On Sunday, we learned to our dismay that a young man went into the Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church in Texas and killed 26 unsuspecting people as they worshiped together. These are incredibly difficult events to process emotionally. The micro and macro injuries progressively inflicted upon us as a society cannot be measured. We can be sure, at the very least, that they are having an impact on us psychologically.
The obvious question: Why are such things occurring? Over recent years there has been growing confusion and a muddying of the waters as to what constitutes moral and ethical behavior in society. We have increasingly accepted a kind of relative standard of what is right and wrong based on what we believe to be tolerance, which allows people to do what they want, as long as no one else is hurt.
What we haven’t realized is that without a moral compass based in something other than our personal feelings and inclinations, these massive tragedies are birthed out of gradually developing thought patterns. Seemingly harmless behaviors can lead incrementally to a disregard for the lives of others. The superficiality that now occurs in relationships across the cities and towns of the U.S. is disconnecting us from one another in ways that mute an emotional concern and empathic response for others.
It is amazing how quickly we manage to purge tragedy from our collective consciousness until another tragedy occurs.
We love to fashion ourselves as a tolerant society. Unfortunately, for us, a society that tolerates everything has become an immoral society. The tragedy occurring in our nation is ongoing, but maybe we’ve become too blind to see it.
Our prisons are overflowing with 2.3 million inmates, and our answer is to enact more laws — as if laws in themselves promote good behavior. With no standards other than law, there is no moral foundation to even figure out what is right or wrong when it comes to daily decisions.
Some things are legal, but immoral, such as paying domestic workers who have legally immigrated to this country less than a living wage.
We have deconstructed virtue while dismantling the moral foundation of our nation. As a result, we are experiencing the consequences of a society that has lost its moral compass. We can pass all the laws in the world, but none of them will work to change hearts — something that is so desperately needed in our nation today.
We grieve once again for those families who will be burying their loved ones in the coming days. Ultimately, though, the question is how we will find our way back to collectively being our brother’s keeper, while making the necessary sacrifices to make our world a better place?
Charles P. Morgan is CEO of the Union Gospel Mission Twin Cities.