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What ever happened to good old-fashioned character?

The world is full of friendly, polite, helpful... outwardly very nice people. But in the midst of adversity, when 'niceness' is really needed, how much remains?

I asked a nurse who was defending all the nice people in her church, how many of them were willing to actually give their lives for her; and she answered, "When it comes to that, I suppose none of them are."

She went further and confessed that she did not even know one that would give her their car (which she badly needed to get to work at that time).

The test of character is not how one behaves when things are going smoothly, but rather, how one behaves when faced with ultimate life-and-death priorities.

The great evils of the world are not carried out by red-faced demons. They are carried out by people who are on the whole, good neighbours, respectable churchgoers, successful businesspeople, faithful marriage partners... but who have never found anything worth dying for.

Consequently, whenever faced with choices between the virtues they profess and losing their jobs, their reputations, their possessions, or their life, they simply let go of the virtues 'temporarily', until the danger is past.

Multi-national corporations that rape the environment and exploit the Third World are really just groups of nice shareholders and nice employees like you and me.

Governments that oppress minorities and practice corruption are composed of people who would have no trouble gaining character references from their friends.

Abortionists, tobacco advertisers, producers of pornography, bookies, criminal lawyers... they are all just out to make a living in the best way they can... the same as you and me. And if you get to know them, you'll find they are basically pretty nice people in the day to day trivialities of life.

Until we can see that evil lurks in each of us under the cloak of our best self-image, we will be powerless to combat evil. The Enemy is happy to let us talk ideals, as long as he knows that, in the crunch, our ideals will collapse under the excuse of being 'realistic'.

"Character" was a word I heard often when growing up. But today even the thought of a person being committed to an ideal strongly enough to die for it is suss. Young people are no longer told to develop character. Instead, they're told to love themselves, to survive, to get ahead, to look out for Number One.

In the face of all this, we as Christians wish to declare our commitment to building character... whether or not it works (since commitment to ideals in the face of failure is the essence of character anyway). We will try to do and to say what is right simply because it is right, and to do our best to accept the punishment society hands out to such fanatics.

We are looking for others who do the same.

(See also The Dark Side.)

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