Richard RiouxPauline HartePatti RasmussenTim WhyteLeon Worden

We must place God at the center of our lives

Richard "Doc" Rioux · May 10, 1992

You watch people loot stores without compunction. You watch them stealing from merchants they bought goods from the day before. You see police standing by helplessly as hundreds of men, women and children pass them carrying boxes filled with stolen items.

When reporters ask those stealing if they feel guilty about what they're doing, the answers range from, "No one is stopping me" to "These stores will be closed tomorrow." The men and women appear to have no sense of right and wrong. If you don't get caught and you're not stopped, it must be OK.

Anarchy reigned in the streets of Los Angeles beginning Wednesday night. The authorities neither had the manpower to arrest the thousands of people committing mayhem nor the jail space to house them if they did.

Meanwhile, the majority of the American people watched the images on their television screens in disbelief and shock. We wondered how and why this could all be happening. Who was at fault? We heard some say the causes included racism, police brutality, underemployment, unemployment and lack of social services. Others said it was the welfare system, alcohol and drugs, gangs, lenient courts and lack of a family structure.

Since the early '60s, America has moved away from basics. We have lost the individual internal moral controls required to resist the temptation to do whatever we want to do whenever we want to do it. Too many of us raise our children in front of a television set instead of at the evening dinner table. We build block walls between us and our neighbors. We don't take the time to get involved in community affairs. We don't vote in large enough numbers to make a difference. We don't fight for what is right.

We've allowed professional bureaucrats to run our schools, restrict teachers, lower educational standards and remove values from curricula. We've let television moguls reduce programming to mindless sitcoms and promiscuous soaps. Films glorify violence and crimes against women. Prom films are available in almost every neighborhood video store.

When folks ask H. Ross Perot how it is that America has come to this, he tells them to look in the mirror. "What have you done lately to make a difference? To take back control from special interest groups and self-serving, egotistical professional politicians?"

The answer is a good one, but there is much more to it. The answer has to do with getting back to basics, and it's largely spiritual.

I work in alcohol and drug recovery programs. On Thursday, at the height of the anarchy in Los Angeles, I met with the recovering alcoholics and drug addicts at the Acton Rehabilitation Center located in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, twenty miles from the Santa Clarita Valley.

The population of three hundred residents at the center is comprised of African Americans, Hispanics, Whites, Asians and Native Americans and men and women ages 18 to 65. Many were born and raised in the areas of Los Angeles where the fires and violence were the worst.

Calm has prevailed at the center. And the reason is this: Each person entering the center becomes involved with the program of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). It's the same program that is at the heart of the Betty Ford Center Recovery Program in Palm Springs and which has spread to every city and town in America where alcoholics meet together regularly in small groups to stay sober. The important thing in life is not how much you have but how much you give.

And it's in the AA program that concerned Americans can find the possible solution they are desperately searching for to put their country back on the right track. When all is said and done, AA expects two things: (1) surrender of one's life to God, and (2) being of service to others. Recovering alcoholics believe that if you place God at the center of your life and then help others one day at a time, you will stay sober.

What this country needs is not more laws and more police to keep order. What we need is the individual morality and mutual respect that comes from placing God at the center of our lives.

If each of us tried every day to live by the Ten Commandments God gave Moses 3,000 years ago, there would be much less chance for the eruption of riots and social disruption. People would be less prone to steal and kill, and we would all do a better job of respecting one another's property.

Think about it. The further we have allowed this nation to drift away from God, the more social chaos we've experienced. I am simply asking that when we think about solutions to making America well, we give strong consideration to the possibility of placing God at the center of the American experience.

I hope it's not too old-fashioned to say that we must live our lives in accordance with the motto of America inscribed on every nickel and dollar bill: "In God We Trust."

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