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Friday, May 16, 2014

The Two Most Critical Words Missing From American Vocabulary Today

In Truth and Transformation, Vishal Mangalwadi relates an experience he had in Amsterdam, where he wanted to buy a bus day-pass from a machine. The instructions were in Dutch. Two young women visiting from America were nearby, and Mangalwadi asked how to get tickets. The women said they had been riding around Amsterdam for a week, and no one checked for tickets. "Why do you want to get tickets?" they asked.

Mangalwadi relates: "Their shamelessness shocked me more than their immorality. They represented the new generation, liberated from 'arbitrary' and 'oppressive' religious ideas of right and wrong. University education had freed them from commandments such as 'You shall not steal.'"

He goes on: "'It is wonderful,' I said to them, 'that there are enough commuters who pay so that the system can carry some who don't. Once your schools succeed in producing enough clever commuters, your country will catch up with mine [India]. You will have to have ticket inspectors on every bus and have super-inspectors to spy on the inspectors. Everyone will then have to pay more. But corruption won't remain confined to the consumers; it is a cancer that will infect politicians, bureaucrats, managers, operators, and the maintenance staff...Soon your public transport will resemble ours: frequent breakdowns will slow down not only the transport system but also your roads, efficiency and economy.'"

Mangalwadi says morality is the "floundering secret" of the West's success. Our economic system rests upon trust that people will pay, and not misappropriate funds, bribe or extort. Without this trust, economic [and political] systems become cumbersome, expensive and fatally flawed.  

"Where did this morality come from?" asks Mangalwadi. "Why isn't my society equally trustworthy?"

The answer is: The kind of trust which allowed the West to become so extraordinarily successful, was the fruit of a Christian consensus which assumed a living, omnipotent Judge sat above all, knew all, and held all people equally accountable to His benevolent Code of Conduct. Living in accordance with that Higher Law was right, and flouting it was wrong. In fact, at one time, the Judge and His Code provided meaning itself for the two most critical words missing from American vocabulary today: right and wrong.

Now that the Judge and His Word are non-factors in Western morality, we can expect to see more citizens like the two Americans Mangalwadi encountered in the Netherlands.

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P.S. on a much lighter note: I received more comments last week about our son Rodney (including off-line comments) than I typically receive in regard to my blog posts. OK. Fine. Below are some photos from yesterday's fishing trip with Rod and his friend David, our delightful house-mate. No, I don't spend all my time fishing with these important guys, but this is what 'right' looks like in my real-time world. (Jesus spent a fair amount of time in fishing boats, too.)

You may enlarge this photo by clicking it once. It's worth the view!

Here's Rod showing off the catch of the day to his "Opa," my Dad, who lives with us. Dad turns 91 in July, and has many fishing trips under his belt. Thanks, Dad, for passing your skills on to the second and third generation! It certainly paid off at dinner last night, didn't it?