Saturday, September 19, 2015

So, what IS morality?

I saw something on the local newspaper's website that stopped me and made me think. Anaheim is hosting the California Republican Party Convention, and GOP Presidential Candidate Mike Huckabee was there. I don't think I need to tell anyone who Huckabee is, or what his stance is on certain social issues. And I won't mince words in saying that there are many things he says that I object to. But he said something yesterday that I thought was interesting, and worth writing about. He spoke of the need for our country to have a moral code. Of course, my first inclination was that he was going to discuss sexual immorality, or abortion, or the issue of Kim Davis' refusal to grant marriage licenses. But he did not. But even the headline made me think about morality, and what defines it.

First of all, morality is a VERY subjective viewpoint. There are many who enjoy pornographic material, be it printed material, or digital and online material. And there are just as many who find that abhorrent, and wish it to be regulated (and to an extent, it has). The great court battle against Larry Flynt and his magazine "Hustler" was a landmark case in those who found the content of that magazine objectionable and highly pornographic, against the guaranteed 1st Amendment rights to freedom of speech and freedom of the press. There are many things that we may agree upon that are immoral: a pedophilic individual who preys upon and commits heinous acts against children; an unscrupulous landlord who evicts a family who is only a month behind on rent; an individual who cuts people off in traffic and flips the bird when he or she is honked at by the driver they cut off. Yes, we're surrounded by immorality. 

But as I read the headline on the newspaper's website that Huckabee was calling for a return to a "moral code", I was deeply concerned that he was going to suggest legislating morality even further. The problem with that idea is that what one person sees as immoral, another may not. I have given you examples above of things that I find immoral, and there are many more things that I may find NOT immoral that some of my Evangelical Christian friends might. But as I thought about this topic of morality, and the possibility of more legislation meant to create a new "Moral Code", I thought about the words of Jesus, spoken so well in Matthew 15. To set that story, Jesus and his followers are approached by the religious leaders, accusing Jesus of allowing his followers to break a tradition of not washing their hands before eating (and yes, that is a good hygienic thing to do). Instead, the turns the tables on the leadership, accusing them of breaking commandments themselves, and then Jesus goes further in verse 11:

" is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person." NIV

Jesus is then questioned by Peter as to the meaning of what he'd just said, and Jesus, dealing with the slow-witted Peter explains it further in verses 17-20a:

"Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated? But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile a man" NIV

So, even Jesus was telling us that morality is not subjected or regulated, but it it what WE as individuals see and determine. You cannot legislate morality. So how do you get us back to having, as Huckabee put it, a "Moral Code".

You follow the words and actions of Jesus - and you TRULY follow them. 

This country is about to have a visit from Pope Francis, who is becoming very popular with anti-establishment people of all kinds, including liberal and atheist pundits, because Francis isn't preaching "you must not do this, or you must not do that." Francis preaches about our responsibility to be God in this world: to feed the poor, to visit those in prison, to take in the homeless, and more currently, refugees. We are to be the hands, eyes, ears and heart of God to our fellow man. And I truly believe that once we begin to be the hands of God among the least fortunate, through that act of love, we will find that moral code - that moral center. 

Is it easy? NO! Can we start now? YES! Maybe you're not one to bring a homeless person into your own house, but there are things you can do to help those that need help:
  • Give money or food to a local food bank, or volunteer time there
  • Find organizations in your community that help the homeless, and send money or again, volunteer
  • Become active in your church or a civic organization (like the Elks or other organizations) that does philanthropic work
  • Help fund a prison ministry event
  • Give used or even new clothing to various charities that will dole that out. ASK what they need, because sometimes they need basics like socks, underwear, and toiletries
These are just a few suggestions, and I'm sure you can think of more. But, you may ask, how does THIS create that "Moral Code" that Huckabee was talking about. 

It starts creating in YOU a personal Moral Code of of being a better human. And THAT'S how we create a Moral Code in this country - by being God among us all.

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