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Presidential debate: Morality, the deficit and Jim Lehrer

John Bourgeois is a student at Reformed Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.. and a contributor to The Washington Post’s local faith leader network.

“I think it’s not just an economic issue, I think it’s a moral issue. I think it’s, frankly, not moral for my generation to keep spending massively more than we take in, knowing those burdens are going to be passed on to the next generation and they’re going to be paying the interest and the principal all their lives. And the amount of debt we’re adding, at a trillion a year, is simply not moral.” - Gov. Romney

There will be much ink spilled (or tweets twittered, or blogs blogged) over the next few days in analysis of Wednesday’s debate. It seems that most polls are in agreement that Romney won (whatever that means) and that Jim Lehrer is really good at not interrupting.

And in all that analysis someone else is bound to notice that while Gov. Romney was free to express things in moral terms, such moral language was notably absent from much of last night’s presidential debate.

The Christian scriptures claim that God is an moral being and that man is created moral in God’s image (Gen 1:27).   As God’s image-bearers, the responsibility of humans is to display the image of our creator to the world. Simply put, we humans are morally-wired. The categories of good and evil, right and wrong, moral and not moral are “coded” into our DNA. This is fundamental to understanding what it means to be human.

And yet Romney’s moral claim re

veals that just because we are moral creatures does not mean that we can or even want to live up to the moral standard that God has written onto our hearts. Our government is trillions of dollars in debt. Why? Because, like Jim Lehrer we’re not very good at interrupting.

Jefferson’s self-evident truths have been played uninterrupted for the past 236 years. As Mitt Romney put it last night, “we are endowed by our creator with the right to pursue happiness as we choose.” As a nation, we have listened to the Romney-Jefferson mantra over God’s: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31).

It’s the “as we choose” part of Romney’s quote that makes all this debt possible. If Jefferson had defined what he meant by happiness, then all might be well. But instead, Americans are free to define that however we want. And for most of us, we’re more than willing to pursue our happiness on the government’s dime.

Are you upset about the deficit? If your answer is “yes,” then proceed with caution. For the deficit is what makes this country “great” because it enables us to live in relative luxury with little thought to the actual cost of our wealth. Either we can proudly stand in moral defiance of the national debt, or we can enjoy our social security, Medicare, schools, roads, and all of the things that make America “great,” and sit down with Mr. Lehrer and be careful not to interrupt

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