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Jewish World Review / Dec. 28, 1998 /9 Teves, 5759

Cal Thomas

Cal Thomas Until we've learned our lesson

(JWR) --- (http://www.jewishworldreview.com) I HAVE A DIM RECOLLECTION from my childhood days of being told I would have to endure one form of punishment or another until I had "learned my lesson.'' My parents presumed, correctly, there were certain eternal lessons that would accrue some benefit to me if I took the time to learn them. Are there lessons we might learn from the political and moral machinations of the past six years?

As one who is perceived by some to be a "religious'' person, whatever that means, I am sometimes asked if I see signs of "revival'' on the horizon. This is a religious word which means most of us will be instantaneously converted and that all of our social problems will virtually disappear. Such an experience has happened three times in our national history, usually in the midst of some traumatic experience, such as the period immediately preceding the Civil War.

I tell such inquirers that while the work of the Spirit is frequently unseen, the visible suggests a continuing tailspin of immorality and indifference to matters of character and integrity along with an unquenchable thirst for instant gratification and avoidance of guilt feelings.

In the past we at least had the occasional statesman and not a few clergy who would remind us of the benefits of putting others first, humility, repentance and confession of wrongdoing to be followed by assurances of cleansing and personal as well as national renewal. Today, liberal and conservative religious leaders appear on television to denounce politicians, and statesmanship is as difficult to find as a parking place on most urban streets. Fund-raisers on left and right warn of approaching doom unless their agenda is sustained by your immediate gift to support this cause or that politician.

During World War Two, a time that is receiving welcome attention again from historian Stephen Ambrose and TV anchorman Tom Brokaw, a Scottish Presbyterian minister named John Murray preached a sermon in Cincinnati titled"God and the War.'' In it, he said the waging of war upon "just and necessary occasion is no more wrong than is the execution of just judgment upon the violators of civil righteousness within a particular municipality or nation.'' Then, some debated the purpose of the war. Today, some are debating the purpose of just judgment on those who have violated civil righteousness.

While a shooting war and a cultural war are decidedly different, so are the casualties of each conflict. It is amazing how history repeats itself. Reading Murray's sermon sounds as if it could be addressing today's culture war. He cited a passage from Isaiah 26:9: "When your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.'' Murray suggested that this lesson was more important than peace. "It is the lesson we have been loath to learn, the lesson of individual and national repentance.''

"Righteous'' is a fancy theological word that means, among other things, "morally right or justifiable.'' That the opinion polls reveal an unconcern about behavior that once was more widely considered immoral and unjustifiable is a lesson that our current "unrighteousness'' problem is not and never has been the fault of President Clinton, but is our fault. Our lack of concern has produced leaders and a culture that turn a cold shoulder to such things.

In 1944, Murray was attacking "the alarming prevalence of sexual immorality and of marital infidelity,'' divorce, profanity and "the example of some who occupy positions of high public trust?'' Imagine what he might say about recent conduct by members of both parties who are in similarly high positions.

The occasion of a new year offers opportunities to again focus on those lessons from the past that are as valid today as they were to those who learned them and applied them to themselves and to their nation. The Senate is about to have a rare opportunity to ratify principle and law while rejecting polls and the psycho-babble appeals to "healing.'' While it lacks the power to single-handedly restore civil righteousness, it can, along with preachers uncompromised by the subtle deception of the political demons, point the way for the rest of us to follow -- if we are willing and ready to learn our lesson.


12/24/98: Peace in Bethlehem!? Something to think about during Xmas
12/22/98: The slime machine brings Apocalypse Now
12/15/98: The 'moving finger'
12/11/98: This sorry president
12/09/98: The eclipse of principle
12/03/98: Destroying Jewry on the installment plan
12/07/98: Before the Age of Clinton
12/01/98: Apathy and ignorance
11/19/98: Ken Starr's moment of truth
11/19/98: The fall of journalism's empire
11/17/98: Republicans drift while conservatives float
11/13/98: Supreme Courtupholds freedom of school-choice
11/10/98: The revolting Republican 'revolution'
11/06/98: Hulk Hogan for president?
11/03/98: Clinton's greatest peril isn't Monica
10/30/98: Mother Teresa was right about killing
10/27/98: Clinton to Netanyahu: 'You're despicable'
10/21/98: A 'peace' agreement: Wye not?
10/19/98: Vanity Fair snubs some of the greatest women 'leaders'
10/14/98:The mean machine
10/09/98: Impeachment: an outside perspective
10/07/98: The corruption of the Secret Service
10/02/98: Land erosion in Israel
10/01/98: The race panel: lies in black and white
9/18/98: The Clinton strategy and the Clinton legacy
9/18/98: Stopping him before he sins again
9/15/98: Repenting when the end is near
9/11/98: Faithfully executing: Congress vs. the President
9/10/98: The degrees of separation between Dan Burton and Bill Clinton
9/08/98: Joe Lieberman and the Democrats' conscience
9/04/98: Clinton vs. Reagan and the struggle for power
9/02/98: If only Bubba had been a Boy Scout
8/31/98: Liberal clergy and the Lewinsky affair
8/27/98: Combating the terrorists among us
8/25/98: The president as 'Chicken Little'
8/20/98: That was no apology
8/18/98: Big government's crab grab
8/14/98:Untruths, half-truths and anything but the truth
8/12/98: Lying under oath: past and present impeachable offenses
8/10/98: Endangered species
8/04/98: In search of an unstained president
7/31/98: The UK is ahead of US in one area...
7/28/98: Murder near and far
7/21/98: Telling the truth about
homosexual behavior
7/17/98: One Nation? Indivisible?
7/14/98: Who cares about killing when the 'good times' are rolling?
7/10/98: George W. Bush: a different 'boomer'
7/08/98: My lunch with Roy Rogers
7/06/98: News unfit to print (or broadcast)
6/30/98: Smoke gets in their eyes
6/25/98: Sugar and Spice Girls
6/19/98: William Perry opposed
technology transfers to China
6/19/98: The Clinton hare vs.the Starr tortoise
6/17/98: The President's rocky road to China
6/15/98: Let the children go
6/9/98: Oregon: the new killing fields
6/5/98: Speaking plainly: the cover-up continues
6/2/98: Barry Goldwater: in our hearts
5/28/98:The Speaker's insightful remarks
5/26/98: As bad as it gets
5/25/98:Union dues and don'ts
5/21/98: Connecting those Chinese campaign contribution dots
5/19/98: Clinton on the couch
5/13/98: John Ashcroft: another Jimmy Carter?
5/8/98: Terms of dismemberment
5/5/98: Clinton's tangled Webb
4/30/98: Return of the Jedi
4/28/98: Desparately seeking Susan
4/23/98: RICO's threat to free-speech and expression
4/21/98: Educating children v. preserving an institution
4/19/98: Analyzing the birth of a possible new nation
4/14/98: What's fair about our tax system?
4/10/98: CBS: 'Touched by a perv'
4/8/98: Judge Wright's wrong reasoning on sexual harassment
4/2/98: How about helping American cities before African?
3/31/98:Revenge of the children
3/29/98: The Clinton strategy: delay, deceive, deny, and destroy
3/26/98: Moralist Gary Hart
3/23/98: CNN's century of (liberal) women
3/17/98: Dandy Dan
3/15/98: An imposed 'settlement' settles nothing
3/13/98: David Brock's Turnabout

©1998, Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Inc.