Marines.Together We Served

Friday, January 13, 2006

Why Standards?

There is a curious aspect of the human species that I have always been fascinated by. We adhere to a set of standards for living. We have a clear-cut grasp of right and wrong. There is, in addition, the concept of fair play.

Our culture today has effectively challenged all of these beliefs about the human spirit. We are told that we are just hunks of protoplasm, accidentally formed by a fluke in the cosmos. Or that we evolved over time from primordial slime that took shape and left its watery home, choosing to walk on solid ground. We are told repeatedly, particularly in our educational institutions that we are nothing more than another life form, no better than any other.

Now, here’ my problem with all this: Where did mankind come up with a set of standards? For instance, if we are simply animals, expected to do what animals do, where is the logic in even the most rudimentary of values? What would be the point?
Stay with me here. I’ve been kicking this around for some time now. What brought this all to a head was something I read the other day. As a 31-year-member of our nation’s military, I have been aware of values expressed in the armed services that often far exceed those in the civilian sector. Despite the fact that soldiers train for war where they break things and kill people, they are often the most cordial and well behaved members of society. Why? Here are folks who are called upon by our nation to do the worst of acts – the taking of another human life. Yet when away from the horrors of the battlefield these warriors dress in fine uniforms and present themselves as the paragons of a genteel society.

The following is a military policy statement I read that got my thought processes working: “All military and civilian personnel have a responsibility for maintaining high standards of honesty, integrity, impartiality, and conduct.” Add to this the Marine Corps values slogan: Honor, Courage and Commitment. These sound very noble indeed! Even the Marine Corps’ beloved Semper Fidelis – or as the Marines like to say, Semper Fi – is a values-based slogan meaning “Always Faithful.”

Scandals in our military academies, exposing a soft underbelly where wholesale cheating and other unacceptable behavior has been brought to the light, have raised its ugly head at times. Typically, military careers come to an end with nary a handshake, and cadets are dismissed to return home. After all, cadets are expected to be officers and gentlemen/ladies.

So here’s my question: Where do such lofty ideals come from? If we are nothing more than accidental life forms, why do we bother with such standards and values?

The military still holds its members to a set of standards from the moment we raise our right hand to be sworn in. "I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God."

I contend that the reason we have such values as part of our culture, woven into the warp and woof of our souls, is that there is a “Holy Other” who has determined that we are to be more than biological protoplasm. Instead, we are created by a God who has infused his own character and values in us as a guiding template.

Consider, if you will, that we, as a society, will attempt to remove those who do not abide by a divine set of standards. Why? Because these people are considered to be piranhas in our midst who have abandoned any responsibility for their actions, considering themselves to no longer be answerable to a holy God. Such people frighten us because, by rejecting any set of standards to live by, they show a wanton disregard for the value of life.

The values we hold to are not arbitrarily obtained, nor are they made up to satisfy some prurient longing on the part of man. These values, instead, are a call from God to be better than what our baser nature would have us be. In point of fact, we are to be god-like.

One of the strongest arguments in favor of the existence of God is this set of standards, values and behaviors that make us unique in the world, setting us apart from the animal kingdom.

You were made in the image and likeness of God. That’s why you have standards of fairness, truth, love, retaliation, integrity, and so on. When we remove these standards we are capable of the worst of crimes. Consider the warped thinking of an Adolf Hitler who authorized the assembly-line experimentation of anyone who did not “fit” his standard.

God, who loves you completely, invites you to come up to his level. He’s waiting.

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