By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Monday, March 7, 2011

For Sale

The figure of Jeremiah on the Sistine Chapel c...Image via Wikipedia
of the Prophet Jeremiah
The fancy word is "venality" which the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary defines as the "prostitution of principles for mercenary considerations." Now, be aware that those engaging in venal behavior will protest forcefully that mercenary considerations play no role at all in their actions. You be the judge of the matter. I will give three cases that, over the years, one finds commonly described in the media or simply observed in daily life.

1. As is common today, numerous women, although having other alternatives available, give full live-in sexual access to males willing to pay all or half of the monthly rent. Of course, the transaction is whitewashed with transient, delusional romantic fiction of one kind or another--romantic fiction which is suspiciously easy to jettison when circumstances change.

2. Public officials shrewdly manipulate legal technicalities to maximize their ability to gain financially from public employment and, with great chutzpah, expect voters to applaud and honor them for being so willing to serve. The whitewash in this case involves the fiction that we should be thankful to have someone willing to make such "sacrifices" to serve the public.

3. Teacher's unions focus excessively on financial gain and benefits for those with seniority, while students languish and younger, qualified teachers depart to greener pastures. The whitewash here is that the failure of students to learn is the fault of everyone except the mediocre teachers themselves who would supposedly be able to find other lucrative employment if pay and benefits did not keep rising and job security were not guaranteed.

These are just three common cases of venality: in sexual relations, in public service, and in education. As I recently read in a book on philosophy, we can define "culture" as the ways of living practiced by a certain group of people. Our culture bears too many marks of "prostitution for mercenary considerations," a prostitution that betrays the ideals of meaningful love, of selfless public service, and of teaching as a calling to serve students first. These cases of mercenary behavior, all of which are perfectly legal, culturally embraced, and boldly defended, breed cynicism. The Scriptures below give the ultimate commentary on all such cases.

Mark 8:36 (Douay-Rheims) on mercenary behavior:

For what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his soul? 

Matthew 6:24 (ESV) on money-worship:

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

Jeremiah 8:12a (ESV) on bold shamelessness:

Were they ashamed when they committed abomination? No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush. 

Matthew 18:6 (ESV) on causing cynicism:

but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,a it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.