened to the human race?”  Some people even want to know “whatever happened to penny candy?”

But as for me, I want to know whatever happened to decency?

Author and cultural commentator David Brooks recently wrote that a “decent society rests on a bed of manners, habits, traditions and institutions.”  But today, it appears as though the goal of a “decent” society is all but gone.  Manners are labeled ‘old school’ and seem to have been discarded with the all those big ‘ol cathode ray tube television sets; and traditions appear to have been forgotten, only to be replaced by whatever is easy, practical, and convenient.  Respect is nothing more than a 1967 song by Aretha Franklin; and a courtesy is merely that which we can get for free.

In considering the state of decency today, Brooks quickly references our current president, proclaiming “Trump is a disrupter. He rips to shreds the codes of politeness, decency, honesty and fidelity, and so renders society a savage world of dog eat dog.”  And I agree!  Wholeheartedly!  But as true as his words may be, Donald Trump is at the same time both the problem, and a symptom of the problem.  He continues to lie, cheat, and even in the eyes of many of his supporters, behave in ways that are unbefitting of the President of the United States.  But the absence of morality and respectability is overlooked by far too many, as they deem other objectives and agendas to be more important.  Which is why America’s problem is far greater than Donald Trump!  America’s problem is all the people that continue to support him– those who fail to condemn his lies, his treatment of those who disagree with him, and his mockery of the Christian life.

America’s problem is that we are becoming a nation willing to sacrifice morality and respectability on the altars of partisan power. And when a culture or society does that, decency is threatened. Standards are lowered and expectations are forgotten, and behavior becomes so personal and privatized that goodness and rightness become secondary matters.

But sadly, few people seem to be talking about this today! There are those who are ready to impeach the president because of his obstruction of justice in the Russia investigation; and others are quick to proclaim the ineptness of his countless cabinet appointments, many of whom are unfit for their respective positions.   Some of us are quick to speak out against his positions on child separation at our southern boarder, abortion rights, gays in the military, climate change, Obamacare, the Iran deal, the emoluments clause in the constitution, the role of a free press, and on and on and on.

But as important as all of those issues are, no one seems very interested in talking about decency. No one seems to have found the courage to address the issues of morality and respectability. Of all the political issues dividing our nation today, nothing is more disconcerting than the divide over the importance of decency; and yet no one seems to be willing to tackle it: not even the Church – the very community gifted with the task of growing a more decent world. So I’m encouraging Presbyterians to change this reality!

I’ll likely continue to speak out against the politics of the current administration.  But more than being one to PROTEST, I also want to ATTEST!  I want to attest to the value of decency.  I want to lift up the importance of honesty and truthfulness.  I want to call us back to ways of living that are respectful, and courteous, and polite!  I want to stand not just on the side of love, but on the side integrity as well. We need not stoop to the level of 45, and can at the same time promote both whatever political philosophy we espouse, AND decency!  It is possible to do both; and people on both sides of the aisle can replace Trump’s politics of hate with a politics of love, and in so doing bring decency back to our country.

Some values are higher than political values; and decency is one of them.  As the very good creation of God, decency is a mark of the Spirit on every human soul; for if I might dare quote Christopher Hitchens, “human decency is not derived from religion.  It precedes it.”  So let’s tap into that part of our created nature.  Let’s become more mindful of the Spirit’s mark upon each one of our lives. And let’s remember that being a great society, begins when we learn to be a decent society!






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