Dear Marketplace Friend,
It's a word picture that rings home for me. In fact, it happened last week, on Sunday, while Cheri and I were out of the country, no less. We had people calling us just to say, "Your house is okay; we'll call you if it gets out of hand." What was "it?"
A firestorm. That's what happens when a series of events escalates to a self-perpetuating, weathercreating force of nature. A man driving a stolen car pulled over on the 241 Toll Road in the foothills... and set the car on fire. The conflagration of the car - burning to "cover his tracks," apparently - touched-off a brush fire on a hot, Santa Ana winds day... and 2200 acres went "up in smoke." Hundreds of people were evacuated; two homes were burned. Neighborhoods of people who usually brag about being "out on the edge" were at risk because they live "out on the edge" of suburbia, near the "natural" brush lands around them...
There was another firestorm escalating, at the same time last week. I was out of the country, but it was still on the "front page" of American news. This inferno wasn't ecological; it was more political. What was it?
Until two weeks ago, you would have been in the top-1% of informed Americans if you could answer the question, "Who is Peter Pace?" Here are the clues, from his chest: Defense Distinguished Service Medal, with two oak leaf clusters; Defense Superior Service Medal; the Legion of Merit; Bronze Star Medal with Combat V; the Defense Meritorious Service Medal; Meritorious Service Medal with gold star; Navy Commendation Medal with Combat "V"; Navy Achievement Medal with gold star; and the Combat Action Ribbon. His General's stars would have been the capper: he is General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; the highest-ranking military man in America. Firestorm?
In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, General Pace said that he supports the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" ban on gays serving in the military - a policy initiated under the direction of President Bill Clinton. Why does he support that posture? Because he believes that homosexual acts are immoral, on-par with a member of the armed forces conducting an adulterous affair with the spouse of another service member. There's that initiating car-fire...
The political brush around General Pace was dry and hot. His undergraduate degree from the U.S. Naval Academy, his MBA from George Washington University, his certificate from Harvard's Program for Senior Executives, his participation in the U.S. War College - none of that training prepared him for the consuming fire that is American politics, with the "new" 20-month presidential primary/election cycle. A prominent, national figure made a statement about "morality" and created an opportunity for the dozen(s) presidential candidates to weigh-in. The Question: What, exactly, is "moral?"
Be at peace: this Point of View is not about homosexuality. I won't waste your time talking about an already-settled subject: "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." (1 Corinthians 5:9-11) What part of "no" don't they understand?
Rather, I want you to ponder this: who draws the "line" when it comes to "morality"... and, on whose authority do they do so?
General Pace was explaining that he understands the difference between what is "legal" (the lines are drawn by whoever is in power), and what is "moral" (those lines are drawn by the source of power, rather than the temporarily powerful). Why is there such a firestorm, and why will it recur?
Problem: morality comes from God, not men. God has spoken on the subject; it's called The Bible. Americans - even Christian Americans - are biblically illiterate. Result: a firestorm. More next time...