Sunday, January 18, 2009

Teaching Children Moral Courage

Alice C. Linsley

The disintegration of the Episcopal Church in the United States is tragic and telling of a greater national crisis of leadership. The crisis comes as a result of moral decline in our nation. The moral decline results from two seemingly opposite cultural developments in Western Civilization: relativism and absolutism. Bible believers play a significant role in salvaging American society by teaching to our children the moral absolutes that can help them to become great future leaders.

The first cultural development that contributes to our nation's decline is relativism. Relativism is the notion that every position taken on an issue is equally valid and equally valuable. Many of our children have uncritically bought into this idea. As Bible informed adults we have a duty to help them understand the implications of relativistic thought.

Consider the nature of orienteering. Two platoons, separated by hundreds of miles, receive orders to advance to the same position. To accomplish this they must share the same point of reference. Relativism permits many different points of reference so that even those who want to join forces cannot do so because they are unable to find their common destination.

Consider a gathering of philosophers. They meet to discuss the nature of Truth and there is an audience. Each philosopher presents a different position relative to Truth. Each position is compelling and reasonably argued. The people in the audience enjoy this exhibition of intellectual powers. However there is no consensus on Truth. The effect of the meeting is either general confusion or a hardening of opposing positions, making united action almost impossible.

Relativism stalls the mechanisms of progress because relative truths leave us confused and angry. Anglicans have observed our global communion sputter and stall despite concentrated efforts to move forward. While many stand around the car debating how to get it started again, the Global South Primates of pick up their Bibles and walk on.

The second cultural development that contributes to our decline is absolutism of Self. Consider again the gathering of philosophers and their audience. This group of philosophers is not concerned with the big questions, such as the origins and design of the universe or the nature of Truth. Instead each presents their position relative to the question of Self. One presents an argument for the validity of self-interest. The next, with the press cameras flashing, presents an argument for being selfish. Not to be outdone, the next presents an argument for hedonism (he has a whole bunch of followers in the audience!), and finally the last philosopher presents an argument for debauchery. Does this sound far fetched? One need only to watch prime time programs to realize that hedonism verging on debauchery is the regular diet of America's young people. And history tells us that this signals the decline and eventual collapse of civilization.

Why? Because when all values are relative, honesty and personal integrity are diminished and easily forgotten. Because when Self is the central value, duty and responsibility, which by definition concern the common good, become meaningless.

The challenge facing Christians today is to train great future leaders by salting our children with biblically informed character education. The great leaders of our nation are people of solid character who understand honesty and honor, duty and responsibility. When we begin to develop these in our children many of the problems that typically arise in the classroom and in the home will fade away.

Good leadership in the church is not simply a matter of education. It is the consequence of God's grace constraining our sinful natures. The bondage of the will reflects our sinfulness. The drafters of the U.S. Constitution (such as the good Anglican George Washington) never lost sight of this and so they built in constraints to limit the damage we can do to one another and to ourselves through abuse of power.

While Episcopal Church leaders boast about the democratic workings of their General Convention, their form of governance is not analogous to the government of the United States. This is evidenced by the fact that these leaders reject constraints and abuse power. Their ultimate down fall will reveal the falseness of their relativism on the one hand and their absolute selfishness on the other. For these leaders, the Bible has no relevance. It doesn't speak to the contemporary world with any meaning. That is why Gene Robinson has said that he won't use the Bible in his speech given at President Elect Obama's Inaguration.

Relativism has stalled the mechanism for progress in the Anglican Communion and in the United States and Europe. Absolutism of Self has rendered duty, responsibility and collegiality meaningless. There is no possibility of real conversation with those who only want to argue and whose only objective is to win. They are most comfortable standing far from the truth.

Teaching our children that the Bible's moral absolutes are reliable will prepare them to be great leaders. Teaching them that the Bible is trust worthy in matters of salvation will prepare them to keep walking when the nation stalls.


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