What is happening to the conscience of America? Ethics and morals are universal pillars of the world's great religions, one mechanism by which civilized societies attempt to keep order and avoid societal and personal self-destruction. One definition of ethics is “a theory or system of moral values” and a definition of morality is “conformity to ideals of right human conduct.” (Merriam-Webster).

What is happening to the conscience of America? Ethics and morals are universal pillars of the world's great religions, one mechanism by which civilized societies attempt to keep order and avoid societal and personal self-destruction. One definition of ethics is “a theory or system of moral values” and a definition of morality is “conformity to ideals of right human conduct.” (Merriam-Webster).
In an earlier column, I addressed the concept of lying. Telling the truth is an integral part of ethics and morality aimed at that ideal of right conduct. If you dig into the essence of most religions you will find that ethics, morals and right conduct are based on the concept of the Ethic of Reciprocity. Some call it the Golden Rule, but it is one common aspect of all moral, ethical and religious teaching. It has been handed down through the centuries long before it was included in the Bible. It is a mutually beneficial means of resolving conflict, and although its origins are not known, it has been found in ancient Egypt (The Tale of the Eloquent Peasant, ~1970 B.C.E.).
Lying is self-serving willingness to avoid the truth or mislead others for personal gain when making a statement or answering a question. So why has lying become such an increasingly common violation of ethics and morals in America today? There are many reasons and many forms of lying, some even normalized in certain circumstances. A salesperson may misrepresent a product in order to make a sale for personal profit or gain, while being encouraged by the employer. It may not be an outright lie, but an intentional withholding of important information. A politician may lie when promising to achieve a certain campaign goal in order to win votes or keep power in office, yet know full well that it cannot be done. A criminal and his lawyer may lie in order to avoid just punishment or escape justice altogether. Some of this is the expected “dirt” of living in a competitive society.
But in recent years, things have gotten out of hand. Lying has become so commonplace that it often avoids the expectation of honesty. Several prominent persons in positions of great national trust have lied to FBI agents during investigations. Lies are so prevalent that fact-checking agencies cannot keep up with researching and discrediting them.
Political promises are made for the sole purpose of gaining immediate favor and then tossed aside like a bouquet of wilted flowers. Candidates make promises they know they cannot keep but which they know voters want to believe. As of Oct. 10, the Fact Checker has cataloged 1,318 false or misleading claims by our President since he took office in January. (Meg Kelly/The Washington Post, Fact Checker).
Virtually all western countries not driven by religious extremism have leaders whose word can be trusted. We have become an exception. Our President says one thing while our Secretary of State says another. Recorded words are later denied. World leaders can no longer trust us to make promises we will keep, resulting in failed treaties and relationships, and growing dissent.
This is not where we want to go. Some have sold their souls on the altar of immorality in favor of political gain, control and power by violating the ninth commandment to not bear false witness (Ex. 20:16.) The end justifies the means. We are no longer the “city upon a hill” of Ronald Reagan and Matt 5:14. It is not what we teach our children, and it should not be how we define ourselves in the years ahead.


Mike Davis writes a column for the Neosho Daily News.