Marolt: The road to Hell probably isn’t paved at all
I’ve got a question: If we could put an end to human suffering, which would you put more faith in — the goodness in people’s hearts or the green in their wallets?
It’s on my mind due to a couple of stories making second-page local news recently. One is an old story, the other relatively new. The old one is Lance Armstrong. The new is, ironically, the Catholic Church. I’m not talking about the global Catholic Church; I’m talking about St. Mary in Aspen.
The Lance wound won’t stop oozing. He fessed up to cheating with drugs in accumulating his closet full of Yellow Jerseys and kind of copped to throwing friends and teammates under the PED Express along the route to Le Arc De’ Triomphe, and yet the chapters of his life he continues to write are seemingly not drawing closer to a happy ending. Now federal investigators are interested in the local caper where he was allegedly driving drunk, crashed his car into another and tagged his girlfriend as the culprit. Still, he gives his time, money and inspiration to aid cancer patients around the world.
On the other side of town, we have St. Mary initiating a fund drive to raise millions to construct a modern facility on its grounds to host spiritual lectures, courses and meetings. The hope is to use its location in the center of Aspen to piggyback on the town’s notoriety and affluence and spread Christ’s gospel farther and wider than otherwise possible. The critics point out that the millions could be used instead to feed God’s hungry.
To the point of the question I asked in the opening line, I am going to defend Lance only so far as I think he has made the best of a bad situation with his ancillary generosity. He has helped many, many suffering people.
As far as I’m concerned, the past is the past, but that doesn’t mean I condone the means to Armstrong’s end, as far as his generosity goes. He committed too many wrongs to gain his rightful fame and fortune; his horrific example to others and continual justifications probably being tied for the worst of it. If everyone on the planet acted in this manner, all the good and bad considered, I don’t think humanity would be better off.
Now, back to St. Mary and their million-dollar real estate deal. Taking the most skeptical outcome as eventual reality for discussion’s sake: The new conference center doesn’t work out, the spiritual enhancement and educational opportunities don’t materialize, and the millions of dollars end up wasted. You could say this would be the opposite of Lance’s legacy; that is, the best of intentions up front resulting in no benefit at all to the suffering. Nonetheless, if everyone on the planet acted in this manner, I think humanity would be better off.
The crux of the dilemma of choosing between goodness and green in making the world a better place is solved by concluding that money doesn’t solve problems as well as people do. Of course, helping people is not an either/or proposition between the two alternatives. I’ll promise you this, though: Goodness never grew out of a stack of hundred-dollar bills.
What was Lance’s motivation to become rich and famous? He has undoubtedly ended up helping to alleviate many people’s suffering. But, what has his example of corruption done for the spirit of humankind?
As far as St. Mary goes, the several million dollars they propose to spend on the new building could undoubtedly feed lots of people around the world for a day, but then what? Those people will be hungry again next week and the opportunity to expand spiritual awareness from Aspen, a cultural and recreational center of a nation of vast resources, will be lost. It is a noble cause to minister to the wealthy (that’s almost everyone in the U.S., by the way), even though not many think of it as charity. Inasmuch, you can’t call us to the table by offering free soup. It’s not what we need to make us better.
The problem with aiding the suffering of the world is not lack of resources. We have plenty to feed and medicate the entire world to physical and mental health. The problem is that through lack of awareness, at best, and greed, selfishness and corruption, at worst, the world’s resources do not make it to the poor. Simply throwing more money at that problem doesn’t work. But, just maybe, it’s the road to Heaven that’s paved with good intentions.
Roger Marolt believes you’re headed for a pothole with a blindfold on when you start criticizing good intentions. roger@Maroltllp.com