Beliefs Opinion Politics

COMMENTARY: A computer program for the soul

c. 1997 Religion News Service

(Rabbi Eli Hecht is vice president of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He is the director of Chabad of South Bay in Lomita, Calif., and has been involved in counseling and outreach programs for more than 25 years.)

UNDATED _ Recent news stories have focused attention on a series of ethical lapses, double standards and political correctness run amuck.

These stories bring to mind the fantasy that we could use a computer program that measures integrity, a kind of spreadsheet of the soul.

Here are some recent examples _ first from politics.

Recently, House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., had much explaining to do when he admitted violating House rules by using tax-exempt funds to promote partisan goals and for providing untrue information to Congress. Allegations of Gingrich’s unethical practices are of grave concern. But the House majority sees no reason for an investigation, and the rank and file have ensured that Gingrich will remain, for the time being, House Speaker.

How can an aggressive, unrepentant Gingrich ensure honesty from Congress when he is unequivocally guilty of ethical misconduct? What kind of message are we giving our country?

But it’s politically incorrect for Republicans _ and Democrats _ to criticize and call for investigations of their own leaders.

Then there’s this example from the entertainment industry: Tom Brocato, a Disney spokesman, has announced Disneyland will make a major change in its”Pirates of the Caribbean”exhibit.

For the last 30 years, the water ride featured crazed pirate figures chasing fleeing women figures. But that’s politically incorrect, so now the pirates will be depicted feasting and stuffing themselves with food.

But aren’t mayhem-creating pirates always chasing women? In the choice between a woman and a ham sandwich, the buccaneer will always pick the woman. Depicting pirates in any other way is unfair to their bad-boy image. This decision reeks of political correctness.

Finally, here’s an example from marriage: Eileen McGann, the wife of political strategist Dick Morris, has taken the bold step of announcing she plans to end her 20-year marriage with her philandering spouse.

Morris, it has been revealed, enjoys the company of women of ill repute and even had the nerve to call President Clinton during one of his trysts. Morris, formerly one of the president’s top political advisors, has now sold his story for millions.

But why did it take Mrs. Morris so long to see her husband’s true stripes? Perhaps because notions of”sin”and”adultery”are no longer politically correct.

I dream for the day when the programmers of Quicken, the computer software famous for organizing business, develops a program called”Quicken for Honesty,”a spiritual program for the soul.

Imagine a program that tracks individual spirituality and morality.

Rather than enter figures and other data,”Quicken for Honesty”would keep track of altruism, compassion, diligence, fidelity, honesty, humility, patience, respect, and truthfulness. Then the software would produce a printout with our personal character liabilities and assets. In seconds we would know if we are decent human beings or not. What a delightful program for our souls.

A program like this, based on moral correctness rather than political correctness, is desperately needed.

But we have already such a program that teaches honesty and morality with one set of standards based on truth, and that’s the Bible.

Remember, the Bible is the best morality program. It never crashes and never needs updating. It has been tested for thousands of years by millions of consumers and runs on all systems.