Honesty and Ethics Poll

The 2008 Gallup Annual Honesty and Ethics Poll has been released and once again nurses are given the highest rating by Americans for honesty and ethics – 84% of Americans give nurses the highest ratings for honesty and ethics.   This is the seventh year in a row that nurses occupied that top spot.  In general the medical profession ranks high in American esteem with pharmacists and doctors rated 2nd and 4th respectively.  The only non-medical profession in the top four are high school teachers ranked at number three. 

My profession, clergy was ranked 6th for honesty and integrity.  56% of Americans consider clergy to be of high integrity.  While such a percentage would be enough to win a presidential election, it has to be troubling for a profession whose purpose and message is based in faith, trust, trustworthiness, and integrity.  One-third of Americans see clergy as just of average honesty and integrity – sad for a profession that is supposed to lead by example in moral living.    More embarrassing is that the same percentage – 1/3 of Americans – also see telemarketers as being of average honesty and ethics.  

Interestingly clergy rank almost identically with the police.  So do Americans see clergy not as moral examples but rather as enforcers of the law?  We are not priests or pastors but police in the eyes of many?!?

The same percentage of Americans ranks clergy as very low in honesty and ethics (8-9%) as rank police, funeral directors, and accountants.  About one in every 10-11 Americans think of clergy as being dishonesty and untrustworthy.

Clergy perhaps will get some consolation from the fact that Americans have a higher opinion of clergy than congressmen by almost 5 to 1 (56% to 12%).  So clergy are seen as a better moral compass than politicians.

The study also gives us some idea as to why the scandal in the OCA was so devastating to so many people – a group of men whom 89% of Americans see as average or above average in terms of ethics failed them completely.  The broken trust of church leadership is not taken lightly because people expect them to be at least as honest as the average American.

God Created the World for the Incarnation of the Word

theotok2The Christmas Season manifests itself in different ways in our American culture; and surely it means different things to various subgroups of Americans.  American merchants see this as their best season for making a profit, and hope that Americans will be inspired to go shopping and spend money.  Christmas in this thinking really does end on December 25.  For the Orthodox Christians on the other hand December 25 represents the beginning of the Feast of the Nativity of Christ.  The 40 day season leading up to Christmas is a time to reflect on what God has done for us and why – what is it about the world that caused God to send His Son into the world in order to save it?  What merchants see as THE Christmas season, the Orthodox see as the pre-Christmas Lenten preparation for the Christmas Feast.  Over the next few weeks, I will be posting on this blog some quotes from various people that speak to what Christmas means from the perspective of Orthodox Christianity.

God has created the world precisely for his Incarnation; it is not the world which, through the fall of man, has impelled God to become incarnate.”  (Sergius Bulgakov)

Bulgakov’s point is an important one.  God planned and created the world to be in communion with Him.  It is not human sin which compelled God to become incarnate, to heal the world and to unite humanity to Himself.   God planned creation and salvation, incarnation and eternal life, from the beginning.  It is God’s love which moves God to act in and for His creation (John 3:16).  God always intended for humanity to be united to divinity, and He did whatever it takes to accomplish His gracious Will – even suffering for and because of His creation.   Christmas is the new and surprising thing that God was willing to do to share eternal life with His creatures who lived in time and whose lives is shortened by death.

Thanksgiving Bears Fruit in the Giving

Thanksgiving is not only something we offer to God, it is also a way of experiencing the world.   Though anyone can cultivate a thankful spirit within themselves, those who are blessed with abundance should be especially thankful.  Unfortunately, some of us who live in relative abundance come to believe that we deserve the blessings – which we have earned, and since we are good or because we are Americans we are entitled to the abundance of the earth.  A sense of entitlement is the opposite of the spirit of thankfulness.  Thanksgiving bears fruit to God when it grows into a spirit of giving because of the thankfulness. 

songbird For those thinking they somehow deserve abundance and that they are entitled to God’s blessings, I offer the following story, which is said to be an old Arab folk tale and which Anthony de Mellow included in his collection of aphorisms and wisdom, THE SONG OF THE BIRD:

“A man walking through the forest saw a fox that had lost its legs and wondered how it lived.  Then he saw a tiger come in with game in its mouth.  The tiger had its fill and left the rest of the meat for the fox.

The next day God fed the fox by means of the same tiger.  The man began to wonder at God’s greatness and said to himself, ‘I too shall just rest in a corner with full trust in the Lord and he will provide me with all I need.’

He did this for many days but nothing happened, and he was almost at death’s door when he heard a voice say, ‘O you who are in the path of error, open your eyes to the truth!  Follow the example of the tiger and stop imitating the fox.'”