Saturday, March 21, 2009

Defining Deviancy Downward

My WVA friend Bill Ellis, heard Tim Lee speak at a Hurricane, WVA Church. Lee, a Marine lost both legs when he stepped on a land mine in Vietnam. Bill listened to Lee’s tremendous voice, saw his strong upper body, and felt the conviction with which Lee spoke. This battle-tested Marine quoted from the Old Testament prophet, Habakkuk, who prayed for the salvation of God's people. Surrounded by evil he cried out, "O Lord, revive Your work in the midst of the years!" (Habakkuk 3:2).

"No political party is going to revive America," Lee warned. He said, "The biggest concern I have for America are the judges who have said for years we do not need God" (Read about Lee at:

The problem goes deeper than personal persuasions about the judicial system. The Washington Post predicts deteriorating economic conditions will cause our federal deficit to soar beyond $1.8 trillion this year. That will leave us wallowing in a sea of red ink deeper than anyone previously estimated (March 20, 2009 U.S. Federal Deficit Soars Past Previous Estimates).

AIG merely illustrates the current problem. It goes beyond the Banking and Housing industries. Congress called AIG Arrogance, Ignorance, and Greed. How about Avarice, Idolatry, and Guilty? Wall Street, Corporate America, and Politico’s inside and outside the Beltway have been in cahoots far too long--further back than Enron, or George W. Bush.

We have become a nation that cares more about personal pleasure than responsible politics. We pursue making money more than practicing morality. CEOs will give you a credit card knowing you are not responsible. Sellers use lust, greed and avarice of every degree to secure your purchase. Buyers want more than they currently have--needed or otherwise, and will go to any lengths for satisfaction.

The enemy is us--lack of integrity. Thomas Merton suggested “a cardinal American virtue, ‘ambition,’ promotes a cardinal American vice, ‘deviant behavior.’” This deviant behavior reflects in many areas of our lives. For example: an area advertiser breaks into regularly scheduled programming to telecast their presidential speech that declares their President’s STIMULUS PROGRAM.

He insults my intelligence, offends my humor, and I delete him--regularly. Under no circumstance would I buy a window from his firm. He illustrates life lived by deceit, illusion, and appeal to devious behavior. It forms the tip of an iceberg that invades my personal space, from which I cannot escape. And, “truth in advertising” remains a useless law.

Do you question our downward deviant behavior? David Callahan, author of The Cheating Culture, and The Moral Center, quotes Robert Merton (Social Theory and Social Structure): “If Americans are exceptionally resistant to social control, and therefore vulnerable to criminal temptations--it is because they live in a society that enshrines the unfettered pursuit of individual material success above all other values.”

Many writers document our downward deviancy, from the White House to Main Street. David Foster believes “cultured Christianity’s Jesus is no more the real Jesus than the velvet Elvis you buy in a gas station parking lot is the king of rock and roll. It may make you feel fuzzy for awhile, but it won’t change your life, free your soul, calm your fears, or save the world from utter and compete self-annihilation” (A Renegade’s Guide To God/ NY/Faith Words/30).

Stephen Carter quotes conservative theologian, Richard Neuhaus, when he writes, “It is not a Marxist but a biblical insight that a society is judged along its fault lines, that we are judged by our relationships to the vulnerable, to the marginal, to those whom many view as expendable” (Carter/Civility, Manners, Morals, and the Etiquette of Democracy/285).

I love this ancient Franciscan Blessing:
May God bless you with the discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships so that you may live deep within your heart. May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may wish for justice, freedom, and peace. May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done” (Foster/A Renegades Guide to God/2006/167).

Let us, once again, follow the real Jesus, who taught and practiced loving God supremely and loving one’s neighbor as himself. We have yet to give that Jesus a serious audience, but it could set us free from the bondage of our deviant behavior.
That's all for now from Warner"s World

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