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Irrational Nobility 

June 8, 2007, Wausau, Wi— It has often been pointed out that adversity reveals a person’s true character better than anything except possibly the acquisition of power.  Whether it is the result of great tragedy such as the sinking of the Titanic, or the destruction of Greenburg Kansas, or great evil such as the attacks on 911 or the recent shooting at Virginia Tech, or more personal situations, when tested by great adversity minor flaws can crack wide open revealing great weaknesses, or we can find inner strengths we never knew existed.

Two recent news events have highlighted both extremes.   In May we saw the story of Andrew Speaker.  Speaker had been diagnosed with a strained of tuberculosis that was drug resistant.  But he was planning to honeymoon in Europe, and while he was told it was better that he not fly, he was not ordered to stay away from planes.  So he went to Europe as planned.

While Speaker was in Italy,  doctors learned that not only was his TB resistant to drugs,  the particular strain he had was both very dangerous, and “extensively drug resistant.”  Dr. Marin Cetron, director of the Center for Disease Control’s division of global migration and quarantine, said “He was told in no uncertain terms not to take a flight back.”  

But Speaker didn’t want to wait. Disregarding what the doctors said and the potential risk he posed to others he would come near, he took a commercial aircraft From Rome to Prague, and then from Prague to Montreal. From there he drove to into the United States. By doing so he put at risk all he came in contact with, especially the passengers in the seats around him.

Selfish?  Clinical Psychologist Andrea Macari, PH.D  came to Speaker defense on the O’Reilly Factor (06/01/07) claiming that “I think all acts are selfish… selflessness is just an illusion.”  While such views are increasingly common in the Me-First worldview so clearly demonstrated by Speaker, they stand in stark contrast to another recent new story, the story of Liviu Lebrescu, a story I hope you remember.  

Born in Romania, Librescu survived the Holocaust later immigrating to Israel.  Twenty years ago Librescu came to United States where he was a  researcher and lecturer in engineering.  He was teaching a class on mechanics on the day of the Virginia Tech murders, when he heard the shooter coming close to his classroom. Librescu told his students to run to the window and climb out. He, however, ran to the door and blocked it with his body, to give time for the students to reach safety.  He gave his life so that his student could live.  If we are to believe Macari, Librescu gave his life in a selfish not a selfless act.

Later in the interview on the O’Reilly Factor concerning the TB patient Andrew Speaker, Macari couldn’t believe O’Reilly when he said that if he has been in Speaker’s situation, he would have stayed put, so as not to put other people in danger. If you live in the moment with a Me-first attitude, such moral certitude probably does seem unbelievable, even foolish.  But as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:14 “A person who isn't spiritual doesn't accept the things of God's Spirit, for they are nonsense to him. He can't understand them because they are spiritually evaluated.” (ISV)

However, if instead of a  Me-First view of the world, you have a set of core values upon which you base your moral decisions, and you have thought about right and wrong and how your actions impact others, as God’s word teaches us, one reaches a different conclusion.

This is one of the problems with secular attacks on Christianity. They claim to want to replace what they see as the mythology of Christianity with reason and science. But if we are not created in the image of God, but merely the result of chance combined with time, there is no purpose in life, other than to live it. If all there is, is simply the here and now, the selfish actions of Speaker would be the rational action, after all survival of the fittest would argue that you should do whatever it takes to survive. On the other hand noble acts like Librescu would be the irrational one. What possible reason could there be to give up your life, if there is nothing beyond this life. 

This is the problem with secular moralities. There is no firm core, no bedrock upon which to base a moral system. They are not, as they claim, based on reason, for reason is process not a foundation.  Ultimately they end up being based on the self and what is in the best interest of the self.  This is why secular moral views have such great difficulty not only condemning evil but also praising the noble, without having to appeal to values that have been embedded in the culture by the religion. But as secularist continue to chip away at religious values,  ultimately they end up like Israel during the time of the Judges, where “,each person did whatever seemed right in his own opinion” (Judges 21:25 ISV) which is then combined with the increasingly popular line “who are you to judge.”  Unfortunately I fear that the upcoming generations will contain more Speakers than Librescus.

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