Southern Values

IntegrityIn a recent editorial, Cal Thomas wrote, “…the expectations of our culture are now so low that we no longer honor and value people of integrity, only celebrity.” (June 16, Pensacola news Journal). Right off the bat let me state that I am a Christian although so much mis-information has been attached to that word I’d rather say that I’m a student of Jesus. I am not right wing, left wing, or fanatic. On some issues I am extremely conservative while on others I am just as liberal. I am not a tea partier, nor a fundamentalist, neither Democrat nor Republican. I strive to understand the issues and the people behind them and use my influence accordingly. I like some of what Cal Thomas says as I do Susan Estrich, Leonard Pitts, and Charles Krauthammer.

Thomas’ statement, however, has cost me a great deal of energy as I have wrestled with the truth of his pronouncement and while I do not always agree with him, I do think he is on to something. Integrity which means: “the quality of possessing and steadfastly adhering to high moral principles or professional standards” (Encarta Dictionary {North America}) seems to be a lost concept in America. I am not thinking of the integrity of the diligent 3rd grade school teacher who works his/her heart out week in and week out, year in and year out to develop young minds. Nor am I thinking of the physician who spends sleepless hours in an effort to give relief to suffering patients. I’m not thinking of the pastor who sits at the bedside paying for the dying parishioner. In fact, I’m not thinking about the average American at all. There are people of integrity at all levels of society and in all professions. No, I’m thinking of how often we become aware of the lack of integrity in national and international celebrities, yet continue to hold them in high regard instead of those who deserve our veneration.

Just possibly, it has always been so and now it seems so prevalent because exposure is immediately available due to the proliferation of the various news outlets. On the other hand, maybe it seems there is a lack of integrity because of the egregious examples where we continue to hold the perpetrators in high esteem. I just wonder. Maybe it has always been so, but with a lack of media attention, many of us were not aware of it.

I remember a president protesting loudly, “I am not a crook.” I remember a president looking directly in a camera and sating with absolute conviction, “I did not have sex with that woman.” I remember a debate over what “is,” “is.” I remember the first so-called comedian that crossed the line with words you can’t say on television. I remember a New York Governor who was fighting sexual crimes in his city while being entertained by a prostitute. I remember so-called preachers whose ministries were destroyed by inappropriate sexual follies or stealing from their congregations, or even covering up grievous sexual deviations; athletes of all sports guilty of taking kickbacks, receiving special favors, or being pumped up on illegal drugs. This list could go on infinitum, but part of Cal Thomas’ point is hereby made.

I just saw a cell phone commercial where a girl was answering questions on a game program while simultaneously texting for the answers. The carrier was boasting that no other carrier could let you talk and text at the same time. In another day that would be called cheating and certainly wouldn’t be celebrated as a reason for purchasing a product.

You can get a bill from a service company today with small print that says, “If you don’t want this product, indicate so by checking the box. Leave the box unchecked and cost of the product, often worthless, is added to your charges. That is called exploitation.

How many people have lost their financial security through dishonest financiers? In addition, is 15, 18, 25, up to 40% interest on credit cards anything but robbery? How many people are living off the largess of the government who honestly don’t need it?

What about those we elect to govern us, some have entire machines to present their candidates to us as being something they are not?

Now turn your thoughts to those who we celebrate (venerate). Movie stars whose moral standards Caligula could have defined; athletes who are dishonest, corrupt, engage in dog fighting, take play enhancing drugs and lie about it.

My issue here is that so often we overlook these character flaws and venerate these people as if they are gods. Let me be clear, I am all about forgiveness and offering grace and restoration, but only when the grievous wrongs are admitted, and adequately atoned for. Even then, we need to carefully consider whom we want to venerate.

Think about the television shows that demonstrate all sorts of behaviors that illustrate moral deficiencies. I’m not speaking of shows where homosexuality is revealed, I believe that is a normal phenomena and should no longer be hidden, but I am thinking of shows where people engage in and celebrate illicit affairs, and the like. The stuff like Jerry Springer produces should never be allowed in our homes. I’m not suggesting that the great watchdog in the sky should censer them, I’m saying that if we had integrity we would censer them ourselves. I am so sick and tired of going to movies where “fuck” and its variations are sprinkled through the dialogue for some other value than reality. Soldiers in battle use the word as and adjective or adverb which I understand and there are scenes where those kinds of expletives are real, but not used for sake of using them.

I recently spent an afternoon watching old reruns of the likes of Jonathan Winters, Bob Hope, Carol Burnett, Tim Conway, and George Gobel and laughed until I actually hurt and not a single curse word was uttered. I simply can’t sit through an episode of comedy central without being grossed out.

What has happened to us that we have rejected that which is excellent and embraced that which is garbage?

I wonder if I’m just getting too old or if there really is a phenomena of degradation and decay in our dear land.

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Jack deJarnette

Jack deJarnette

I am a United Methodist Minister who in June 2008, was placed on incapacity leave due to kidney failure.  My kidneys failed due to immusuppression medications secondary to a heart transplant in 1997. The ministry is my second career having spent 12 previous years at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta as Chief Respiratory Therapist and Technical Director of Life Support Systems at Emory University School of Medicine. I  have a wonderful wife of 45 years, two super children, and four grandchildren. My life has been exciting, challenging, and full of wonder as in my early years I was concerned with saving lives and in my later years saving souls I was graduated  from Georgia Military Academy in 1961 (Woodward Academy). I attended Emory-at-Oxford College, The University of Georgia, Georgia State University, and Emory University for postgraduate work. I received my ministry credentials through the United Methodist Church Course of Study at Emory's candler School of Theology. My Theology is primarily Wesleyan and varies with the particular topic under discussion. I refuse to be labeled either liberal or conservative. My politics are moderate embracing what I hope is the best of all parties. I have a deep love for Christ, the Church, and the United States of America. Bev (my wife) and I are deeply thankful to God for the blessings that have been showered on us throughout our lives.

9 Comments
  1. Mark Dohle

    Your not getting old, you just have more experience and can see how things are sliding.. I believe cultures go through low periods and if they can’t stop the cycle, well it just gets lower and finally dies. I believe we are at a corssroads, but I believe our leaders do not see it. I feel your frustration and pain my friend.

    Then as you say, there are plenty of very good people, perhaps the vast majority, so there is always hope.

    Peace
    Mark

  2. Frank Povah

    Well said, Jack – though I do have trouble with some of the moral tone (only some, not all).

    Humankind – its religion included – has become shallow and childish because we think we have the means to accomplish everything.

    And (and this is written in a kind voice in my role as Captain Apostrophe) when someone is censered are they hit by a priest wielding an incense burner?

    1. Jack deJarnette

      Frank,
      I’m extremely interested in your comment about moral tone. Please tell me more since my desire is not to be a empty headed moralist. Since I am a Methodist minister the only occasion I ever had to censure anyone was when I borrowed it from my Catholic priest buddy.

  3. I think, Jack, it’s just a small percentage of the population, like the class clown, that presents as shameless for the simple reason that they have no awareness of themselves. They’re enabled by the rest of us who admire what to us looks like bravery or chutzpa or even consider ourselves ever so much superior because “we don’t act like that.”
    I’d only quibble (when don’t I?) with your inclusion of the meaning of “is” as an exemplar of things falling apart. Whatever Clinton meant at the moment, the definition of “is” as one of a sequence (between past and future) or of an ineffable present in which all events are jumbled together seems particularly significant. If there is only an unending present, then it’s not possible to recognize the relationship between cause and effect and, absent an awareness of that, a person can’t be accountable. Such a person just responds to prompts like one of Pavlov’s dogs.

    1. Jack deJarnette

      Monica,
      I love your observations about a small percentage of the shameless and agree. It is just that we allow them such tremendous influence on our society.

      I also understand your quibbling with my “is” thing, that was sort of tacky, but I continue to find it an amusing statement from an seemingly intelligent man.

      1. Good observations Jack. There is no “shame” anymore. People just don’t seem to be ashamed of anything.

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