A Relationship with God Plays into Lives of Both Virtue and Vice
by Leah Sammons
At an earlier time in their lives, Steven L. Craft and Roxon Flowers could not appear more different. Craft was a drug addict. Flowers was a New York City detective.
Eventually, however, these two seemingly disparate spirits became friends. In their discussions about their lives, Craft (now a member of the black leadership network Project 21) and Flowers discovered that - despite their wildly different histories - they actually shared many of the same hopes, fears and concerns. They recently published a book, Virtue and Vice, explaining how God redeemed each of them from their similar spiritual blindness and ignorance.
For the 13 years Craft was addicted to heroin, he experienced the debauchery of "life on the streets." Conversely, Flowers was a dedicated law-enforcement officer experiencing the demoralizing and corruption-filled environment. In Virtue and Vice, the pair point out how both experienced a shared spiritual emptiness that paralleled their seemingly opposite lives. Though both attended church earlier in their lives, each later followed paths of self-fulfillment and self-gratification that led them outside their faith.
During his years of addiction, Craft played what he now refers to as the "sorry game" - a game where repentance was swift and apathetic and made no demands for him to change his behavior. The guilt that followed after the drugs wore off was acknowledged, but quickly forgotten, as the search of another "high" took over.
Flowers enjoyed his success in the police department, but still possessed a deep sense of emptiness. Living with a recently-divorced young woman, he found that his lifestyle brought him more and more guilt and emptiness. His regular contact with criminals gave him a convenient feeling of ethical superiority, but he could not shake his frustration with his job, his relationships and life in general.
Craft and Flowers both feel that the emptiness they suffered was due to the inevitable deficiencies of a Godless lifestyle. Virtue and Vice explores this human depravity on an individual level as well as in society as a whole. It also highlights the hypocrisy that punishes certain acts of vice while helping create the conditions which cause them to occur.
"Legislatures have painstakingly set up laws and statutes against these crimes, making them felonies," they note. "Specialized police units called 'vice squads' and 'special victims units' exist to defeat these sexual offenses." But, even though a great deal of energy is spent hunting down and punishing offenders, the activity fueling this behavior is often protected and categorized as a First Amendment right. Craft and Flowers point out: "Our society openly promotes the very material that fuels these offenses in the first place: namely, pornography and illicit behavior (lasciviousness, as the Bible calls it)."
In short, there is an inherent societal hypocrisy fostering the conditions for lawlessness while at the same time abhoring the reality of its outcome.
As an alternative to modern culture's mixed messages, Craft and Flowers create a "Regular Guy's Ten Commandments." By breaking down and explaining the Bible's Ten Commandments, they show how a "regular guy" can find the positive implications of each Commandment and the reasons for their prohibitions.
They note how everyone has broken every Commandment - in thought if not in deed - but point out that men can still strive to obey the Commandments, which are essentially a guide to living right. They are "a blueprint handed down from God" or, as Galatians 3:24 reads, "Therefore the Law has become our tutor [to lead us] to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith."
The intended audience of the Ten Commandments was not simply ancient Israel, but all of humanity. Despite revealing human imperfection and shortcomings, they point to Christ and righteousness.
In Virtue and Vice, Steven L. Craft and Roxon Flowers offer an honest analysis of what life without God is essentially slavery to oneself. They speak of a hope and a power that transformed their own lives and exchanged inner guilt with inner peace, and provided answers to the age-old questions of man's heart.
Virtue and Vice is published by the Christian Services Network and is available through Amazon.com. Leah Sammons is a research assistant for the black leadership network Project 21. Comments may be sent to Project21@nationalcenter.org.
Published by The National Center for Public Policy Research.
Reprints permitted provided source is credited. New Visions Commentaries
reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those
of Project 21.
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