Moral Courage And the Drug Problem
IN recent months, events in the United States and Latin America have vividly shown the price of fighting drugs, as well as the cost of indulging them. Yet more and more people are finding that if they rise up and refuse to accept the destruction of their neighborhoods by drug dealers, they can bring about change. T. Willard Fair, who is with the Miami, Florida, branch of the Urban League, was interviewed by a television reporter1 who asked ``How do you keep drug people out of the community? How do you drive them out?'' He replied, ``If you believe that you are helpless, then you will behave as if you are helpless. I happen to believe that we are not helpless.'' He went on to tell how their efforts had led to the arrest of over three thousand drug pushers during a three-year period.
Mr. Fair related this progress to a sense of outrage about what was happening. Outrage that leads to positive efforts to change the situation is certainly better than apathy or acceptance. The next step, however, in finding permanent solutions to the drug problem advances beyond outrage. This requires standing up to evil with the moral courage that we learn about from the life and works of Christ Jesus.
Moral courage is something Christ Jesus had in abundance. He was willing to stand up to evil in whatever form it took. For example, when religious leaders brought him a woman who had been taken in the act of adultery, his response was not what they expected. He turned the tables on their self-righteous condemnation of her by saying, ``He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.''2 And each of them left, convicted, as the Bible puts it, by his own conscience.
This was quiet moral courage. But the Master was also willing to take a more vigorous stand. When he whipped the money-changers out of the temple,3 he was taking a courageous moral stand. And there wasn't anything quiet about it.
What has this got to do with us today? Whenever people rise up to resist evil -- the sale and use of illegal drugs, for instance -- this is evidence of moral courage. And we can support such individual resistance to evil with our prayers and with our own efforts to lead better and more moral lives. Instead of being like those who expected the adulterous woman to be condemned to death, we can follow Christ Jesus' example. We can exercise Christly compassion toward those who are ensnared in the hopelessness that often leads them to a life involved with drugs. Like Jesus, we can forgive them. But we must also follow his lead in expecting reformation. After all, he told the woman, ``Go, and sin no more.''4
On a personal level there is even more we can do. We can fight this evil by refusing to indulge in immoral or lawless behavior right in our own lives. For instance, do we routinely pilfer from the office or from the grocery store? It may not be easy to say this, but that's stealing. Do we say bigoted things about people of another race, religion, or nationality? These may seem like small things, but they build up a climate of lawlessness that can lead to an ``anything goes'' attitude. On the other hand, when we resist even small wrongdoings, we strengthen the tendency toward lawfulness -- in ourselves and our communities.
To resist -- to refuse to indulge in petty dishonesties -- is sometimes surprisingly difficult. It's easy to think that pilfering is all right because the company is big and won't miss a few envelopes or whatever. Breaking such a habit of thinking may actually take substantial moral courage. Yet breaking that habit is just what we have to do.
The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, explains: ``Fear of punishment never made man truly honest. Moral courage is requisite to meet the wrong and to proclaim the right.''5 We gain this courage as we more clearly understand God and His role in our lives.
The Bible speaks of God as the giver of divine law. The Ten Commandments and Jesus' Sermon on the Mount are wonderful summaries of that law, the basis of which is God's love for man. This love, however, also makes demands on us. It requires us to recognize that in fact we are totally spiritual and to live accordingly.
In practical terms this means that we strive to live honest lives because such living is an affirmation of our own spiritual identity. It is a way of exercising the Golden Rule, of treating others as we would wish to be treated. Thus, if we wouldn't like to be cheated, we shouldn't cheat others.
Praying for guidance in such matters can help us to gain a new perspective on our lives. As we gain confidence that God really does love us and will care for us, we begin to learn that happiness comes from living in accord with our spirituality. Material indulgences such as petty dishonesty become less attractive. And we become far more able to resist the lure of ``Everybody's doing it.''
Will it make a difference? The change that comes within us as we begin to give up materialism for spirituality leads us in a more God-oriented direction. As more and more of us are living and working from this standpoint, the whole mental and moral atmosphere will become less hospitable to the type of lawlessness that breeds drug use. To accomplish this goal may require quite an effort. But we can start right now in small ways in our own lives.
1Luix Overbea, Inner City Beat, August 27, 1989, Boston, WQTV. 2John 8:7. 3See John 2:13-16. 4John 8:11. 5Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 327.