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Milt Hankins: Skewed priorities suggest moral decline

Apr. 05, 2013 @ 12:06 AM

I'm hearing a lot about how the U.S. Supreme Court holds the fate of the nation in its upcoming decision concerning same-sex marriage. Mostly I'm hearing that America is, like the last days of the Roman Empire, in a state of rapid moral decline.

I believe we have been living in what might aptly be referred to as "days of bread and circuses" for a long time now. We have become far more interested in entertainment and self-indulgence than things which improve us morally and spiritually.

The difference between the Romans and ourselves, as I see it, is that we are a nation of laws, a nation of respect for the rights of the individual, a nation founded upon a basic set of principles among which are "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Consequently, the United States of America can neither be properly compared to nor contrasted with the Roman Empire. Sometimes, however, some similarities give me pause.

High on the list is our passionate enthusiasm for entertainment. These days most families cannot abide the absence of a television -- and more lately a computer -- in every room. Most of our spectacles are sold out. Sports have their own section in our newspapers in addition to front-page coverage. We're lucky to find a few articles of national and international importance buried on pages three and four.

Actually, more time is routinely given to sports and entertainment in local and network shows than is given to world news ... unless unfathomable tragedy, gross bloodshed or impending calamity generates keen interest.

In addition to preoccupation with entertainment, moral decline in our society certainly could be measured by our greater concern for owning a grand, enviable home, driving an elegant, late model automobile and/or owning a boat and/or a vacation retreat than concern for whether or not our neighbor has a job, is free from hunger or is getting adequate health care.

In truth, neither the Congress nor the U.S. Supreme Court has any business defining meaningful relationships or deciding who is or is not eligible to marry. No more business than telling churches which of their ceremonial rites have legal standing. Under separation of church and state, it seems to me the Supreme Court might better be occupied with deciding that government has no business getting involved with any area of personal commitment at all!

If it's the states' responsibility, fine. If it's the churches' domain, fine . . . but, not both entities! The Defense of Marriage Act is an excellent example of faulty government involvement in an area which is rightly none of its business. Marriage should be defined by those people who, unlike government, have a vested interest in it.

We live in a time when most Americans are more interested in the "March Madness" basketball championships than who has a right to marry whom.

We might ask our friends to express their opinions; however, I suspect we already know where their priorities lie.

Milt Hankins of Ashland, Ky., is a retired minister, theologian and freelance writer.

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