Doing the right thing

While I’m on a virtue kick, here’s a nice story:

Someone else might have kept the diamond jewelry, the expensive watch, the iPod and the digital camera left in Miki Cooper’s lost bag.

But Walter Fernandez, the taxi driver who found Cooper’s bag and its expensive contents on the floor of his minivan, returned it to her.

Explained the 64-year-old native of Uruguay: “It wasn’t mine.”

Simple answers are usually the best.

By | February 3rd, 2009|virtue|0 Comments

Culture of corruption

I guess this is good news:

Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd says he’ll refinance two mortgages that he received through a VIP program from Countrywide Financial Corp.

Dodd told reporters Monday that the mortgages for his homes in Washington and East Haddam, Conn., will be refinanced with a different company.

Dodd has acknowledged receiving mortgages in 2003 through a VIP program at Countrywide, which was sold to Bank of America Corp. earlier this year and has been the focus of allegations that it gave favorable loan terms to lawmakers.

Dodd says he’s moving the loans in part because he was wrongfully labeled a friend of Countrywide’s former CEO, Angelo Mozilo. Dodd says he never sought special treatment.

The chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, Dodd says a third party will be involved in choosing the new bank.

What exactly is a “VIP program”? For whom is it designed? I would guess anyone who the mortgage industry would like to have on their side. I’m sure you and I wouldn’t qualify for a VIP mortgage.

I’ll take Dodd at his word that he never sought special treatment. It was just given to him without asking. But, good virtue should have led him to turn it down. I suppose I’m expecting too much out of our elected officials.

By | February 2nd, 2009|virtue|0 Comments

Texas team regrets 100-0 win

I was talking to my communication law class today about virtue and law. In its Miami Herald vs. Tornillo decision, the Supreme Court ruled that a newspaper couldn’t be compelled to provide space for a “right of reply.” The High Court noted that “a responsible press is an undoubtedly desirable goal, but press responsibility is not mandated by the Constitution and like many other virtues it cannot be legislated.”

A good point. You can’t legislate a virtue because as soon as you do, it’s no longer a virtue — people are just following the law.

This story about a girl basketball team’s 100-0 win over an opponent illustrates the point well:

The private Christian school defeated Dallas Academy last week. Covenant was up 59-0 at halftime.

A parent who attended the game told The Associated Press that Covenant continued to make 3-pointers — even in the fourth quarter. She praised the Covenant players but said spectators and an assistant coach were cheering wildly as their team edged closer to 100 points.

There is no mercy rule in girls basketball that shortens the game or permits the clock to continue running when scores become lopsided. There is, however, “a golden rule” that should have applied in this contest, said Edd Burleson, the director of the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools. Both schools are members of this association, which oversees private school athletics in Texas.

There shouldn’t have to be a mercy rule. People should just know how to show mercy. That’s virtue.

By | January 22nd, 2009|virtue|0 Comments

The danger of the prosperity doctrine

Great column from a high school teacher in today’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Dana Goldman takes aim at the “prosperity church” movement — where preachers effectively tell their constituents that God wants them to be rich. Her column starts with a quote from The Rev. Creflo Dollar, the leader of Atlanta’s World Changers church: “Without a doubt, my life is not average. But I’d like to say, just because it is excessive doesn’t necessarily mean it’s wrong.”

Goldman points out:

Eating too much and having a nice car are neither secular sins nor spiritual crimes. But what if people around us have nothing to eat and no mobility beyond their two legs? A 2006 census of the homeless in Atlanta showed almost 5,400 people with no place to lay their heads (a situation the Gospel of Luke tells us Jesus struggled with) — and that’s just within the city limits.

Even if Jesus was speaking metaphorically about his own homelessness, as Dollar has said, we still look to his teachings — and those of Muhammad, Moses, Martin Luther King Jr., the Dalai Lama and countless other religious leaders — for a guide to a moral life. As we begin to learn before kindergarten, morality isn’t just about avoiding ‘wrongs’ like stealing or lying, but choosing what’s most right in complex situations. Do I help a friend in need even if she got herself into this mess? Do I speak out if my boss says something racist, thinking I won’t mind since I’m white? Do I choose self-proclaimed excess even when many around me have little or nothing at all?

Religion isn’t necessary for ethical behavior, but it sure does help. When we look to biblical and living elders for advice on how to fill our lives with meaning, community and joy, very rarely do their answers involve big houses or big bank accounts. And while Dollar suggests that his wealth shows good standing with God, that insults those who have intentionally chosen middle-income helping professions — like nurses, social workers and teachers — because of their relationships with God.

Well said.

I fear that many in our culture have supplanted traditional spiritual pursuits — helping others, practicing kindness, being selfless — with the pursuit of money and wealth. And now they have churches that reinforce this view. That’s too bad.

By | November 14th, 2007|AJC, virtue|0 Comments