December 22, 2004


The death of character (Les T. Csorba, December 22, 2004, Boston Globe)

Character has always required a reality bigger than oneself -- a reality that impinges upon us from the outside. Such a reality is immune from our manipulation and dictates the boundaries of our life. Absent such restraint, pragmatism governs our leaders, for when reality becomes no bigger than the desires and dreams of individuals, personal survival and pleasure becomes the only true god. Character is irrelevant today not because people want it to be, or don't have enough role models to emulate. It is irrelevant because the concept of character is just that -- a disembodied concept.

Character has been undercut by sensationalist media and salacious movies, the difficulty in distinguishing between image and substance, and the repeated moral failings of leaders. We look for flamboyance, not deep-rooted virtue. The result is cynicism. Trustworthy leadership cannot flourish where people no longer know how to trust.

So, here is the tragedy of our times. We desperately need the very qualities we are extinguishing. Some belittle the many understated models of characters around us: promise-keepers, intentional parents, or the many role models in sport and business who do serve. We desire character, but, as a culture that doesn't reward or value it, we seek instead something more comfortable and utilitarian. Character succumbs to pragmatism. We recognize and exalt the former, but enjoy and practice the latter.

To have a renewal of character is to demand a culture that constrains, limits, binds, and obligates.

As Alan Keyes put it:
Character is the accumulated confidence that individual men and women acquire from years of doing the right thing, over and over again, even when they don't feel like it. People with character understand that their lives are filled with events and choices that are significant, above all, not because of the short term success or failure of the search for money or position, but because the choices we make are actually making us into one kind of person, or another. Our life of choices is a life-long labor to make ourselves into a person who has begun to respond adequately to the awesome gift we received from God when He made us in His image.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 22, 2004 9:46 AM

Keyes would make a great Chinese Underground Catholic Bishop. He'd never make it in America, because we demand our bishops be castrated.

Posted by: JimGooding at December 22, 2004 9:56 AM

Character has its wellsprings. These are mostly the teachings of religion and the mos maiorem. The contemporary lack of character comes about as a result of the efforts of the enemies of permanent things, those who lust after "new" things.

Chief among the ranks of these culture-traitors and folk-enemies are homosexuals and multiculturalists. It is almost as those they do not understand that undermining society's distaste for the unspeakable crime against nature will also undermine the myriad civilities which make life livable.

Posted by: Lou Gots at December 22, 2004 10:32 AM


Precisely which of the myriad civilities have homosexuals undermined?

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at December 22, 2004 3:23 PM

Respect for the Imago Dei.

Posted by: oj at December 22, 2004 3:30 PM

oj said it before I could get back. Here's the problem: wnen you go to seize control of the apparatus of state coercion and to wield them to transform society, as homosexuals have attempted to to with the power to tax for public education, you wind up attacking and undermining all of the mos maiorem, not just the ones you don't like.

They (I mean the nasty ones, not those who have enough respect for their neighbors to keep their private matters private) have made themselves the enemies of our customs and institutions, and, worse, have made common cause with all sorts of other enemies, on the mistaken judgement that they benefit by anything which weakens the traditional society from which they feel estranged.

Posted by: Lou Gots at December 23, 2004 11:31 AM