The Good Thief
"Without God, all things are permissible." -from "The Brothers Karamazov."
Doug and I were brought together by circumstance. We were a couple of lost souls with a willingness to do just about anything. Both of us were sired by alcoholic maniacs, which is to say, our parents were obsessed with their own problems. There was very little energy left for raising children.
So that was our draw. You either get the "Leave it to Beaver" parents or you get ours. I like to think of it as the "birth lottery." A friend calls it the "ovarian lottery."
So you do the best you can. Whining about the birth lottery might explain your unpreparedness for adulthood, but it garners no sympathy.
And so it was that Doug and I stumbled through life and eventually came out on the other side. We very clearly remember our mistakes and we understand now, how it all came to be.
It's not with a fit of rage or jealousy that I examine the perfect lives of others. I am an inquisitor. When I discover the perfect ones, I examine their lives. Not to judge them harshly mind you, but to discover what winning formula was applied.
Time and time again, I saw the same recipe. A kind, religious upbringing. Two loving parents, or perhaps only one, committed wholly to raising the children. A strong sense of morality. A true sense of restraint when uttering critical observations. Empathy for others. Patience, tolerance, and understanding. Some sense of humility and a sincere sense of gratitude. An absence of anger.
I don't remember what philosopher said that in every great culture which eventually disintegrates, the first thing to go is morality. I am a believer. I accept that no destruction of a culture can take place until you remove morality. When people are willing to take a moral stand, en masse, they cannot be broken. They will impose morality upon the others. There will be justice for those who deviate.
I accept this as true. I also accept that our society is breaking down.
So if you want to destroy a culture, you must first destroy Christianity and morality. You must destroy a rule of law, consequences, and justice. You deny moderation. Greed, under the guise of capitalism or materialism, cannot be satiated. People begin to covet vast sums of money, worship and emulate billionaires and become willing to discard any constraint in their own pursuit of material wealth. You must be fearful and lack moral courage. You tolerate poor performance and look the other way. As your leaders demonstrate this lack of morality, the whole thing begins to break down. Your culture is disintegrating. God and morality are inconvenient at first and then completely unnecessary.
I once asked Doug, "Does your father ever regret what he did to your mother?" Doug told me that at the ripe old age of 93, his father is "blissfully unaware."
My journey as well as Doug's journey I suspect- were backwards. We may have been born with a lack of morality but we acquired one. We accept that we made many mistakes, some terrible, and we must reconcile our stupidity, understand it, and never repeat it.
Like St. Dismas, condemned to die with Jesus on that long ago Friday, we accept what we are and what we have done. It took us 60 years, but we get it. We believe in Christ, we ask forgiveness, and understand that we are saved by grace and not by deeds.
We practice acceptance. We can't stop what's coming.