“Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.” – C.S. Lewis
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” – Bible
This column focuses on “Family and Marriage” because of the importance of that institution for society. In God's design a man and a woman covenant with one another through their marriage vows to love each other unconditionally “until death parts them.” And then God expects them to reproduce children and to raise them in accordance with His plan.
It has been said that “it takes a village to raise a child,” and similarly that “it takes a family to raise a child.” Perhaps the best way to reconcile the two thoughts is to say that it takes a family to raise a child and it takes a village to support a family.
Much of our society today does not seem to support the idea that the family should have the prime responsibility for instilling values in the children. That responsibility seems to have been delegated to other institutions, sometimes religious but more often secular. The common result is that values are treated lightly and frequently are variable, ergo the growth of situation ethics.
I believe the consequences of the failure to instill Godly values in our children are being manifested in many ways today. Consider the following two examples.
An article appeared on Military.com on Feb. 16, 2014, entitled “Misconduct in Army Forcing More Soldiers Out.” The article begins by assuming that the recent war years “put a greater focus on battle competence than on character.”
It then goes on to talk about sexual assault, damaging leadership, mistreatment of the enemy, unauthorized spending, episodes of gambling and drinking by senior officers, cheating allegations, etc.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is quoted as saying, “I don't think there is one simple answer to the issue of ethics, values, a lapse in some of those areas. Was it a constant focus of 12 years on two long land wars, taking our emphasis off some of these other areas? I don't know.”
Perhaps one answer is that we aren't equipping our current military force with the solid moral foundation that enables them to hold strong to values that matter when serious challenges are encountered.
Consider one definition of situation ethics: “A system of ethics that evaluates acts in light of their situational context rather than by the application of moral absolutes.”
The other example comes from a speech to the Harvard Business School by Chuck Colson a few years ago entitled “The Line Between Right and Wrong.” When Colson started Prison Fellowship in 1976, the United States was No. 3 in the rate of incarceration per capita in the world. Today the U.S. is No. 1.
As Colson says, “While we build more prisons and put more people in, the recidivism rate remains constant at 74 percent. When prisoners are released, those people go right back to crime and prison again.”
Colson then goes on to say, “The answer to it is very simple. There are kids being raised today in broken families who are not being given values. ... The way you foster ethics is in tradition-formed communities.
“They're not being given values in the home; they're not being given values in the school; they're watching the television set for seven hours and 36 minutes a day; and what they're seeing is, ‘you only go around once, so grab for all the gusto you can.'”
The challenge of the family today has not changed. We must implement a consistent set of values in our marriages and we must instill them in our children. Left by themselves, children will not develop any value system other than what I will call narcissism; we are born selfish and without a heart-change we remain selfish.
Hence it is even more important to make sure the values we promote and implement are what really matter, eternal Godly values and not situation ethics.
The Family and Marriage Coalition of Aiken, Inc. (FAMCO) provides resources for you to succeed in your marriage and families. Roger Rollins, executive director, FAMCO, 803-640-4689, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.aikenfamco.com.