Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

January 8, 2006


Chief Justice gets it right in his new book about character


          Significant it is that the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court has offered us a book about character. I welcome the book but even more the idea that a prominent figure in the justice system would come forth with a stimulating defense of moral integrity.

          I have not met Drayton Nabers, Jr. though I plan to seek him out. I want to meet him at least long enough to thank him for his new book, The Case for Character. A mutual friend, Randy Helms, gave me an autographed copy of the book for Christmas. Reading it has both inspired and encouraged me.

          The Chief Justice has no qualms about using the Bible as his basic source of truth. Indeed, he boldly approaches character from a biblical perspective. This is refreshing in a culture that frowns at the very mention of words like God, Church, and Bible. The current exposure of the shameful greed of corporate business shows us what happens when a nation ignores God and biblical principles of living. This trend will only worsen unless men and women like Nabers can persuade us to reexamine the core values by which we live.

          Nabers calls for his readers to help “recenter the character ethic in American life, in our churches, in our families, in our schools, and in ourselves.” His recurring theme is that “we cannot be free spiritually, politically, morally, or economically without strong character.” I found myself frequently offering an “Amen!” to his arguments.

          I particularly enjoyed his chapter on love which he described as “seeking the best for others.” My fondness for this chapter may have been influenced by the fact that years ago I too had been deeply moved by the heroic story of Robertson McQuilkin. What true character this man portrayed to us all!

          McQuilkin was president of a college and seminary in South Carolina when his wife, Muriel, began showing signs of Alzheimer’s disease. For several years he was able to balance his work and the care of his wife. However the time came when he resigned his presidency to devote his full time to the needs of his wife.

          Nabers shares McQuilkin’s moving letter of resignation:

          “My dear wife, Muriel, has been in failing health for about 12 years. So far I have been able to carry both her ever-growing needs and my leadership responsibility at Columbia. But recently it has become apparent that Muriel is contented most of the time she is with me and almost none of the time I am away from her. It is not just ‘discontent.’ She is filled with fear – even terror – that she has lost me and always goes in search of me when I leave home. So it is clear to me that she needs me now, full-time.

          “The decision was made, in a way, 42 years ago when I promised to care for Muriel ‘in sickness and in health. . . till death do us part.’ So, as a man of my word, integrity has something to do with it. But so does fairness. She has cared for me fully and sacrificially all these years; if I cared for her for the next 40 years I would not be out of her debt.

          “Duty, however, can be grim and stoic. But there is more: I love Muriel. She is a delight to me – her childlike dependence and confidence in me, her warm love, occasional flashes of wit I used to relish so, her happy spirit and tough resilience in the face of her continual depressing frustration. I don’t have to care for her. I get to! It is a high honor to care for so wonderful a person.”

          Nabers slams home the point that love is much more than sentiment! As he says in his own words, “Like the abundant fruit of a healthy tree, love is the crowning glory of a character that allows us to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” Love, for Nabers, is the main thing. Get that right, he says,  and you get everything else right. And he is right!

          There are many other inspiring stories in the book, shared to highlight our need to value and develop strong character that honors God. I have shared the McQuilkin story to whet your appetite. I hope this tasty morsel will inspire you to get this book and read it. It deserves a wide audience in a decadent culture desperately in need of moral fiber.  + + + +