July 13, 2018

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

Moral imperatives of religion the basis for a society that works

Cynthia DewesThe decline of respect for religion is resulting in an impact on our society that no one could have predicted would be so great. It’s the action that causes unintended consequences.

For one thing, our attitude toward legitimate authority has changed. Parents, teachers, almost anyone in authority is often challenged disrespectfully. This is bad enough in children, but unacceptable in adults. And when the adults are role models for children, is it any wonder that kids don’t seem to know the rules of sensible living?

Legitimate authority is based on the idea that a functional society must follow some kind of rules. Rules made not just for their own sakes, but to implement workable relationships such as families or school classes or work places. And this requires that someone be in charge and others follow.

For some reason, authorities have often become The Enemy. They are regarded as bullies or people misusing their power to lord it over others. And sometimes, unfortunately, this may be true if the policeman or parent or whoever is not doing the job they’ve been privileged to do. They should be, and often are, removed from their positions of authority because of it, as in kids being removed from an abusive home.

Religious ideas of chastity have certainly become passé. Now, sex with anyone before marriage (formerly known as promiscuity) is a given. Of course, the result is often fatherless children raised by frantic mothers or grandparents. And marriage is not exactly a solution, since many seem to marry without much thought. Leading to easy divorce and, again, fatherless children. It’s always the children who suffer.

Many people confuse chastity with celibacy, which only means that you don’t marry. Priests are required to be celibate. But chastity is for everyone, including married folks who are required to have sex only with their marriage partner. Furthermore, marriage must be open to the generation of new life, which means between a man and a woman.

The concept of personal freedom has certainly changed. Now, the mantra is “as long as it doesn’t hurt anybody else” anything is possible. The problem is, what hurts others may be more than we think. With personal choice should come personal responsibility, which doesn’t seem to be evident in many cases. This can range from trivial events to real problems.

Think about how we behave in public. It used to be taught and practiced that we should consider others in public places. That meant we would speak quietly in restaurants or other venues out of respect for our neighbors. Now it’s hard to find a restaurant or even a movie house where we’re able to hear what we’re there to listen to. It becomes a contest to see who can dominate the room by talking the loudest.

Freedom is not license. We are privileged to live in a free country, but freedom carries the responsibility to exercise it carefully. The disrespect for religious values extends from the family to the government, and we should be watchful that it does not erode our rightful liberty.

The moral imperatives of religion are the basis for a society that works. People are safer, more fulfilled and generally more content when they follow such rules, whether they recognize them as religious or not. We hope that parents will guide their kids along the paths which lead to a good life. God has provided the plan; let’s follow it.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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