Moral Currency

Posted: February 22, 2018 in Uncategorized

The late Elie Wiesel wrote and spoke extensively on the horrors of the holocaust and the necessity of creating peace out of the ashes. Because of his experience of suffering and his response to it he had huge moral currency. This kind of moral currency is vested with spiritual authority. The suffering of the innocent often makes huge deposits in the moral bank account. The world regards such a voice differently, more attentively, with deep empathy. The moral currency debit card is fully charged.

After Nelson Mandela was released from his long sentence and prison cell on Robben Island, a punishment that came as the result of his resistance to apartheid in South Africa, he became not only President of a new nation but its moral example and icon. When he spoke his words were filled with moral authority, the kind of status conferred only on those who have been personally initiated into suffering. And Mandela traded in his currency for a new lease on life for his country.

In the months following the disastrous 9/11 terrorist attack on our homeland I was traveling in Scotland. Every time strangers discovered that we were Americans they automatically and genuinely lavished us with empathy. At that moment in history our country was endowed with the greatest amount of moral currency we would have into the foreseeable future. In the months and years following we borrowed down on that currency until almost nothing was left on the world stage. And today it continues to decrease day by day.

When surviving students and teachers emerged out of the smoke of the latest school mass shooting in Florida they did so with a tragically earned moral currency. They alone would have the right to speak of the evil that rules the land. So they seized an unplanned stage by trading on that currency. At this moment these young citizens have found their collective voice, the voice of a generation. It resonates more than any other present voice with truth and courage. Their simple and powerful message shines against the dark backdrop of a political leadership devoid of moral courage of any kind.

This American drama is now showing at a theater near you. Official power does not guarantee moral authority; in fact the opposite is often true: Earned moral currency speaks a word of truth to power, a word that intimidates the powerful, arrogant and self-interested, causing them to tremble on their thrones.

I have two hopes. The first is that the courage of this morning of moral currency will continue to show itself in stark, clear and unambiguous truth-telling.  The second may take longer but is just as important: May this generation continue to speak the truth in love until the day when they push their unrighteousness and impotent elders off their chairs of power and take their places.

Katniss lives.

  1. Lee says:

    Amen and amen—we do not always get to see the end product of such moral courage, but I want to believe that this young generation will one day be able to turn the world right side up again.

  2. Audrey Spieler says:

    Beautifully written. Thankful for each new generation that sees the truth…and determines to make life better for the world.

  3. Lynelle Phillips says:

    Oh my goodness those teens and teachers have an uphill battle. How can we help them? Here is the latest: NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said in a speech to CPAC “There is no greater personal individual freedom than the right to keep and bear arms . . . It’s not bestowed by man, but granted by God”.

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