There are nothing but second acts in American lives. With the return of Mark Sanford to his South Carolina seat in Congress, another brick has fallen out of the Wall of Separation between Us and Them. The distinction between the party of Absolute Standards of Morality and the churning Sea of Relativists is no Holland Dike. The Dutch boy who was supposed to have his finger in it decided to take a Walk on the Wild Side of the Appalachian Trail instead.

I heard a discussion recently between two youngish policy wonkies whose names shall be withheld to protect the shallowness of their discussion. They were talking about (every generation needs to chew on this one!) whwether religion was necessary for a person to have morality. The question was trotted out, as though it were a new one (new for some, I guess!) thusly: If you don’t believe that you will be incinerated forever upon death, why would you be good in this life? Here is a clue: Look at the behavior of believers, and look at the behavior of non-believers. See much difference? I didn’t think so. Therefore, some therefores should follow. Like this one: Certain patterns of moral behavior come quite naturally to humans, and maybe, just maybe, organized religion has erected some explanatory scaffolding around those innate behaviors. Extra credit: think about how often that scaffolding fails to prevent wayward behaviors from even those who claim to believe it.

People are by nature socially adaptive, and also have a wicked capacity to veer from it under certain circumstances. A short story, with lots and lots and lots of second acts.