August 21, 2009

What a Character!

By Dr. William Luckey *

A thorough reading of the Old Testament will show that the worst, and the most persistent, sin that the Chosen People committed was that of idolatry. They did it time and time again. This, and God’s punishments that followed, were actually predicted in Deuteronomy 29, 30, and 32. The people of the Northern Kingdom, Israel, were captured by the Assyrians, never to return, and the Assyrians populated their land with other pagan peoples. The Southern Kingdom, Judah and Benjamin, were captured by the Babylonians and taken to Babylon for about 45 years. When the Persians defeated the Babylonians, the Judeans and Benjaminites were allowed to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city wall and the Temple, which the Babylonians had destroyed.

What does this have to do with anything? Plenty. We are all sinners. But when we commit a sin, we need to go to confession, if it is a serious sin, and "fess up" before God in the person of the priest. If not a serious sin, we still need to admit our sin to God. Now many, if not most, have skeletons in their closet. If you opened my closet, the skeletons would hit you on the head. These skeletons are generally between you and God, and anyone else who took part in the skeleton formation process. They are no one else’s business—unless they are publicly discovered. But if it is made public, we need publicly to own up to the fault, as painful as it is. Lying is a sin, too. Assuming that this horrendous act is actually true and someone finds out about it, we need admit it and not try to lie our way around it. This applies especially to public figures, upon whom the public trust reposes.

The case I wish to bring up is former Senator John Edwards. In the last campaign leading up to the nominations for president, Edwards tried to take the high road, coming across as the defender of the poor, pushing his point to the verge of, I believe, class warfare. Despite the fact that he was loaded with cash (which he seemed not to wish to share with the poor), had a gigantic house, and made his money as an ambulance chaser, he still came across as the candidate who really cared. Then, a newspaper caught him with his hand in the "cookie jar." Not only did he have a long-time mistress, but he even fathered a child through her. What was his first and continuing reaction? Denial. Only recently did he announce he would have a press conference and own up to his skeleton.

Why did it take so long to admit his actions? I submit that it was a form of idolatry. The most important thing to Edwards, and of course I am not judging his subjective guilt, and maybe he does not even realize it, is his status in the world. That is his real god! Once a person is caught and it is verified that he or she really did and is doing these things, they not only need to repent, but reject further sin, by avoiding outright lying. People need to take responsibility for ALL their actions and the consequences of those actions. It was only when the Chosen People admitted their sin, and repented, not half-heartedly but fully, did God smile on them and restore them.

All through the opening chapters of the book of Genesis, God seeks to get Adam and Eve and Cain to admit their sin. None of them did. Adam even blamed Eve and God in the same breath, saying that the woman God gave him tricked him. Do we not do the same things? Is this a good thing? Obviously not, and we need to work on this.

Please do not accuse me of picking on a liberal Democrat. The governor of South Carolina is in a similar boat, and by the way, the now former governor of New York State. And then there are the governors of Illinois, Gary Hart and President Nixon, and on and on. This is a question of character. We are all weak, and any of us can make these moral blunders. Frequently, we get the "holier-than-thou" bug, but this usually happens when God tries to teach us some humility by allowing us to fall. It is not for nothing that there is the old saying, which is from St. Paul, I believe, "Pride cometh before a fall."

If the United States, or the West for that matter, is to rejuvenate itself in economic matters, the people need to get some character and begin, not only to try not to abuse money, power, and other people (Bernie Madoff comes to mind as the triple threat) but admit it like adults when they fall; first to God, with a firm purpose of amendment, but even to the public when necessary. If you make a god of your social status, political job, or anything else, you will bring down on yourself and many others the punishments just like the Chosen People did, in God’s attempt to call his child into repentance.

I have pointed out in previous articles that our profligacy has brought on the current economic crisis. This is not something that fell from space one day; we collectively did it. We need to own up to it, and repent.

Dr. William Luckey is the former chairman of the department of Political Science and Economics at Christendom College, where he is currently a professor.  He holds advanced degrees in Business, Economics, Political Philosophy and Systematic Theology. He was married in 1971, has four children and 12 (soon to be 13) grandchildren, and is a Lay Dominican.

You can visit his blog entitled Catholic Truths on Economics at:

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.


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