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Reflections on Ethics 46
Jesus's Free Pass?

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I read Billy Graham's "My Answer" on occasion in the Calgary Sun. Today (18 September 2005), he answered the following question:

A few years ago I stole some money from my company and they never knew it was gone. Six months ago, I became a Christian, and now I'm wondering if I need to do something to make this right. I don't want to lose my job.

The Reverend Graham replied, in part with:

What you did was wrong and the only way to make it right is to go to your employer, tell him what you did, and repay what you stole (with interest).

I suppose there is room for disagreement with that, but from a purely ethical viewpoint, it is a legitimate response.

But after some commentary on some bible passages he went on to say:

Make it clear, however, why you have now come forward: That you have given your life to Christ and you aren't the same person you once were.

This is somehow supposed to support the idea of a real moral change; more so than I've become a Muslim and I am not the same person, or I've become a Buddhist, or I've become a Scientologist, or I've completed an ethics course at the community college? Excuse me, but why should giving your life to Christ somehow count for more than arriving at an ethical decision from another perspective?

Let's be blunt. The writer of the question, in spite of becoming a Christian, is still almost clueless about morality, or he would not have needed to ask. (Recognition of the need to ask accounts for the use of "almost" instead of "completely.")

Stating he has given his life to Christ is meaningless. The only message it communicates is that if this person gives up his new Christian belief, he will be once again without the pretence of a moral rudder.

Many strands of Christianity proclaim that giving your life to Christ is a free pass into heaven in the afterlife. Perhaps that is true. But, there is no reason why it should be a free pass in this life.

What this person needs to do is to prove he now understands the difference between right and wrong, and demonstrate his clear intention to do only right in future. The source of his newfound morality is irrelevant. And the morality should be capable of surviving the loss of the source.

Christ, in this case, is not the answer.