Driving with Frank Abagnale Jr.

In 2002 the Stephen Spielberg movie “Catch Me If You Can” hit box offices. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks it told the story of Frank W. Abagnale, Jr. and his exploits as a con-artist and check forger extraordinaire. The movie was loosely based on Abagnale’s biography that goes by the same title. I have watched the movie several times and at the end of the movie, Abagnale joins forces with the FBI to help catch other con-artists.

When I was driving around yesterday, scanning the radio stations for something to listen to, I came across a broadcast on Bloomberg Radio that had Abagnale as a sit-in guest. The host was Pimm Fox and the topic was protection against identity theft. As a fan of the movie, I decided to listen to a show I would otherwise skim over, and I nearly did as the advice was mostly common-sense type advice, but then the conversation turned to ethics and character development. As a preacher, this interested me. I am always interested in what the ‘world’ thinks. This is what I discovered.

1. The Secular World Recognizes that there is an Ethical Vacuum

Pimm Fox asked Abagnale something along the lines of ‘What is the difference in philosophy between those who scam people today, and yours when you were scamming people?’ Abagnale’s response was simple: unadulterated greed. He even mused why, if a CEO cheated people out of 50 million dollars, why would they risk getting caught for a few thousand more? The only answer was greed. Abagnale then used this as a springboard for jumping to the topic of the lack of ethics being taught today. He spoke of how all of his children completed graduate degrees, and only the lawyer was required to take just one ethic course. The result? A generation of children have grown into adults with no character. From Wall Street to politicians (as I write this, the top story on Fox News is long-time Congressman Charlie Rangel from NY was found to be in violation of 11 ethics charges) the world we live in sees evidence of a moral vacuum.

2. The Secular World Doesn’t have a Clue as to how to Reverse this Trend

What was Abagnale’s solution? He suggested starting as early as middle school, teaching character courses and ethics in public schools. But he punctuated his advice with a curious phrase, “now I am not talking religion here.” That short little phrase revealed a lot about what many people falsely think will cure society’s issues.

First, to think that public education is solution is to fall into the same trap that sex education advocates have fallen. All sex education has done is increase teen sexuality, not curb it. Character development cannot begin in the classroom, it must begin in the home, with parents who are committed to raising morally upright children. If it doesn’t, the problem will only get bigger because what you are in all actuality doing is raising a generation who will believe they can out-think the system.

Second, to think you can have morality without God is like thinking you can have law without a constitution. To take God out of the equation is to remove the foundation for morality. If we teach our children that we evolve from animals, it is only a matter of time before they begin to act like animals. If we teach them they are their own authority, soon you will see the results of anarchy. What power has government if you take away the God who ordained it in the first place? We Americans cherish the idea that a government cannot rule without the consent of the governed. But what happens when the governed decides they no longer wished to be ruled by any authority? Only a God-fearing people can thrive in a democratic society, because if we cease to fear God, chaos will erupt and the only human tool that can rule a chaotic society is military might. A quick perusal of history will show you that is how Greece, Rome, France, Germany, Russia, China and a litany of others went from either monarchies or democracies to dictatorships. The names of Caesar, Napoleon, Stalin, Hitler and others leave a sour taste in our mouth, but when a society rejects belief in a higher power, then only the philosophy of ‘might makes right’ remains.

This is where the Church comes into play. Am I advocating Church involvement in politics? No. What I am advocating is if God’s people would do what they are called by God to do, namely to seek, save and disciple the lost, we can become a God-fearing people again. By changing people, one life at a time; by trusting in God’s power to transform hearts and minds; by taking Christ at His word and lifting Him up so that He can draw all men to Himself; we can restore morality to America. It won’t happen in the classroom. It will happen if God’s people, the Church, move in a purposeful and motivated manner towards the goal God has placed before us in Matthew 28:19-20.

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