“But everyone else is doing it.”

By Gordon Conklin

Ever hear of a man named Saint Augustine? He was the fellow who lived many centuries ago and who, after he became a Christian and saw living in a new light, wrote a book about the transformation that had taken place in his thinking. In it he revealed a great deal about human nature.

Augustine had a lot of wild oats to sow in his younger days and he pursued this task with great diligence. After all, “everyone was doing it” in his society and he couldn’t see bucking the trend and missing all the fun. Once in a while, though, an uneasiness gnawed at his mind, so he would attempt to pray, “O Lord, make me pure.”

But then a vision of his latest heart throb (clad in a Roman bikini) would flash before his eyes and he’d hastily add the words . . . “but not yet.”

I have heard several speakers lately whose words remind me just a bit of Saint Augustine. In essence, here’s what they said: Sure we may disagree with the direction our society is going, particularly with the fact that more and more people are turning over their responsibilities to government. Whether it’s tagged socialism, the welfare state, or any other label, is beside the point. If that’s the direction the majority wants to go, why should we butt our heads against a stone wall? Shouldn’t we get aboard the bandwagon and take advantage of the situation instead of slipping behind the parade?

Make me pure and stalwart, O Lord, … but not yet. Not until I have gotten mine and am too old to give a damn any more. Help me preserve the freedom for which my ancestors shed their blood . . . but not if it means accepting a weekly wage below that of the electrical workers’ union!

Help me see the values of the incentives of a competitive society where each person’s income is determined by ability and willingness to work . . . but for goodness’ sake not until I have achieved parity, and legislation has been passed that guarantees equal incomes for all!

Thou knowest, O Lord, that I long to bequeath my children a land of opportunity without the necessity to purchase the right to produce, or obtain permission to enter an occupation . . . but these things are certainly essential for the present emergency if my own cup is to overflow.

Guard me from the temptation in the future to cut open the golden goose of our free enterprise system for a few golden eggs . . . but trouble me not about my present carving activities. I pray for the inner stamina whereby I may stand firm for what is right, regardless of its popularity at the moment . . . but not until my net worth is adequate for financial independence, and especially not until I have qualified for benefits from programs financed at public expense. Thou art so remote, and sometimes heedless to my pleas, but my Great White Uncle in Washington is ever eager to return, to all those who cooperate, a portion of that which he has taxed from them.

The record of humanity, including the Book especially inspired by Thee, tells us that the upward thrust of mankind has been led by men often unpopular with the crowd. Thy prophets and Thy Son called upon us to seek, truth rather than what is merely expedient — called us to dig deep beneath the surface of living, seeking to understand and to make a part of ourselves those things of lasting value. Grant me the courage to risk the derision of my neighbors in the fight for what is of lasting value, even if it costs me to do so . . . but not yet.