I've been thinking about the recently passed health-care bill, and the "process" that led to its passage. I'm amazed at how many people I run into who are angry, sad, afraid, or in other ways very upset about what happened in Washington. Comments contain words like, trickery, liars, flim-flam artists, devious, weak, sold-out, just-in-it-for-what-they-can-get. To say the least a great many people are upset.
There are thinkers and doers more capable than me who are encouraging political action. I'm listening, and I hope you are, as well. Rather than add my voice to the political conversation, what I want to do is seize on this teachable moment to point out how this monumental legislative/political struggle has shown that our culture is no longer standing on a foundation of truth and an ethic of right and wrong. Congress, and way to many of those of us who vote for congress-persons have taken our ethical motto from a popular advertising campaign and comedy routine, "Git-er-done!" I would add one word. "Just git-er-done!" Whatever it takes, whatever corners must be cut, however deeply the truth must be trampled into the mud, no matter if people less powerful than we must be hurt, just make sure at the end of the day that the task at hand is done.
Herewith I offer my top ten (maybe with a bonus or two) ways you know your ethics are slipping (or are already gone):
10 When you have start most of your statements with, "What I really meant was . . ."
The Bible puts forth this simple ethic, "Let your yes be yes, and your no be no." (James 5:12)
9) When the question that precedes any promise made is what, "What will you give me if . . . ?"
In describing the man of sterling character, the Psalmist describes him as someone "Swears to his own hurt and does not change." (Psalm 15:4, NASB) He keeps his word even when it costs him. From beginning to end, many of those who have populated the news have offered their oath to the highest bidder.
8) When your attitude about rules is, "If they will help me accomplish my goal, I support them, but if they are in my way I'm prepared to ignore, distort, or change them in a suspect way.
7) When those who are weak are looked at not as someone to be protected, but someone who can be used, ignored, or run-over to accomplish my goal."
6) When the ethical positions of others are instantly labeled as prejudices, thus making it easier for me seek to buy, beat, or ignore them.
5) When I am prepared to introduce totally unrelated incentives to accomplish my goal.
"If you won't tell mom, I'll give you my ice cream." can easily become, "If you don't tell the boss about me padding me my expense account I'll take your weekend on-call shift." which is just a short distance from, "If you'll vote for this bridge in my district, I'll give my vote on this legislation that affects an entire nation for decades."
4) When you are willing to listen to, and act favorably on the kind of approach in #5.
>3) When self-interest, like keeping my job, not getting caught, being reelected, or ending up with more at the end of the day, trumps all other concerns.
Look at Habakkuk 1:16. The ancient Chaldeans were so dedicated to the God of "WHAT WORKS" that offered sacrifices to the tools of their trade.
2) When you outsource matters of conscience to others.
I.E. Students who figure it is the teacher's job to keep them from cheating, workers who only work when they have to, drivers who only obey the law if they think there is a cop watching, or congressmen who say, "'If you don't tie our hands, we'll keep stealing." Character is what you are when no one is watching. Only a culture that has no respect for character continues to honor those who demonstrate that they have none.
1) When the prime question ceases to be, "What should I do?" and becomes a combination of, "What do I want?" and, "What can I get by with?"
11) When the word "principle" is almost always preceded by some version of "compromise" or followed by "but."
12) When people are expendible but getting what I want is not.
Read the rest of Psalm 15 and note the restraint of the man of integrity. The Archangel Michael showed Satan more respect than many of the addressed as "The Honorable" show one another.