The Right Thing


It finally happened where I live: four people (including the shooter himself) died and two were injured in Cincinnati last week when an angry, paranoid young man opened fire in a bank lobby. The horrific event happened just off Fountain Square, our city’s symbol of unity. “Enough” was the only word on the Cincinnati Enquirer’s otherwise blank Op-Ed page the next day.

Something has changed. For most of its first two centuries, my country benefited from a unifying code of values. Most married couples stayed together because it was the right thing to do. Most adults strove to make an honorable living and model moral-social responsibility to their children because it was the right thing. I lived in an agnostic home, i.e. my parents didn’t consciously adhere to the Judeo-Christian values our culture was built upon. Nevertheless, they lived by them, because it was the right thing to do.

Did people consistently live that way? No. My father had too much to drink one night and struck my mother. She fled to her parent’s house. Deeply ashamed, Dad begged her to come home, promising never to get drunk or hit her again. He never did. My pal Rick’s mother banged on our door one day, accusing Mom of having an affair with her husband. The woman was wrong; her husband was having an affair with the woman next door. Shameful things happened. But breaking vows and wounding others was wrong, so neighbors counselled the adulterous couple to stop. And they did.

Were wrongs sometimes overlooked? Yes. Minority rights were shamefully ignored during that era. But they were eventually addressed, and are still being addressed. Because moral-ethical practices always need addressing. Always.

But there was a difference: The culture then believed in tolerance, not pluralism. Tolerance says, “This is the right thing, but that will be tolerated.” Moral pluralism (which has been in the process of displacing tolerance for the last half century), says, “There is no ‘right thing,’ therefore all things must be tolerated.” (“Who are we to say others should not cheat on their spouses? Perhaps they live by a different-but-equally-valid standard.”)

The shooters at Columbine were thought to be inspired by violent video games. Now, two decades later, there is a whole generation of games inspired by them. One video game, “Active Shooter,” gives players points for hunting down and murdering children. Its creator’s defense? “There are games such as Hatred, Postal, and Carmaggedon that are even worse.”  Translation: “You allowed those, so you have to allow this.”

When ancient Rome abandoned its longstanding moral-ethical code (based on the teachings of the Greek philosophers), it started down the path of cultural disintegration. Practices that would formerly have been unthinkable were now commonplace: the violent rape, torture and murder of prisoners in public stadia, for example, became the dominant form of mass entertainment under a system of pluralistic values.

Our culture is headed down the same path. “Active shooters,” angry, alienated young men whose civic “rights” have gone unchecked by a culture that is afraid to gather around them and teach them the right thing, are only one sign.

What are we to do? It’s doubtful we can alter the de-civilizing of modern culture merely by legislation. But we can do what a small group of followers of a rabbi named Yeshua did in a remote outpost of the morally disintegrating Roman empire. We can demonstrate the alternative: an active love that dares to surround, counsel and model for those who have lost the way, or never even knew there was one,

The right thing. 

“Then we will no longer be infants, tossed about by the waves and carried around by every wind of teaching, by the clever cunning of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into the image of Christ Himself.”

~Ephesians 4:14-15

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in Culture, For Pastors and Teachers, Quips and Quotes, Religion/Faith and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

41 Responses to The Right Thing

  1. karanoel says:

    Yes. This.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Words of wisdom. Thanks, Mitch

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Amen, Mitch.This is beautifully said.

    Something I think we don’t really understand the implications of fully, but when people are lost and broken they really need somewhere stable to place their eyes. We’re all “angry and paranoid” sometimes, so we look up, and we turn to one another, and we realize we are not alone. Our culture however, is taking away what is solid and foundational,while also creating separation and division that isolates people. We can fully blame those who commit these kind of atrocities for what happened, but they are also symtomatic of some much larger cultural problems.

    Liked by 6 people

  4. nancyehead says:

    Reblogged this on Nancy E. Head and commented:
    Great wisdom for our day.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I shared this on my personal Facebook page (@warnermac). Outstanding piece among much excellent thought and writing, Mitch. Thanks for making the time to craft this well wrought piece. —JPW


  6. nancyehead says:

    Great wisdom here, Mitch. God bless!

    Liked by 3 people

  7. stolzyblog says:

    Can understand the poignancy of your feelings, the latest gun craziness happening in your town. Been to Cincinnati once, interesting place.

    But I think you’ve got the social malaise mis-diagnosed. Rather than ‘The Right Thing’, you might have titled your piece ‘The Possible Thing’. There is a zeitgeist in process, maybe for a century or so, which involves a greater and greater percentage of people having it dawn upon them that ethical judgement and moral consciousness is something incumbent upon themselves, as independent thinking and feeling agents. This sea change is slow at first, but it is gathering steam. Enroute, there will be, and already is, chaos. Naturally, people comfortable with surrendering their responsibility for independent moral discrimination to institutions or groups or other imagined authorities — which ALWAYS involves substituting someone else’s body of INTERPRETATIONS about what is ethically sensible or ‘lawful’ in place of one’s own –will be uncomfortable with this new development in human affairs.

    Religious institutions in particular operate on this conceit. That elders know how to interpret scripture in the right way or dictate moral norms, instead of the one in the mirror who must develop conscience. Even in the face of complexity and ambiguity.

    When Nazi Germany unfolded, everyday ‘good’ people did not become complicit en masse because they suddenly surrendered their capacities to do the right thing. Rightness did not suffer a sudden drop in people’s comprehension. It was due to the change in what was possible. People’s choices became constricted due to economic collapse and increasing authoritarianism. No amount of moral educating would have then mattered. Not enough people were prepared to sacrifice themselves or loved ones for the sake of truth. That must come from within, not from institutions. The same complexion is coloring our society now, and the crisis is deepening. People are beginning to feel less choice in many matters. Less seems possible. Plauralism does not decrease the sense about what is right. It forces one to cultivate their independent judgement about such matters in the face of increasingly obvious inconsistencies flooding their daily circumstances and happenings.

    Cheers. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • mitchteemley says:

      I agree with much of what you say. However, I believe the supposed conflict between being taught what is right (whether not to cheat others or how to replace a garbage disposal) and thinking for oneself is largely a false one. Moral-ethical pluralism, as opposed to tolerance, isn’t free thinking, it’s the idea that all values or beliefs are equally valid.


  8. kakymc says:

    Yes. Well-said. Thank you.

    Liked by 4 people

  9. Glenn Riffey says:

    Right on… Well said…


  10. Nancy Ruegg says:

    A well-written, thought-provoking post, Mitch. Another element contributing to our cultural disintegration: disintegrating families. You touched on one factor: couples who no longer stay together (and work to become a cohesive team for the sake of the children)–because it’s the right thing to do. Add to that parents who are too self-absorbed or simply too tired to do the hard work of disciplining the children. Many dads in particular have abandoned their parental responsibility. It’s no coincidence that many of these young, troubled shooters come from single-parent households where Dad was not a participant in their upbringing.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. numrhood says:

    ephesians 4:39-40

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Reblogged this on The Good Word and commented:
    Great post by Mitch Teemley

    Liked by 3 people

  13. Roos Ruse says:

    Naturally I don’t “like” hearing it’s happened near you too, Mitch, but I admire the way you address it. Heb 13:18.

    Liked by 4 people

  14. Outstanding analysis and commentary, Mitch! I think you should submit this to someplace like Christianity Today. Every concerned Christian needs to read this one! 🙂

    Liked by 7 people

  15. Tina says:

    Amen. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. It’s a sad truth, but I’m encouraged to know that their are still people out there like yourself who are willing to be a light. Lord, make all your kids lights in this dark world!

    Liked by 3 people

  16. Wow, you hit the nail on the head. I can tell this is written from experience, and funny thing is my own experience confirms it. Well put. Well put.

    Liked by 3 people

  17. The up-side of the downward slide is that the darker the night, the more brightly the stars shine. Those who live according to the teachings of Jesus today will stand out more than ever before.

    Liked by 3 people

  18. Pastor Randy says:

    Well said, and you’re right–change the culture by first changing yourself, then one person at a time. I remember this little sign given to me when I visited a little country church: “Wrong is wrong even if everyone does it. Right is right even if no one does it.”

    Liked by 3 people

  19. Well written, sad but true!

    Liked by 3 people

  20. aviator3230 says:

    Thanks for this, Mitch. A great post – shared it on FB. A concise, humane, and scriptural take on the illness that grips society.

    Liked by 3 people

  21. Charlotte Q. says:

    I love this piece! I agree

    Liked by 3 people

  22. Great offering. There is a need for information to flow without bias. Those who educated our children are the group that controls them and at the same time calls them stupid. Your tax dollars at work.

    Liked by 3 people

  23. I agree with the substance of this post but have a concern about the wording.

    What this post calls “pluralism” is called “normative moral relativism” by those whose taste for precision exceeds their distaste for clunkiness.  Calling it “moral relativism” (or even just “relativism”) would be less clunky than the 3-word phrase while still being fairly precise (and in accord with a widespread usage).

    Using the word “pluralism” rather than a phrase with the word “relativism” risks alienating the many readers who use “pluralism” as described (for example) in the online version of the Merriam-Webster dictionary, where the last 7 words are especially important:

    «a state of society in which members of diverse ethnic, racial, religious, or social groups maintain and develop their traditional culture or special interest within the confines of a common civilization»

    I use “pluralism” the way M-W does, and I see it as positively good.  I should celebrate (not just tolerate) subcultures other than mine, but I should also oppose evil.

    Here are a few helpful links:

    Liked by 3 people

    • mitchteemley says:

      Mellow, I appreciate your feedback, and am sorry about any ambiguity in my terminology. What I speak of is “moral pluralism” (also sometimes called “values pluralism”), which is similar to moral relativism, but is not quite the same thing. The Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy describes moral pluralism as “the existence within a society of radically different but equally permissible moralities.” I should probably have used the more formal term at some point in order to clarify.

      Liked by 1 person

  24. Ron Whited says:

    Most excellent post Mitch

    Liked by 3 people

  25. So true. There is a historian, Arnold Toynbee, who said that when the moral fiber of a country declines the country will decline.

    Liked by 3 people

  26. It’s the same in my ‘civilised’ western democracy too. Sad, but true. Well written, Mitch!

    Liked by 2 people

  27. I love the way you write 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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