Monday, July 08, 2002

It's a truism of conservative thought that this country is in dire need of more religion in public life. But, what if the religion most commonly practiced is debased, flaccid, self-serving? With no moral vigor and no ethical base? This thought occurred to me while reading a report in the Houston Chronicle on the executives of Enron that contained this quote from Ken Lay; "Good will ultimately prevail."

Despite all their religiousity, it seems to me, this is the fatal flaw of this generation of conservatives, especially the Southern, Christian business types: They have no moral judgement. No sense of right and wrong. To them, "good" is "what's good for me" and "right" is "what works in my favor."

Their sense of a "personal" God is all about "me." It's a primitive concept of God as a personal favor-granter.

The hard work of determining their moral obligation to others, of making difficult and, when required, self-sacrificing choices for the greater good or the good of others they are obligated to (such as stock holders and employees), is beyond them. It is "if it feels good, do it" wrapped up in a smug, self-satisfied assurance that whatever feels good to them will be all right with Jesus.

Personal faith can be a great boon to individuals, personally. But it is meaningless in terms of ordering our public life -- the world of mutual obligation and commitment. For that, you need ethics.


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