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    Thoughts on Moral Virtue {Part I}

    August 7, 2008 by Brandy Vencel

    Lately, I’ve found myself pondering goodness from a number of different angles. I don’t mean niceness. Niceness is a modern substitute for true moral goodness. I mean goodness in the way that Aslan in the Chronicles of Narnia is good. Remember? He is good, but not always safe. Niceness is safe and comfy. Goodness runs deep and can be controversial at times.

    Part of my thoughts on goodness are connected to different interactions I have had with the idea of abstinence education. Many organizations and churches that teach abstinence have a heart to see these youngsters grow up to be nice boys and girls who behave themselves until marriage. A lot of the abstinence education programs consist primarily of warnings: STDs will get you, babies are hard to raise, emotional baggage will be carried into your future marriage, etc. Now, all of these things are true, but I question how many teenagers know that and sin in spite of the facts.

    Within this approach, the problem which results in promiscuity is defined as a lack of information. It is assumed that if only these people knew all the bad things that could result from such behavior, they would avoid it. And so the solution is defined as educational in nature. Here it is assumed that rattling off long lists of the horrible possible consequences, and especially using photos of particularly nasty diseases, will properly educate the students and eliminate the promiscuity problem.

    Another approach to abstinence education {which is typically aimed at girls} is the “you’re too special for promiscuity” message. This is where the teacher assumes that girls are promiscuous because they don’t realize how special they are. Because the problem leading to promiscuity is assumed to be a lack of personal awareness of one’s own specialness, the solution is necessarily some sort of building up of self-esteem. These are the abstinence programs that tell girls they are wonderful and special and should wait for their husbands because waiting for their husbands is the ultimate expression of how special they are.

    Now, I’m not here to say we should halt all abstinence education programs. I’m not here to say that some of these methods are not effective. In fact, the point of my post isn’t concerning abstinence at all. I just found the programs to be particularly useful examples.

    I do have a few red flags raised when I consider these programs. The first is concerning the use of these approaches by Christians. Promiscuity is only one symptom of a society’s general lack of moral virtue. The Bible never says that rampant sin {and absence of virtue} is caused by a lack of information, nor does it say that it is rooted in an unawareness of one’s own specialness. The Bible also never suggests that information and/or self-esteem is a primary or even secondary means of reforming the morals of a society. Furthermore, I question whether these approaches reveal to the student their own need for God.

    If the problem isn’t defined as a need for salvation and sanctification, how will Jesus ever be the solution?

    I was considering my own life, and the areas in which I personally am lacking in virtue. Many times, when I have noticed a fault in myself, I am inclined to take the first approach {education}. This means, I seek out a book or a stack of books. I believe that if I just become better informed on the subject, I will immediately be reformed in my soul.

    Now, sometimes this is true. For instance, if I am truly trying to accomplish something and I just can’t seem to get it right, information lack might be my problem. But I’m not talking about making mistakes. I’m talking about character flaws and lack of virtue.

    When I see in myself, for instance, a lack of compassion or a certain selfishness, I can read stacks of books on what compassion is and how it plays out in real life. I can read Bible verses on why I shouldn’t be selfish, but rather give of myself.

    The problem is that I already know all of this. In these instances, my problem is that I need to be sanctified. I need to surrender to my Savior. I need to repent of my sin.

    My problem, at its core, is rebellion. Rebellion will not be fixed by information, nor convincing myself that I am too special to waste my time sinning in certain ways. {In fact, some of my sin might be connected to thinking that I am more important than my neighbor. But I digress.}

    Tomorrow, I want to explore the origins of moral goodness as revealed in the writings of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

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