HAVE ANY of our readers ever heard of the rare condition of “affluenza”? No? Nor had we until we read of the unfortunate condition of a 16-year-old Texan boy, who with his buddies stole beer from Walmarts, jumped into a pick up truck and smashed into a woman whose car had broken down. The woman was killed, two people who lived nearby and had come out to help her and a passerby were also killed. Two teens in the bed of the pick-up truck were seriously injured, and at the time of the report one could neither move nor talk.
The offending teenager, whose blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit, admitted to being drunk while driving and losing control of the Ford pick-up. He pleaded guilty to four counts of manslaughter by intoxication. He faced at least 20 years in jail and a heavy fine. However, according to his defence lawyers, he had a rare disease, so rare, they claimed, that it would have been unfair for society to hold him accountable for his actions.
“Affluenza” was what his lawyers called it. And the public laughed with scorn. It’s a word that has not yet made the dictionary. But this young man had it and he had a bad case of it.
His legal team was not joking as they explained that his wealthy parents had catered to his every wish – “they pretty much let him get away with everything.” Obviously, the young man had not sat in a classroom long enough to learn Sir Isaac Newton’s third law of physics — “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
In his short 16 years, he had never discovered that when one misbehaves there are consequences.
“He had the cars and he had the money. He had freedoms that no young man would be able to handle,” the judge observed.
The judge seemed convinced that his “affluenza” was such a unique affliction that jail was not the answer. She sentenced him to 10 years probation with no jail time. However, should he fail to understand the seriousness of consequences and takes another chance at law-breaking, he could go to prison for 10 years.
However, when one seriously thinks about this new found condition called “affluenza” maybe this is the world’s affliction. More than 2,000 years after the birth of the babe whose birthday we celebrate tomorrow, it was an irresponsible 16-year-old who brought “affluenza” to the world’s attention. Those who have “affluenza” are excused from all wrongdoing, and those who don’t have it would kill to get it.
Turn to the Book of Genesis and read about the creation of man in the Garden of Eden with every beauty and comfort imaginable. His Creator gave him the greatest gift next to life — free will, but in the exercise of free there are consequences. Throughout creation this free will has been a heavy burden. The Grand Inquisitor in Dostoyevsky’s “Brothers Karamazov” argued that rather than a gift it was the greatest curse that could have been given man.
But in this first paradise there was the tree of life and the “tree of knowledge of good and evil.” Man and woman were given permission to eat the fruit of all of the trees, but one. And with that one came a warning. In the history of man it was his first lesson that there are consequences when free will is not exercised wisely.
“And the Lord God commanded the man saying ‘Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat. But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”
We all know the story. Man exercised his free will for the first time, his ego was tempted. He made the wrong decision, faced the consequences of that decision, was driven from Paradise with the curse— the curse of Adam. That curse has resonated through the centuries, yes, even as far as the Bahamas. The couple was driven from Eden to till the ground by the sweat of their brow until they again returned to dust. From that day in Eden to eternity— the curse of Adam has followed mankind. In the first chapter of his life Man learned the consequences of the improper exercise of free will.
Many years ago when we first entered our profession we were talking with a highly regarded elderly gentleman. His life had been a hard one. He had many challenges, and many roadblocks put in his path to cause him to fail. His struggle to the top was indeed a hard, but successful struggle. “You know,” he said, “I had so many who wanted to see me fail. They taught me how to hate. There were times when I hated them so much that I could have committed murder.”
And why didn’t you, we asked, expecting to hear that he feared the hangman’s noose. “No,” he said, “ I feared Judgment Day.”
He was a man who was near to his God. He feared to face his Maker on Judgment Day and confess that he had done wrong. He feared the consequences. This is probably what is wrong with our society today. No one really understands that there is an individual Judgment Day for each one of us — and that there are consequences.
But man was given a second chance to redeem his soul. And that chance, in the form of a Babe born in a manger in far off Bethlehem, who grew to manhood, and at the age of 33 died on a cross to redeem mankind from the “sin of Adam”, will be celebrated tomorrow.
Tomorrow many of you will enjoy family and friends, your gifts and Christmas dinner, others will have little to celebrate, but whether you have much or little, there is a church nearby where you can go and celebrate with the Babe who gave mankind a second chance. We hope all of you — especially the youth – will embrace that chance and start their lives anew.
We, here at The Tribune, wish you all a very happy and peaceful Christmas.