I don’t know whether to laugh or to scream when I hear someone describe the current administration as a “culture of corruption.” After their last turn, I don’t know how they have the nerve! Sadly, there is a culture of corruption; it is much of the entire American culture. As the various interest groups, educators, and bureaucrats have worked to remove God from our public life, they have removed the moorings of honesty, integrity, and civility from our lives. The result is corruption, whether it is the hedonistic casual sex of the young or the scheming theft of money by corporate bigwigs. Unfortunately, no profession or party is exempt whether they are labeled religious, conservative, or something else.
Typically, the accusers, as in this case, are hypersensitive to “corruption” in the camp of their adversaries while being indifferent and protective of their own. Hypocrisy of this sort negates any benefit to the broader culture that might arise from talk about the value of lawful and ethical behavior. This is worse than Jesus warning people to beware logs in their own eyes while seeking splinters in the eyes of others, which is an honest quirk of human nature. Two standards of corruption, one for us and one for them, are really no standards, and the result is a deadening of the culture’s sensitivity to right and wrong.
Of course, in a Judeo-Christian culture eroded by relativism, the belief that there are no absolutes, corruption is very much in the eye of the beholder. The intent here is to undermine the opposition in any way possible. Cynically, the accusers will charge that their adversaries have violated their own values, which in fact the accusers themselves do not share. This seems to suggest that, if proponents cannot keep the values they advocate, then those values are wrong. Furthermore, the charges are often like rumors in the party game “gossip,” where the stories grow with repeating. In this game, the media are willing accomplices, often continuing to repeat allegations that have already been refuted. Their rhetoric is neither about whether the values are worthy or valid nor about moral failure; they seek only to discredit political opponents and build their own power.
Evidence doesn’t matter. When a former president lied about his unfaithfulness, his defenders quickly suggested that his sins didn’t matter. Of course the question is obvious: How can a nation trust their elected leader if his wife, the person closest to him, cannot trust him? If a person is dishonest in things people find out, then they have no reason to believe him to be honest in less public matters. That kind of corruption is the worst. On the other hand, when the current president demonstrates marital fidelity and professional integrity and charges against him are consistently disproven, despite unfounded media repetitions, then the country ought, at the least, to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Why do these contradictions continue? Partisanship has reached a new low. Instead of arguing issues and honestly trying to win the minds of the voting public, an increasing number of politicians and their supporters prefer to browbeat, manipulate, and deceive the public. This sort of slander sounds too much like Tokyo Rose’s broadcasts to American troops: “Your wives are unfaithful, your leaders are lying to you, and you are losing the war.” Truth didn’t matter; any lie was acceptable that helped win the war.
This brainwashing will end only when the public stops listening both to the politicians and to their willing media sycophants. Unfortunately, as mentioned earlier, the corruption is spread throughout the culture, and much of the public is willing to buy into the hypocrisy. Sadly, public ignorance and radical agendas make matters worse. Partisans who care more for their own power than for the general welfare of the nation will play their games even in the middle of one of the greatest threats ever faced by the United States. Ardently religious terrorists will kill themselves to kill us and destroy this nation, and power-hungry partisans undermine our defense with their spurious attacks on the Commander-in-Chief, his administration, and his party. Some accept or ignore the allegations uncritically, depending on which side they prefer, and attackers and defenders carry on their polarizing arguments in whatever public forums available, assuring neither conviction nor acquittal. Respect for both law and ethics deteriorates, and the nation’s enemies benefit from the disunity and failing morale.
One aspect of this clash was identified a few years ago as the “politics of personal destruction.” It was used against Robert Bork, Clarence Thomas, and Newt Gingrinch. The lies, slander, and misinformation have maligned numerous appointees so that some well-qualified prospects decline to be considered rather than endure systematic character assassination. Highly personal attacks have become the norm in political campaigns. Name-calling and mud-slinging have always flavored American politics, but lately elections seem to offer little but bad taste.
Furthermore, ideology and extremely polarizing rhetoric are increasing the divisions among the populace. More and more, the process is more about increasing contributions and winning at any cost. Gone is the statesmanship (“Bipartisanship?” Give me a break!) that used to lead to collaborative solutions to difficult problems. How much worse must it get until angry rhetoric becomes something worse, and violence begins to accompany harsh talk, as it does in many other countries and cultures? If extreme Islamists are willing to kill to get what they want, what will it take to convince extreme anti-conservative, anti-Christian activists to do the same? Of course, some have already been so accused. Conservatives, if you believe the propaganda, are already responsible for burning churches, blowing up abortion clinics, and killing gays.
Disagreement grows along a spectrum of behaviors—disillusionment, angry words, harsh division, anything-goes-to-win, hatred, and ultimately violence. This is the progression that leads both to war and to murder. Conciliatory conversation, collaboration, negotiation, mediation, and consensus-building are alternatives, but they are options too rarely used, heard, or taught. Sports, politics, talk shows, divorce, and Hollywood all promote contention, winning at any cost, vengeance and vigilantes, and money. This is the culture of corruption. In its place, we need a culture of conciliation, integrity, and truth. TableTalk is committed to restoring or discovering such a culture. Stay tuned…
I need to add one final but by no means unimportant observation. Humans have always lived in cultures of corruption, for every culture is composed of sinful humans. Since no one is perfect or sinless, except Jesus Christ, sin is a corrupting influence wherever humans live. God and His Spirit are restraining influences. God’s Word encourages righteousness, but complete obedience and perfection are unattainable. Despite many godly, honorable people and the uniquely noble accomplishments that have made America great, even the best people fail, a truth well-documented in the Bible. In other words, the occurrence of sin, law-breaking, or ethical failure may disappoint us but should never surprise completely. Such individual transgressions never imply that an organization or party or even a church has failed unless that group attempts to rationalize the failure or change the rules simply to protect its member. However, a private failure may stay private as long as it is not ignored. Adultery or an abortion, for example, are not public business and may remain unpublicized as long as those both victims and offenders have dealt with the issues. Violations of state and federal laws are public matters, especially those of public officials; they are subject to the legal process and matters of public record.
Since sin is ubiquitous, and all are guilty at some time and to some degree, everyone has an interest in both justice and mercy. Justice requires that wrongs be made right, crimes be punished appropriately, and restitution made. Mercy, which each of us desires when we sin, asks for forgiveness, a second chance (and more), and mitigation of shame. It is to our shame that our sin often leads us to humiliate others in the name of justice but in a spirit of arrogance while we easily excuse ourselves and demand mercy. The attitudes themselves often tell the tale.
Regarding American Soldier, I don’t read books like this very often–non-fiction, biography, and military–but a friend suggested it. I am just past half-way, and I don’t want to do anything but read! I am not military, but I appreciate the need and the sacrifices that our soldiers have made to protect our liberty. I hate the common media portrayal of the military as stupid and needlessly violent. Franks gives a believable and positive view of Vietnam, the attempted distruction and rebuilding of the military, the war on terror both in Afghanistan and Iraq, and President Bush. It’s not propaganda but a good and honest man telling his story.