The arrest of twelve persons on charges of serving liquor to minors at house parties following which a seventeen-year-old girl died in an automobile crash recently shocked the suburban community of Darien, Connecticut. According to a New York Times report, Circuit Court Judge Rodney S. Eielson, who initiated the arrests, said: “The guilt of needless loss of life is in every living room in this community and in the conscience of every parent who knew his or her child was going to be served liquor or who served liquor to a minor on that night.… I wish I had the power to get every parent who is guilty.”
Judge Eielson ordered warrants issued for adults who had anything to do with serving liquor to minors at the parties attended by the eighteen-year-old youth on trial for reckless driving and negligent homicide. Fourteen warrants were issued and twelve arrests made on charges of violating a Connecticut statute that prohibits the serving of liquor to minors by persons other than their parents. (Two participants were out of the state.) Among the twelve appearing at the Darien police station were prominent business and professional men. The parties were held at the home of a psychiatrist and of a vice-president of a leading corporation. One of those arrested was a public-school science teacher who had tended bar. The judge said that a medical report showed that the youth on trial had consumed twelve scotches and water.
Judge Eielson deserves nation-wide commendation for his stern realism in facing a scandalous situation by no means confined to Darien. Actually the kind of parental irresponsibility against which he has taken action may be found in hundreds of similar suburban communities. A sore point in American society is delinquency among children of the highly privileged, as shown by FBI reports of marked increase in suburban crime. Surely the judge pointed to one of the main causes—a parental attitude that subscribes to a permissiveness derived from the idea that morals are fluid.
One of the most ominous sociological facts of the day is that our nation now has some five million alcoholics, which means that one out of every fifteen American drinkers is now an alcoholic. What a strange obfuscation of moral responsibility for parents to serve liquor in their homes to children of other people, to have a public-school teacher act as bar-tender, and then to let an immature youth, befuddled with drink, go on the road in the middle of the night to run the risk of fatal accident.
In his book, Push-Button Parents and the Public Schools (Macrae Smith Company, 1964), Dr. Paul P. Mok says out of his experience as a psychologist for the Bronxville (New York) public schools, “We expect [of the child] honesty and decency and consideration—good manners, cooperation, and industry. But what do we actually do to foster such noble ideals?… We drag ourselves home cocktail-sloppy, beat and frenzied, and brush the children off our backs like flies. Do as I say, not as I do.”
But if parents are committed at all costs to the unchallenged place of alcohol in American life and if they insist on inducting youth into the use of alcohol, thus subjecting one out of fifteen of them to the peril of a life permanently blighted by addiction, such abuse of the power of example is simply indefensible.
What is needed in this easy-going, hedonistic society is a host of parents determined to take their standards, not from what others around them think and say and do, but from the unchanging values of right and wrong that, set forth in the Scripture, are the foundation of law and order.
The doctrine of moral relativism, popular as it is today, is nothing new. But old or new, it always leads to moral collapse. Although Montaigne said, “The laws of conscience … proceed from custom,” and although his nineteenth-century successor, Taine, said that virtues and vices are but products like sugar and vitriol, they were wrong. And Bertrand Russell’s assertion, “There are no facts in ethics,” reflects the comfortable premise of sentimental evolutionary thought that varying moral judgments signify progress and that the latest is necessarily the best.
Despite the prestige of moral relativism in social practice today, including that of the university world and even some professedly Christian churches, moral collapse is the inevitable result of addiction to the falsehood that the good is relative to the individual. It is this falsehood that is leading America into its terrifying breakdown of private decency and public righteousness. Thus a society once illumined by the light of the Bible is fast becoming a pagan mission field, not just in its slum areas but also in the finest suburbs of its great cities.
Salute To An Independent Malta
“When they learned Thy Grace and Glory under Malta by the sea!” Kipling’s words recall the link between biblical history in its recording of the Apostle Paul’s shipwreck and the long and colorful Maltese history, which has now reached a milestone in the gaining of independence within the British Commonwealth. Such an achievement stands out in striking relief against a backdrop of thirty-five centuries of successive rule by Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Germans, Angevins, Aragonese, Knights of St. John, French, and British. Somehow tying it all together is the Maltese language, a Semitic tongue inherited from the Phoenicians, developed by the Arabs, and now much sprinkled with English and Italian words.
The importance of this tiny island group cannot be measured by its size. Strategically located south of Sicily, its remarkable megalithic temples bear witness to prehistoric eminence. Modern fame was claimed in 1565 when the Knights of the Order of St. John and their Maltese troops broke a Turkish siege and thus checked the advance of Muslim power in southern and western Europe. And only yesterday Maltese heroism was reconfirmed under aerial siege of Sicily-based German and Italian bombers from 1940 to 1943. After the war Americans heard of the ceaseless air attacks from the “defender of Malta,” Lt. Gen. Sir William G. S. Dobbie, a committed evangelical who toured our country to testify anew of “Grace and Glory under Malta by the sea!”
When Paul came to shore at Malta, the people showed him “no little kindness.” One recalls sharing a box at the Paris Opera for Samson and Delilah with a Maltese lady who said, “Malta has been Catholic ever since the visit of St. Paul.” The Reformation did not reach Malta, and the continuing struggle for her future is between Socialists and a politically domineering Roman Catholic Church, which has been warned by the British Roman Catholic Tablet that its present tactics can only bring “the same history of disintegration as Italian Catholicism” has undergone since Pius IX’s time.
History demonstrates the intimate conjunction between internal and external freedom, the latter finding its wellspring in the former. Jesus Christ pointed to himself as the source of true freedom, and St. Augustine of Hippo testified that in bondage to Him he found liberty.
For St. Paul, Malta was a respite after a harrowing journey, a prelude to further life-and-death challenges. Now Malta herself seems similarly poised. We wish her well.
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