In the last few years we seen an increase in national headlines about bullying at schools and online, people promoting scams that will cost individuals thousands of dollars, and more high-profile lawsuits. Also what is notable, but maybe not as sensationalized, is the decline of attendance in churches, especially Catholicism. Are the two related? Is our obsessive need to know the answers of the universe and abandoning faith at a reckless rate causing us, as a people, to lower our moral and emotional standards?
A thousand years ago there wasn't a separation on church and state. Monarchies had to submit to papal authorities. The ideal of being excommunicated from the church was a terrifying thought. Dying without being shriven and released of our earthly sins was a guaranteed one way ticket to hell. The bible and papal doctrine was the standard of living. Living a sinful life of robbing people of their monies and property was a ghastly, evil way to live and was not idolized.
In today's society we seem to idolize the destruction of others. There are more news headlines of the increasing numbers of young people joining violent gangs, numerous reports of well-known people going to jail for stealing thousands and thousands of dollars from the average person. In a not great economy families and individuals are looking for the quick buck to make and falling victim to scams or perpetuating the scams themselves. Our political system is wrought with upper class people manipulating our elected officials for their own benefit.
I consider myself more agnostic than religious or spiritual. Though I do believe in God, I am not completely convinced by Him. I approach my beliefs with a more educational outlook than blind faith. One day I took a good look at my life and compared it to friends and family I have known since childhood. I wasn't impressed by the differences I noticed. I was a good child growing up, attended church with my family, and just an overall good person. I was so similar to those people who now lead very different lives from mine. Where they are happily married or in committed relationships, I am in a marriage struggling to survive with numerous separations, custody battles and infidelities. They have completed college and have degrees with stable if not promising careers. I have held many jobs ranging from customer service to collections to bartending. Attempting to remove myself from biased opinions I continue to compare and find myself wanting. Would embracing a stronger belief in a power greater than myself, one that will hold me accountable in my lives after this one, enable me to make good and moral decisions while holding myself accountable for my failures without seeking fault somewhere else?
I read a few articles a few years back when bullying started making national headlines. A girl had committed suicide because of the relentless torture she endured both in and outside of school. And sadly to say, what I found most disturbing was the accused parents had hired lawyers for them. Upon that realization I was startled. Why was I upset about a parent trying to defend their child and then an epiphany struck. I wasn't upset about a parent looking out for their child but the blatant disregard these parents had in making sure their children took accountability for their actions. By trying to get them out of punishment, the parents were endorsing their kids abhorrent behavior, making it okay, or even acceptable, to be so incredibly mean, hurtful, rude and harmful to others. I began to wonder if these parents and kids believed in God? Predominantly sure their answer would have been "yes". But then that raised even more questions. If they do believe in God is their belief so basic that they have no way to measure good vs. bad on a level higher than directly personal?
There is a new fad emerging these days. The presence of signing a waiver of liability at kids birthday parties. This is completely disheartening on so many levels. I am sure some people see the logic in these waivers but that is not what I see. A waiver of liability excuses the adults in charge of supervision of any kind of actual and engaging supervision. It allows the adults to sit back away from the action and observe with little interest. It completely removes the accountability of the adults in charge to do their job: watch and supervise the kids left in their care. A charge they requested by sending out invitations. Are we so disillusioned by our lack of faith that we need a piece of paper to excuse us from accountability?
Why is that we are eager to justify our personal failures and readily judge harshly the failure of others? Our faith has become so basic, diluted and uneducated that we have no moral barometer anymore. We can justify our infidelities to our spouses/partners but morally condemn others for their failures that we think are on a different level. Is that possible? Is breaking your vows less of a moral offense than scamming people out of millions of dollars? Isn't it more logical that if you are the type of person who can engage in lies and deceit in your marriage then you can then also be the type of person who can engage in lies and deceit involving taking money from people under false or illegal pretenses? The solution to preventing the proverbial "slippery slope" could be embracing God more wholly into our lives and finding that spiritual balance between life and faith. By embracing an entity that is greater than ourselves we are then able to hold ourselves accountable for our actions and engaging in true remorse for our failures. Accepting real consequences for the wrongs we have committed, no matter how minor, enable us to strive to better ourselves personally and as a people worldwide.
I had a lengthy discussion recently with my husband about how to introduce God and religion into our kids lives. I was becoming continually disturbed by girls' questions about God. I asked my husband how this should be handled and he suggested we need to be encouraging their quest for God's grace. I was completely terrified. I expressed to him that I didn't want them to go down that road at such a young age. I was absolutely not going to raise my kids to be hateful and judgmental. As the conversation progressed I began to realize that my educational approach to God and religion was actually a big shortcoming and destructive. By not embracing faith, but instead researching it I had begun to in grain in myself a view of God and his followers that promoted hate, racism, homophobia and judgement. And though that may be said for some, certainly those who truly understand their faith and religion aren't this way. Instead they are loving, honest, moral people who strive to better themselves and others by admitting and accounting for their failures and shortcomings. Would this not be a better way to raise my children? It would seem so . To raise children who are loving and honest and moral. Children who become adults that make good decisions base not on fear of divine retribution but out of true morality and honesty because they embraced God and faith.
Finding the balance between our lives and faith is most definitely difficult. But it should be something that we all strive for everyday. Because as our faith and religions start to decline into bankruptcy so maybe does our morality and accountability. Worshiping equations and mathematical certainties gives no scale on which to judge what is right and what is wrong. That is what faith provides us.