Old Patriot's Pen

Personal pontifications of an old geezer born 200 years too late.

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Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States

I've been everywhere That was the title of a hit country-and-western song from the late 1950's, originally sung by Hank Snow, and made famous by Johnny Cash. I resemble that! My 26-year career in the Air Force took me to more than sixty nations on five continents - sometimes only for a few minutes, other times for as long as four years at a time. In all that travel, I also managed to find the perfect partner, help rear three children, earn more than 200 hours of college credit, write more than 3000 reports, papers, documents, pamphlets, and even a handful of novels, take about 10,000 photographs, and met a huge crowd of interesting people. I use this weblog and my personal website here to document my life, and discuss my views on subjects I find interesting.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Moral Values

We've just come through another presidential election, both a time of reafirming our commitment to government "of the people, by the people, for the people", and a trial of patience as candidates vie with one another to see who can annoy us the most. This presidential election was decided based on a number of key factors, one of which was listed as "moral values". Just what are "moral values", and why should we allow them to have so much influence in how we govern ourselves?

Our laws are basically the culmination of thousands of years of progress in man governing man. The vast majority of them, however, come to us from the Bible, most notably the Ten Commandments. In these laws, handed down from God to Moses, God the Creator tells us how we are to live with one another - in His world - in harmony. From Exodus 20:

¶ And God spake all these words, saying,
2 I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
7 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
12 ¶ Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
13 Thou shalt not kill.
14 Thou shalt not commit adultery.
15 Thou shalt not steal.
16 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.

In the Ten Commandments, God is teaching His people two things:

  • that He is the God of all things, and we are to respect Him and treat Him with the honor He is due,
  • how we are to respect His creation by treating it properly.

God is the source of all good things, the creator of the Universe. He demands we respect Him, both for His creation, and for His continued attention to us. He demands that we have no other gods, for these are false gods, and not worthy of His creation. He demands first place in our hearts, at all times. He demands that we respect His Sabbath, the day that He has made holy by His own rest, even as we are to rest.

Mankind is God's ultimate creation. We are made in the likeness of God, and for His pleasure. God demands that we respect this creation by respecting life. He demands that we treat others with respect, both men and women. His special demand is that we do not commit adultery - that we are to respect the special bond between man and woman known as marriage by refraining from having intercourse with another man's wife. He demands that we respect the property of others, by commanding that we not steal - not take for ourselves what belongs to someone else. He demands that we not bear false witness against our neighbor - that whatever we say should be truth. He also demands that we respect that which is our neighbor's, and not covet it for ourselves.

Only one Commandment includes a promise - the Commandment to honor our fathers and our mothers. God says that if we keep this commandment, our lives shall be long in the nation He has given us.

We have incorporated many of these Commandments into our laws: making it a crime to kill another, a crime to take what belongs to another, a crime to bear false witness (perjury). We take these teachings of God's, and others found elsewhere, and derive from them that God has given us basic rights that are to be respected: life, and liberty, the right to speak freely, the right to worship God as we choose, the right to hold our government and its officials accountable. We also set limits on our government, so that it not trample our rights. We retain the right to defend ourselves, even from our government, both by word and deed. We demand that government consider us innocent of crime until and only when a crime can be proven. We retain the rights of personal property - that just as we are not to covet our neighbor's property, he is not to covet ours. Nor is Government to covet our property, but consider it sacrosanct except when the need of the people as a whole require it. Even then, government is to respect our property by paying us its true value if it deprives us of it.

God has set the limits of other things, too. God created life in two forms, male and female. The two sexes provide for the future generations. God created marriage, and sanctified it, and set stipulations upon the rights and duties of both partners. God protected marriage by commanding that it should not be defiled by the sin of adultery. He has commanded that we honor our fathers and mothers. What better way can we honor them than to teach our own children the lessons our parents taught us, and that God, our Heavenly Father, has given us in His Word? By honoring the parents that have given us human life, we honor our Heavenly Father Who has given us eternal life.

Today, the teachings of God are under attack from all sides. Even our churches fail to teach both the words and their meaning to those that attend their services. Kings and Priests, Bishops and lawyers, have all added layer upon layer to what God has said, until the words of truth are hidden among the babble of millions. This is not a new situation - the Pharisees, the "learned elders" of Jesus' day, had also piled tradition and tripe upon the Word of God until it was almost impossible NOT to transgress one of these manmade laws. Jesus rebukes the Pharisees in Matthew, Chapter 15:

1 ¶ Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying,
2 Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.
3 But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?
4 For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death.
5 But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me;
6 And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.
7 Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying,
8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.
9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

It's the same today. Most of us give lip-service to God, but live our lives according to "the commandments of men". Today, the laws of God are trashed, their meaning buried, their relevance discounted, as we decide we're "wise enough to make our own laws", to govern ourselves. We think we can decide for ourselves what we can do, and do so with impunity. Ideas about "good" and "evil" are archaic - everything is relative. Men, however, are imperfect creatures, and the laws of men are imperfect. The wisdom of generations is ignored for the idea of the moment.

  • Psychologists tell us that spanking our children is bad, and our children grow up undisciplined.
  • "Till death do us part" is too binding, so we create no-fault divorce.
  • A lie is only a lie if you get caught, and "everybody does it."
  • Caring for our aging parents is too difficult - put 'em in a nursing home, and forget about them.
  • We shouldn't set standards, because that just makes those that can't reach them feel bad about themselves.
  • What's "good" for us may not be "good" for everybody, so we shouldn't make any moral decisions - "If it feels good, do it."
  • Our motto has become "it's all about me".

God isn't fooled, not for a moment. He knows our hearts, and He sees our soul. He knows our shortcomings and our sins. We can make all the laws we want, we can create "rights" for any class, any group, but in the end, we will all face judgment by God.

10 ¶ And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand:
11 Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.
12 Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?
13 But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.
14 Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.
15 Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable.
16 And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding?
17 Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught?
18 But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.
19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:
20 These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.

Jesus tries to teach those that will listen, especially his disciples, that it's not what we take in from our environment that defiles us, but that which is is in our hearts. We are not defiled by failing to follow the rigid laws of cleanliness the Levites had created, but by what we think, and what we do, that is against the laws of God. We don't necessarily "sin" by not following the laws of man, but we DO sin by not following the laws of God. We live in a sin-filled world. We also live in a world of busy-bodies that want to tell everyone else how to live, what to eat, even what kind of car to drive. It was no different in Jesus' time. Jesus sets the record straight - it's not what we hear, or see, or eat, or drink, or breathe, but what is in our hearts that counts.

He also teaches us that those who are not the "plants... planted by the Father", will be "rooted up". Without leaders that understand and respect the fundamental laws that God has given us, we as a nation will be "rooted up", and scattered to the winds.

The majority of the people of this nation, this United States of America, are people with at least a rudimentary understanding of "right and wrong", and are willing to distinguish between them. They understand that there are such things as "good" and "evil" in the world, that these things are very real. For most of us, there have to be standards by which we judge words, deeds, actions, and behavior. Without standards, there can be no "right" and "wrong", no moral values of any kind. Without standards, there is no way to evaluate what is "good" and what is "evil". For most of us, that standard is the Word of God, found in our Bibles. Most of us believe that mankind is incapable of making those kinds of decisions for itself, because mankind is limited in knowledge, weak in discipline, and "sinful" - both unable and unwilling, by our own powers to refrain from sin.

This year, this election cycle, we were looking for someone who understood this, recognized his own limitations, and looked to God as the source of all wisdom and all legitimacy. George Bush was the candidate that best represented what we were looking for to lead us.


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