Sunday, December 11, 2011

Flash Mob! - Carson School of Management

This is AWESOME!  We need more of this!

Moral Vocabulary: Threatened by Extinction?

What a powerful commentary I ran across a while back over at Commentary Magazine by Peter Wehner (emphasis added) ...

Our Lack of Moral Vocabulary

Earlier this week, David Brooks wrote a fascinating column on young people’s moral lives, basing it on hundreds of in-depth interviews with young adults across America conducted by the eminent Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith and his team.

The results, according to Brooks, were “depressing” — not so much because of how they lived but because of “how bad they are at thinking and talking about moral issues.” Asked open-ended questions about right and wrong, moral dilemmas and the meaning of life, what we find is “young people groping to say anything sensible on these matters. But they just don’t have the categories or vocabulary to do so.” What Smith and his team found is an atmosphere of “extreme moral individualism — of relativism and nonjudgmentalism.” The reason, in part, is because they have not been given the resources — by schools, institutions and families — to “cultivate their moral intuitions, to think more broadly about moral obligations, to check behaviors that may be degrading.”

This is part of a generations-long phenomenon. In his 1987 book The Closing of the American Mind, Allan Bloom wrote, “There is one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of: almost every student entering the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative.” And the university, Bloom argued, is unwilling to offer a distinctive visage to young people. The guiding philosophy of the academy is there are no first principles, no coherent ways to interpret the world in which we live.

But this is merely a pose. No one, not even a liberal academic, is a true relativist. Scratch below the surface and you’ll find them to be (morally) judgmental toward those who want to discriminate based on race, gender, or sexual orientation. They will likely have strong (moral) views on criminalizing abortion, restricting marriage to one man and one woman, anthropogenic global warming, water-boarding terrorists, rendition, Israeli settlements, profits for oil companies, and cutting taxes for the rich. The left is adamant: women have a “right” to an abortion and gays have a “right” to marry. These rights are viewed as a priori and inviolate. And no one, not even a progressive liberal arts professor, is morally indifferent to someone who wants to rape his wife, molest his children, and steal his iPad. It is fashionable to insist we don’t want to “impose our values” on others or “legislate morality.” But the reality is we do so all the time, on an endless number of issues, and no civilization could survive without doing so. The question, really, is which moral standards do we aspire to? What is the ethical code we use to judge ourselves and others?

In training our hearts and minds toward the good, there is quite a lot to work with. With the exception of a very few (like sociopaths), we all have a moral sense. We are all born with a conscience. We all believe (pace Richard Rorty) that some actions are inherently inhuman. And no one believes that what is right simply depends on individual taste or cultural circumstances, on subjective values, and what emerges in the privacy of your own heart (especially if the heart in question belongs to Mao, Stalin, or Pol Pot). Most people, in fact, play by the rules. They work hard, love their families, and are loyal to their country. They think courage and compassion are better than cowardice and cruelty. They’re just not sure why. Hence Brooks’ point about our lack of moral categories and moral vocabulary.

This didn’t arise ex nihilo. In the 1970s, influential figures in education like Sydney Simon and Lawrence Kohlberg argued for “values clarification” and “cognitive moral development,” believing the traditional moral education was essentially indoctrination –“undemocratic and unconstitutional.” (See this excellent 1978 Public Interest essay by William J. Bennett and Edwin J. DeLattre for more.) This was utter nonsense, of course; but it was also corrosive and had profound human and social consequences. You can’t promote ethical agnosticism and embrace nonjudgmentalism without there being moral ramifications. Because at some point, we all have to take a moral stand and embrace a moral cause. We have to believe in, and abide by, rules and precepts. We don’t have the luxury of living a life of perpetual moral confusion. C.S. Lewis put it as well as anyone when he wrote in The Abolition of Man, “We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.”

One final thought: what is often lost in this debate is that human fulfillment and happiness isn’t found in a world stripped of moral beliefs. Despair, not joy, is found among those who believe in nothing, who find purpose in nothing, who fight for nothing. Because of human anthropology – because we are moral creatures, made in the image of God – we are meant to delight in His ways, to live lives of high moral purpose. All of us fail more often than we should. But we cannot give up on the aspiration; nor can we allow our hearts to grow cold and indifferent, unmoved by the beauty of moral excellence.

“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things,” St. Paul wrote. In our world, there is still excellence. There are still things worthy of praise. It’s time we once again dwell on them.


Battle Saints Bracelets

What a terrific story I found on KSDK's website via CNN --

Military mom designs 'Battle Saint Bracelets' for troops in harm's way

Military mom designs 'Battle Saint Bracelets' for troops in harm's way

CNN - A simple bracelet is providing a source of strength and support for men and women fighting for our country.

A solemn march, a loud ovation and a last goodbye for these deploying troops; the Atlanta airport is the final stop on their way to war. That's also where you'll find military moms like Cynthia Lemay.
Lemay knows the pain of deployment all too well.

"Our son is in Afghanistan. My nephew just got back from his third tour. We have several other family members over there," she said.

While she can't be on the front lines, protecting her son, she can ask for a little help from above.

"We put together these saints bracelets. My son has been wearing it since he went over and he's been in several fire fights and attacks," Lemay said.

Lemay calls them the 'Battle Saint Bracelet.' They're made up of 12 to 16 different saints, each with a unique military connection.

"They have different saints on them, including St. Christopher to protect you when you travel, and St. Barbara to protect you if you work...that have very specific meaning to the military and offers them specific protection," she said.

Lemay started the program as a way to feel connected and show support for the troops overseas. Now, the small memento has spread to Hollywood and beyond.

You'll find them on the wrists of celebrities like Zac Brown and the cast from Band of Brothers. And now you can get them online too.

"When you have a loved one in harm's way, not a moment goes by where you don't think of them," Lemay said. "So we wear these every day and think of our loved ones and all the other service men and women who make so many sacrifices every day."

This shopping and holiday season take a moment to think about the men and women spending their holiday in harm's way. And while you're picking up that new gift for a loved one remember the troops and put the saints on their side.

The Redemptive Names of God

A while back I was sitting in a Bible study class when the discussion briefly took a turn to the topic of the names of God.  I found it interesting and, following the class, did some research on the Internet on the subject.   Here's what I found -- [source]

The Seven Redemptive Names of God

In his redemptive relation to man, Jehovah has seven compound names which reveal Him as meeting every need of man from his lost state to the end. These compound names are: 

"the Lord will provide" (Genesis 22:13,14).
i.e., will provide a sacrifice.
"the Lord that healeth" (Exodus 15:26).
That this refers to physical healing the context shows, but the deeper healing of soul malady is implied.
"the Lord our banner" (Exodus 17:8-15).
The name is interpreted by the context. The enemy was Amalek, a type of the flesh, and the conflict that day stands for the conflict of (Galatians 5:17) the war of the Spirit against the flesh. Victory was wholly due to divine help.
"the Lord our peace," or "the Lord send peace" (Judges 6:24).
Almost the whole ministry of Jehovah finds expression and illustration in that chapter. Jehovah hates and judges sin (Genesis 2:1-5). Jehovah loves and saves sinners (Genesis 2:7-18) but only through sacrifice (Genesis 2:19-21). See also: Romans 5:1; Ephesians 2:14; Colossians 1:20.
"the Lord my shepherd" (Psalm 23.).
In Psalm 22, Jehovah makes peace by the blood of the cross; in Psalm 23, Jehovah is shepherding His own who are in the world.
"the Lord our righteousness" (Jeremiah 23:6).
This name of Jehovah occurs in a prophecy concerning the future restoration and conversion of Israel. Then Israel will hail him as Jehovah-Tsidkenu—"the Lord our righteousness."
"the Lord is present" (Ezekiel 48:35).
This name signifies Jehovah’s abiding presence with His people (Exodus 33:14,15; 1 Chronicles 16:27,33; Psalm 16:11, 97:5; Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5).
Taken from the 1917 Scofield Reference Bible Notes
"Redemption" ... a word one hears often within the realm of Christianity, such as Christ the Redeemer, for example.  The definition of "redeem" is enlightening (from Merriam-Webster):
1 a : to buy back : repurchase b : to get or win back 
2: to free from what distresses or harms: as a : to free from captivity by payment of ransom b : to extricate from or help to overcome something detrimental c : to release from blame or debt : clear d : to free from the consequences of sin 
3: to change for the better : reform
5 a : to free from a lien by payment of an amount secured thereby b (1) : to remove the obligation of by payment redeems savings bonds on demand> (2) : to exchange for something of value <redeem trading stamps> c : to make good : fulfill
6a : to atone for : expiate <redeem an error> b (1) : to offset the bad effect of (2) : to make worthwhile : retrieve

So, Jesus our Redeemer retrieves us, reforms us, frees us from distress, buys us back, repays, restores, removes us, extricates us, pays our ransom.  What beautiful word ... what a beautiful Redeemer. An old hymn comes to mind ... the classic by Samuel Medley -- "I Know That My Redeemer Lives":

Christ the Redeemer by Andrea Mantegna (1431-1506)
I know that my Redeemer lives;
What comfort this sweet sentence gives!
He lives, He lives, who once was dead;
He lives, my ever living Head.

He lives to silence all my fears,
He lives to wipe away my tears
He lives to calm my troubled heart,
He lives all blessings to impart.

He lives, my kind, wise, heavenly Friend,
He lives and loves me to the end;
He lives, and while He lives, I’ll sing;
He lives, my Prophet, Priest, and King.

He lives and grants me daily breath;
He lives, and I shall conquer death:
He lives my mansion to prepare;
He lives to bring me safely there.