This entire embarrassing episode of the IRS’ political intimidation and manipulation through false audits and stalling the certification of applications for the creation of non-profits, demonstrates the sad reality that political activism that’s grounded in extreme devotion (religious?) or allegiance to political ideology has replaced Christianity as America’s civil religion.
That the IRS (which is supposed to be apolitical) would purposely and specifically target groups and individuals who shared differing ideological and religious worldviews from their own- or the president’s- is an example of how far our culture has degenerated from a common civility. People could at one time, disagree without being disagreeable; now we’ve slouched toward a justified incivility where the ends- regardless of how wrong- always justifies the means (lying, character assassination intimidation, public embarrassment, etc.).
Equally as disconcerting is the fact that the IRS employees who’re guilty of such actions- be it through direct knowledge and participation or being passively involved by not alerting authorities/bringing this to the public’s attention sooner, will walk away with little condemnation or punishment. Or, as in Lois Lerner’s case, plead the 5th with no serious repercussion.
This lack of moral character and leadership that is sadly all too prevalent among many folks today is a product of the culture in which we created. Our culture has for far too long, excused questionable ethics and the behavior that flows from it. Rather than personalizing ethical morality, we’ve privatized it. Worse still, we’ve relativized it and condemned those who would judge it. Thus the lack of character displayed by many civic and religious leaders, teachers, parents and the children they raise shouldn’t shock us. It’s the logical conclusion of the lack of shame that a non-judgmental society creates. We’ve set this pattern in motion and as a result, we have ourselves to blame.
The interesting thing is that we know how to rectify this glaring problem, but we may not have the scruples to say it, let alone initiate it.
As a side note, it would seem to me that all audits conducted by the IRS during the past several years have now been called into question. Who’s to say that those who’ve been subjected to the anxiety and inconvenience that audits produce weren’t specifically targeted for religious, political or ideological reasons? For example, if a person who examines DNA taints one test sample- intentionally or by accident, aren’t all test samples performed by that examiner then called into question? It should apply here as well.
* Update. For purposes of clarification, when I say “civic religion,” I’m referring to religion or religious practices in a cultural sense, not something instituted by government, which should be recognized as implied within my statement.