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Divorcing Honor from Duty

Christians cannot afford to sit in the bleachers and watch how this all turns out.

The disturbing case of NY Rep. Anthony Weiner is but one more example of what C. S. Lewis diagnosed as a society of men without chests.

Everyone agrees, including Mr. Weiner, that the Congressman's behavior has been reprehensible. Not everyone agrees, however, that his ability to continue serving his Congressional district has been fatally compromised.

These days, apparently, it doesn't matter what kind of person you are, as long as you can get the job done. You can be completely devoid of decency and integrity and still make your contribution to the economy. Honor doesn't matter as much as duty; in fact, the two may not be related at all.

Which is scary, because in a society such as ours, in which economic productivity is the overarching and all-determining good, we could easily see the idea of honor pass away completely.

How long will it be until character is no longer a qualification for public service? Or have we already crossed that threshold? The dismissal of character as a qualification for office is not only a reflection of the kind of leaders we desire; it also demonstrates the kind of followers we have become. If we won't condemn our leaders for their gross misconduct, we don't have to condemn ourselves, either.

Anthony Weiner may be right in saying he broke no laws (although that's looking less and less likely), and he may be correct in saying that he can continue to serve his constituency and the Congress. In his own mind, his dishonorable and disreputable conduct does not affect his civic judgment or duty. He can still produce results for the people who put him in office.

This is the path marked out for every public school child in this country: productivity first, honor - what does that matter? Not much, evidently, for almost no time is devoted to it - either through study of historical precedent or inculcation of values - in the public school curriculum. The Anthony Weiners of our society, men and women whose strictly relativistic and personal values make a mockery of any larger ideals such as honor, are only the product of the schools and the cultural environment we support with our taxes and endorse by our participation.

Whether our society will sanction the final divorce of honor from duty, morality from productivity, remains to be seen. But the Christian community cannot afford to sit in the bleachers and watch how this all turns out. Everyone else may have winked and turned a blind eye to Herod's dalliance with his brother's wife, but John the Baptist would not. To be sure, his public outspokenness cost him his life.

But by doing his duty before God, he preserved both his honor and that of the Law of God.

Additional related texts: 2 Samuel 12.1-14; Daniel 4.24-27; Matthew 14.1-12

A conversation starter: "Do you think our society can survive without some common sense of honor, decency, and integrity?"

T. M. Moore, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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