Where is the Moral Plumb Line for Our Nation?

If you are a builder, you have probably heard about the use of a plumb line. It is a critical tool if a builder wants to establish straight, square and strong edges in the building. Without it, the house is weakened and undermined.

According to the American Heritage dictionary, a “plumb line is a line from which a weight is suspended to determine verticality or depth.” The lead weight uses the earth’s center of gravity to gauge perpendicularity.

As a citizen and an active voter who is interested in the future of Canada, and what the house will ultimately look like, I have a few questions to ask of prospective members of Parliament. “Where is the moral center of those who are running for political leadership? What ethical plumb line are they using to determine right and wrong? Do they acknowledge a gravitational pull conscientiously?  Will they build strong moral foundations?”

When pollster George Barna asked people whether they had “complete confidence” leaders from various professions would “consistently make job-related decisions that were morally appropriate,” the results were abysmal. Less than 3% believed in the moral appropriateness of elected government officials.

This is a broad, national problem. More and more books are being written about the “ethical crisis” facing North America. We see it affecting business, religion, politics, sports, even media and entertainment.

John C. Maxwell, in his book, “There’s No Such Thing as Business Ethics,” shared some of his perspectives on why we are facing such moral dilemma in our society. He commented that there is a growing propensity to do the easy thing over the right thing, to make decisions based upon convenience rather than conviction.

Unfortunately, that seems to be a growing phenomenon. “Morality is a private matter,” they say. “Right is in the eye of the beholder.” “What’s good for me is good.” “If it feels good, do it.” “If no one gets hurt, then what’s the problem?” These lines characterize a person without a plumb line.

However, personal ethics is a character issue that will manifest itself in every day policy making. You cannot separate private belief systems from corporate decisions. It doesn’t work that way. What you truly believe on the inside creates your external reality. In that way, personal morality or immorality can be legislated.

That’s why a moral plumb line is important. When an individual rejects any objective, universal, moral plumb line what their constituency has to live with are decisions and policies based upon personal opinion or public polling. All leadership must move beyond this, and aspire to something higher than to ask, “Is it legal?” They need to ask themselves, “Is it right?”

One of the wisest men who ever lived made this statement: “The ways of right-living people glow with light; the longer they live, the brighter they shine. But the road of wrongdoing gets darker and darker – travelers can’t see a thing; they fall flat on their faces” (Pr 4:18-19, Message).

The Josephine Institute of Ethics, a non-partisan, non-profit organization, whose sole purpose for existence is to improve the ethical quality of society, made this statement: “Ethics is about how we meet the challenge of doing the right thing when that will cost more than we want to pay.”

Ethics requires two things. First, it requires that a person have a clear sense of ability to discern between right and wrong, good and evil, propriety and impropriety. Secondly, it requires that a person have a commitment to follow their conviction through into good plans and actions.

What Canadians need to know about leaders desiring our trust is whether they have a deep-seated plumb line that guides them in the making of decisions. Mariners have the North Star to navigate by. Hunters have the reliable compass to traverse the Canadian wilderness.

Does the next generation of political leaders carry a moral plumb line as they prepare to build their version of what the Canadian house should be?