The fall from grace

Published September 7, 2023

By Lib Campbell

I take no delight in the spectacle of Rudy Giuliani’s public fall from grace. It is grievous and shameful that a man so obviously charismatic and gifted, once touted as “America’s Mayor,” would succumb to the trap of fame and fortune that has begun his demise. Lyrics come to mind. “That’s just the way it goes. Some things will never change.”

History is littered with the names and stories of people who have sold themselves out for money, sex, or glory. We live the temptation of Eden every day. Why are we so quickly drawn into questionable and even criminal activity when we know the difference between right and wrong? Maybe that’s the issue. We don’t know the difference anymore!

David Brooks recently wrote an article in the New York Times about “moral formation.” Moral formation is being shaped with the values, mores and intent for doing what is right in the world. He talks about the waning influence of the church, family, and civic institutions.

People offer all kinds of reasons for the withering of such moral guardrails. I wonder how much anger plays into the current temperament of the nation. Anger is a built-in human passion. It is built into us for protection, for juicing up adrenaline and for the fight of righteous indignation. But we are also equipped with the gift of reason. Reason is a bit and bridle for anger. Reason keeps us measured and “on the ranch,” so to speak. A moral compass compels us to measured responses. It’s the angel on the shoulder whispering in the ear.

I have always believed in the basic goodness of people. When does goodness begin to slip away? Perhaps it starts when parents, priests, scout leaders - who are the very ones entrusted to mentor and care for young people - forget their oaths and responsibilities, using trusted positions for ill gain and harm.

Such ill is often visited on the most vulnerable, under-valued, or easily dismissed, like children. Like Mrs. Ruby Freeman and her daughter, Shaye Moss, who showed up to work the polls in Fulton County, Georgia. They were doing their civic duty only to be falsely accused and blatantly defamed by a guy working to overthrow an election. The plot is so nefarious; the absence of moral formation is glaring.

Accountability is a short-term solution. It will intervene, bringing a dose of reality and a heap of pain. Accountability is necessary when egregious deeds do harm. The only lasting way of solving some of the problems is a transformation of character, which takes a little longer. When we are shaped by grievance, mistrust and hate, there is little chance of being formed as moral beings.

Living in a world that is increasingly cruel and dangerous not only brings fear and disappointment, it also engenders disengagement. Why would we stay engaged to hear the anger and poisonous lies? It feels dirty.

Stepping out of the cycle of hate and the cult of Trump, a misguided leader, calls for an interior reckoning and a cultural shift. I think of Inspector Gamache’s words, “I was wrong. I am sorry. I don’t know. I need help.” Thank you, Louise Penny. Gamache’s way to wisdom is through truth, self-awareness, and recognition of our own wrongdoing, also known as sin.

Apartheid in South Africa was a system of white supremacy, even though white people were the minority. Immeasurable cruelty was heaped on the Black people of South Africa. When leaders like Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Steve Biko, Peter Storey, and Alan Paton became the voices telling the story of institutionalized racism, they became part of forming a Truth and Reconciliation Committee in 1996, a place where truth was told and heard. It was a place where reconciliation was recognized as a first step forward toward healing. The committee, which served as a court of justice, began reprimanding some of those responsible for the cruelty with jail time. The committee functioned until 2002, when Apartheid ended and the reign of terror finally was over.

Perhaps it is time in America for truth and reconciliation. I think that most of us are sick and tired of the vitriol and lies. I think most of us hope for a future filled with dreams and vision for creating a place where everybody thrives. While I am sorry Rudy got himself into so much trouble, maybe we are at a turning point where justice will be done, and the crooked road straightened.

Lib Campbell is a retired Methodist pastor, retreat leader, columnist and host of the blogsite She can be contacted at