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The Judeo-Christian case against human cloning

Post, S. (1997, June). The Judeo-Christian case against human cloning. America, pp. 19-22.

OVERVIEW

The Center for Youth Studies is pleased to have the following article review offered by a high school student. We believe that insight from young people themselves is important for today’s youth workers.

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How to build an enduring moral order. New interpretations of old commandments

Trueblood, E. (1946, 1961). Foundations for reconstruction: How to build an enduring moral order. New interpretations of old commandments. Word.

OVERVIEW

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Morality and the adolescent

Shelton, C.M. (1989). Morality and the adolescent: A pastoral psychology approach. New York City: Crossroads.

OVERVIEW

Students and practitioners of youth work have grown professionally through the study of this author’s Adolescent Spirituality (1983). The issue of adolescent morality is critical, yet little thoughtful analysis and pastoral help have been given youth workers.

According to Charles Shelton, psychiatrist Robert Coles "captures the essence of youth’s moral search when he notes":

What matters for our young people, finally, is the quality of their home and school life—the origins of the moral character we adults possess or lack. Young Americans in the late 1980s sort themselves out the way young people always have. Those who have been lucky not by dint of their parents’ money or power, but their continuous affection and concern, their wish to uphold certain ethical principles and then live by them, rather than merely mouthing them—such youths are well able to handle some of the nonsense and craziness this late part of the 20th century has managed to offer us all. (p. xii)

Whether or not a young person experiences high moral values taught and lived out in the home, there is a vital role for any teacher, coach, or youth worker who comes to be "a valued adult in the adolescent’s moral life."

We have already noted the need for adolescent separation from parental authority. Indeed, such venturing out from parental authority is critical for adolescent moral growth. The transition from exclusive reliance on parental authority to a responsible young adulthood (wherein the late adolescent takes personal responsibility for his moral life while being open to the advice and counsel of others) is eased considerably by the adolescent’s alliance with other valued adults. (p. 53)

The author accepts a definition of adolescent morality from the American Psychiatric Association’s A Psychiatric Glossary (see also "The Adolescent" in Nicholi, A.M. Jr. (ed.). The Harvard Guide To Modern Psychiatry.) This definition understands adolescent morality as

the adolescent’s personal striving, in the midst of his or her own developmental struggles, to internalize and commit the self to ideals within a situational context that incorporates the interplay of the developmental level, the concrete situation, and environmental factors, and which in turn leads to self-maintaining and consistent thoughts, attitudes, and actions. (p. 24)

How parents, youth workers, and others who care deeply about moral development can better understand ethical reflection and moral action in young people is the basis of this book. Shelton takes the moral theory of James Rest (1982, 1983, 1985) and uses his four components of morality as follows:

Sensitivity. Being aware of moral issues involved. Judging. Viewing the moral problem in terms of one’s own moral ideals with resulting implications for action(s). Planning. Choosing a moral course of action true to one’s values. Executing. Carrying out the moral plan or decision and overcoming impediments. (p. 32ff)

Shelton is a priest, and the approach of this book is pastoral:

It is essential that adults convey the meaning of sinfulness to adolescents in ways filled with compassionate sensitivity and loving guidance. Yet, the very fact of sin needs clear articulation. In short, if we downplay a young person’s capacity for sin, we run the risk of depriving the adolescent of the enriching experience of personal forgiveness...Youth are ill-served by well-intentioned but misdirected efforts that fail to stress the empowering richness of the...mystery of forgiveness. (p. 6)

The writer has taught and counseled adolescents at various levels; he knows life in the real world, and his works reveal continued contact with adolescents. This analysis of adolescent moral life develops slowly and carefully toward practical application—in terms of a hundred strategies and questioning techniques.

The author is also a clinical psychologist. He teaches from a developmental perspective. He makes critical and adaptive use of Erikson, Piaget, Kohlberg and others.

Shelton acknowledges, but fails to give adequate attention to, the influence of culture on the moral life of young people. In particular, he fails to describe the struggle children and young adults are having in developing discriminatory skills with respect to media and pop culture. He does point to key underlying issues that must be considered regarding moral development in these times.

One area recently receiving attention in moral education is the imposing presence of cultural and societal factors that influence the adolescent’s moral life. The psychic numbing occasioned by nuclear war threats, the alienation fostered by competition, and the insidious lure of a consumer-oriented culture are difficult to combat. Youth today, facing an uncertain economic future, are vulnerable to the trappings offered by a materialistic society. The realities of cultural influences have forced adults to realize they can no longer simply encourage youth to be "moral." What is needed are environments where young people can discuss their common concerns and doubts.

This diagnosis and its final suggestion are overwhelmingly echoed by youth leaders.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION

  1. Do you believe the strength of a society lies more in its GNP or its morality? Is your country stronger today than it was a century or so ago?
  2. How do you see the moral dilemmas of youth today, and what do you need to see for moral education?
  3. To what extent can moral instruction of youth proceed without moral reform of our society?
  4. How do you define adolescent morality, and how does your definition compare with the descriptions here given by Coles and Nicholi?
  5. Do you agree that "venturing out from parental authority is critical for the development of adolescent morality?" Why or why not?
  6. Do you agree with the author’s idea of adults specially valued by an adolescent? Do you see yourself as such a one in the lives of any adolescents?
  7. How could you use James Rest’s "Four Components" in your work?
  8. Are you comfortable with the term "sin?" What words do you tend to use to describe moral failures? Are failure and forgiveness critical aspects of a developing adolescent morality? Does Shelton’s approach fit your counseling style?
  9. We have not described the author’s important discussions of adolescent development in this review. What questions about morality and development do you want (or need) to explore?

IMPLICATIONS

  1. Today’s youth are morally strengthened and weakened by our society. They will, in turn, strengthen and weaken our national future.
  2. Neither church nor school have found and agreed upon solid approaches to moral education.
  3. Young people today need strong and compassionate moral guidance, through teaching and counseling. They must have the opportunity to discuss their reaction to that teaching and to express their own developing opinions on moral issues.
Dean Borgman cCYS

   


Reflections on evil

Claffey, C.E. Reflections on evil: In Texas, scholars scrutinize ‘a deep and fundamental part of human and spiritual reality.’ (1987, November 4). The Boston Globe.

OVERVIEW

Is goodness just the way we describe things we consider noble, or does it speak of a cosmic reality? Does goodness flow from a divine being who is good and made goodness something to be recognized as the way things should work?

Is there such a thing as evil? Does evil have reality or is it merely an absence of good? Is it just the way we describe bad things, or do terrible acts flow out of a cosmic reality? Is there a tendency toward hurt and destruction to which human beings can give in?

In the fall of 1987, psychiatrists, scientists, and scholars gathered in Salado, a tiny town in central Texas. This gathering was sponsored by the Institute of Humanities located there. Speaker M. Scott Peck (The Road Less Traveled and People of the Lie) commented: "The world is a lot more likely to be saved from Salado than it is from Washington."

Gathered to consider the nature of evil in a world racked by the despair of nuclear disaster, poverty, violence, and AIDS, attenders heard a keynote address: a filmed interview with English author, Sir Laurens van der Post. "The greatest problem of our time is not only to understand evil, not only to recognize the fact that evil is not merely an absence of good, but that evil is a deep and fundamental part of human and spiritual reality."

Psychoanalyst and author M. Scott Peck sees evil as "opposition to life. It is that which opposes the life force. It has, in short, to do with killing. Specifically, it has to do with murder—namely, unnecessary killing, killing that is not needed for biological survival...Evil is...that which kills spirit."

Peck decries the fragmentation and isolation of our times. Our politeness is often dictated by fear and hinders us from coming to grips with our brokenness and sin. He encourages us to recognize the need for the transcendent and for holistic approaches to life. Our society needs God. "We cannot introduce ethics into schools without having a higher power, so our children grow up knowing we are HOMO ETHICUS."

Professor Raul Hilberg (University of Vermont), an expert on the Holocaust, explained evil systematically as it works through bureaucracy. "I’ve always believed it was a vast bureaucracy...One cannot destroy a people without employing all the institutions in the society."

Professor Jeffrey Burton (University of California, Santa Barbara) admitted he believed in a devil as source of evil. That designation may be literal or symbolic, the professor explained, but we must acknowledge "radical evil exists in all of us," and we must understand something of its transcendent power. Burton sees mankind’s worst sin as cruelty. "There is darkness and there is love. Love pierces the darkness. That is what I know and that is all that I know."

Philosophy professor Philip Hallie (Wesleyan University, Connecticut) was dubious of "high abstractions" in explaining evil. But he agreed with Burton that cruelty is a central theme of evil. "Cruelty is easier to identify than evil. It has an empirical authority."

IMPLICATIONS

  1. Our world and this society face a moral crisis. We cannot face that crisis isolated from humanity and fragmented in our thinking and in the way we order society. There can be no ultimate separation of church and state—such is completely counter to the intentions of the Constitution’s authors and a majority of Americans today. There can be no separation of media and morals, of politics and truth, of education and ethics.
  2. Evil role models are continually presented to the children of our society (hose minds operate with "concrete logic") These children constantly see evil rewarded. Their minds and hearts, however, are still receptive to good role models, to moral axioms, and to stories that praise "the good." Our culture searches for some basis for that good.
  3. Adolescence is a great time for discussions of "good and evil." Teenagers are entering a stage of formal operational thinking, and young adults are considering right and wrong in the world. They are asking ultimate questions. They are highly sensitive to ethical issues. They desire philosophical resolution. The topic of evil interests students—neither teachers nor religious leaders should avoid discussing it. Quotations from this article can be a source for such thinking and discussion.
  4. Examples of the Holocaust, of nuclear destruction, and of other ethical issues determined by your surveys will provoke young people. Discussions of media and this article, presentations from Holocaust survivors or oppressed minorities, and panel discussions and Bible studies are all effective methods for inspiring positive convictions among the young.
Dean Borgman cCYS


The needle

Spence, G. (1997). The needle. In G. Spence, The last word (ch. 7). New York City, NY: St. Martin’s Press.

OVERVIEW

Spence begins the chapter with a story of Willie, waiting behind the wheel of a get-away car for Derek, who, in robbing a 7-Eleven, pulls the trigger and murders the clerk. Prosecutors like Marcia Clark, Christopher Darden, and most others cry out that such criminals, who murder for $50, including accomplices, ought to die.

"But should we kill O.J.?" the chapter continues. We listen to Marcia Clark: " ‘It (the death penalty) just wasn’t an option. No jury—not even one composed of white, middle-aged Republican males—was going to sentence O.J. Simpson to death.’ "

The author’s response and commentary is biting:

That was because the death penalty is reserved for a different class. If you are black, if you have no money, if you live in ugly places, and if you kill, we will kill back. When we kill you that will teach you. But if you have been kissed in certain ways—that is, if you were kissed by Hollywood and given celebrity, or if you were kissed by God and given the genes of a great runner, or if you were kissed with the Heisman, and then Hertz kissed you, too, and the money gods kissed you—then you will not be killed, even if, as Darden confessed, ‘In thirteen years I’d never seen such a brutal murder.’

But Marcia Clark goes on:

There was an even more compelling reason for not asking for the death penalty in this case. I didn’t feel—and I don’t believe that any of my colleagues from the brass down felt—that it was warranted. Apart from the incidents of battery, Simpson did not have a prior criminal history. Over the course of his life he had not shown the kind of callous disregard for society’s rules that you look for in a hardened criminal. O.J. Simpson was not an incorrigible, nor was he a danger to society at large. Under those circumstances it would have been immoral to seek his death.

The fact is that "34% of prisoners sentenced to death had no prior felony record." These had never been arrested for possession of marijuana, for stealing a knife, or for beating a wife. So Gerry Spence argues:

...so we begin to see it clearly: The first thing to think about when the death penalty is considered is who is going to make the life-or-death decision about whether it will be invoked? The Marcia Clarks of the world, the young, the unwise, the tough, those who know all about morality, the people looking to sell books? Let’s leave the decision in the hands of the D.A.s of the country who want to be governor. How about trusting the screaming politicians who want to be reelected? It is immoral to stick the needle in O.J.’s arm for the most brutal murder to come along in thirteen years, but not immoral to get rid of the Willies of the world who can’t defend themselves. At last, is it not...immoral to leave the threshold decision on the death penalty in the hands of the likes of Marcia Clark, who argues that a celeb who beats...his wife for years and finally stabs her and her companion to death, cuts their throats down to the bone, stabs them not once but over forty times, is really a pretty good fellow when it comes right down to it?The author of this review agrees with Marcia Clark: it would have been immoral to ask for the death penalty against O.J. It is equally immoral to ask for it against Willie and all the others. If the death penalty is an instrument of ultimate justice, when it should or should not be invoked ought not be left to junior D.A.s and politicians.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION

  1. Do you think O.J. was guilty of killing his wife and Goldman?
  2. If he did actually do it and was convicted of it, do you think O.J. should have received the death penalty?
  3. Would you ever vote for a death penalty in any conceivable case?
  4. What concerns do you have about the death penalty as it is practiced in the U.S.?
  5. What is your opinion about the death penalty carried out (in early February, 1998) against Karla Faye Tucker, admittedly guilty of the pickax murder of two persons, who spent 12 years in prison, experienced a "born again" religious experience, and who wanted to spend the rest of her life in prison helping other prisoners through the chaplain’s office? (The Pope, Pat Robertson, and many religious and amnesty organizations pled for her life.)
  6. What is your opinion of Gerry Spence’s argument above?

IMPLICATIONS

  1. Capital punishment is an issue about which young people are interested. Along with abortion and other ethical issues, it has to do with a society’s basic respect for life (both victim and murderer).
  2. Any serious consideration of capital punishment has to look at law and criminal justice, as well as the moral and philosophical foundations of our legal system. Theories of social punishment: revenge, deterrence, and rehabilitation, must enter such a discussion. In addition, criminal justice studies weighing the effectiveness of capital punishment must be taken into account.
  3. The teachings of the Koran, the Jewish Scriptures, and the Bible have been interpreted differently by scholars of these faiths. Still, we must help young people relate their faith to ethical issues even in issues that are complex and where there is not total agreement or certainty.
Dean Borgman cCYS

Seven of the toughest decisions a doctor may face

Walker, L.A. (1987, November 29). Seven of the toughest decisions a doctor may face. Parade Magazine.

OVERVIEW

Today’s teenagers want to discuss bioethics. This article will get a discussion going. "Technology, the sorcerer’s apprentice, has brought us incredible good, yet we’re confronted with more confusion than ever before." The author cites the anxiety of many doctors, the increase of medical insurance premiums and medical lawsuits. Issues found mostly in ponderous textbooks are here presented in a way that challenges youthful consideration. A clergyperson, lawyer, and doctor will make this a very significant discussion.

  • "How do you decide when it’s time to pull the plug?" Brain-dead patients have recovered—even when the family has asked that they be allowed to die in dignity. Others in comas for long periods of time have come back to normal life. Recovered patients and family are now glad for efforts to preserve life. On the other hand, many have suffered terrible loss of dignity—at high financial cost to hospitals and family. Who and how are we to decide? How do religion and the legal system advise doctors and families?
  • "What do you do when insurance companies won’t allow ample hospital time?" Dr. Jennifer Gordon of Boston Children’s Hospital says, "Some patients might be fine in the hospital after three days for a certain procedure. But some who aren’t ready to be released go home and get sicker. Then they have more complications and far more suffering. It’s crazy."
  • "Who gets the one available kidney: a 45-year-old woman or a 53-year-old man?"
  • "How do you feel about abortion?" One doctor admitted: "I don’t know what I would do if I knew my wife was carrying a severely retarded child."
  • "What happens when patients do not want to know they have cancer?" Sometimes neither partner in a marriage will face the reality of a terminal disease. It is painful when a husband denies and refuses to discuss his wife’s cancer.
  • "What about in vitro fertilization?" How far should we go in allowing people the power to choose a suitable parent for their child?
  • "What do you do with a baby so handicapped there is no hope of it leaving the hospital?" Dr. Gordon describes one such case: "Each shift had as its aim keeping her (an infant with virtually no brain function or hope of survival) alive for 12 more hours, yet the entire pediatrics house staff secretly wanted her to die. In this case, medical intervention was an extremely destructive force (on divorced parents and medical staff)." This one child in a vegetative state cost the hospital hundreds of thousands of dollars. "And yet," Dr. Gordon continues, "I know that other children and adults with potential for perfectly normal lives couldn’t get care because they couldn’t afford it. All the money the hospital might have used to absorb those costs was spent on one child." On the other hand, some homes have been greatly blessed in caring for such a special child who defies medical predictions of early death and lives happily for many years.

IMPLICATIONS

  1. Curious and idealistic young people are deeply interested in such issues. They want to develop an adequate life ethic, and such discussions help them to move from "privatistic" and relativistic morality to universal principles that stick.
  2. Adolescent morality can become confused oversimplifications and a "black and white approach" to complex issues. Thoughtful consideration of these issues demonstrates the greys of so many real situations. It can develop a necessary tolerance for other viewpoints.
  3. There are several goals of such discussions:
    • To develop a sense of compassion toward those in need.
    • To develop thoughtful skills of analysis.
    • To become involved in meaningful service projects.
Dean Borgman cCYS


San Diego Union Tribune

Clark, C. (1995, July 4). Action by S.D. Fails to Stem Hate Crimes.San Diego Union Tribune

, pp. A1, A11.

OVERVIEW

 

(Download Action by SD Fails to Stem Hate Crimes overview as a PDF)

 

San Carlos student John Wear was beaten and stabbed to death in Hillcrest, California, as he walked to a coffee house with friends. Witnesses to the attack heard Wear’s assailants shout "Faggot!" After Wear’s death, citizen patrols were formed in Hillcrest and a dozen other communities in the county. A hate crimes training program was instituted for police cadets. The San Diego City Council passed a hate crimes ordinance requiring police to log bias crime statistics. Community leaders held safety forums and the district attorney designated two deputies to focus on the prosecution of hate crimes.

But hate crimes

in San Diego have not subsided. Since Wear’s murder, more than 500 hate crimes—many involving violence—have been reported to San Diego police. Hate crimes have persisted despite the fact that a person convicted of assault may see up to three more years added to his or her sentence if the attack is proven to have racial bias.

 

Law enforcers define a hate crime as one in which someone uses or threatens violence against a person or property because of perceived race, color, gender, religion, ancestry, national origin, sexual orientation, or disability. In San Diego, victims come in all races and religions, but most are Asians, African-Americans, Latinos, undocumented workers, gays, and Jews.

According to San Diego police statistics, perpetrators of hate crimes are most likely to target blacks and Latinos. However, it is gays who tend to be the victims of the most brutal attacks. Jack McDevitt, author of a book on hate crimes and director of the Center for Applied Social Research

at Boston’s Northeastern University, says that gays may be the fastest-growing group of hate crime victims because they remain "the one group that it is still socially acceptable to attack." It is not just gay men who are targeted. Lesbian women or those thought to be lesbian are often victims as well.

In 85 percent of hate crimes, the person who commits the violence is unknown to the victim. Morris Casuto of the Anti-Defamation League

says that what is being attacked is not the personality of the victim, but the characteristics—one’s race or religion or sexual orientation. The rise in hate-targeted violence is leading many experts nationwide to ask who is doing it and why. Some of their findings include the following:

  • 95 percent of hate crimes are perpetrated by white male teens who go out (usually in groups of two to four) looking for someone to assault.
  • The reason that white male teens tend to commit hate crimes may be that some white teens today feel economically and culturally inferior and may see themselves becoming outnumbered by minorities.
  • Interviews with those guilty of hate crimes show that the perpetrators really believe that everyone shares their bigoted views, but that they are the only ones tough enough to act.
  • In 1994 and 1995, only 20 percent of hate crimes in the city of San Diego have resulted in arrests, with even fewer convictions.
  •  

  • There is still a problem in getting law enforcement agencies to report hate crimes because some communities do not want the bad publicity.

 

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION

  1. Why do you think hate crimes are so prevalent today?
  2. What do you think is the impetus for hate crimes? What methods would you suggest for curbing them?
  3.  

  1. What can teachers, parents, and society at large do to instill racial tolerance in young people?

 

IMPLICATIONS

  1. Ignorance promotes racism; therefore, education is the key to racial tolerance. Educators should promote the study of ethnic diversity.
  2. Prejudice is often a learned behavior. Parents and other adults need to be careful not inflict prejudicial views regarding race, sexual orientation, disabilities, or religion on young people.
  3.  

  1. Many hate crimes go unreported. Even with tougher sentences for those convicted of hate crimes, the number of these crimes will continue to rise unless communities admit there is a problem and report all assaults involving racial bias.

Sheila Walsh cCYS


ETHICS RESOURCES

 

ETHICS RESOURCES

 

ORGANIZATIONS

Ethics Resource Center


The Ethics Resource Center (ERC) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose vision is an ethical world.  See also their character development section.

Ethics and Public Policy Center


A non-profit based in DC, EPPC brings a Judeo-Christian moral tradition to public policy and ethic issues both in the US and globally.

Josephson Institute of Ethics


The Ethics of American Youth Study based on a 2002 study reports the moral deterioration of youth from 10 years earlier.

 

BOOKS

 

Blackburn, Simon (2001)  Ethics: A very short Introduction, Oxford Univ. Press, 139 p.  This is a small but helpful book (as are all the Oxford Very Short Introductions). In a very intelligent and witty manner, the author considers “seven threats to ethics,” “seven ethical ideas,” and “foundations” for ethics.

 

 

Coles, R. The moral life of children.

 

Coles, R. The political life of children.

 

Davis, J.J. Evangelical ethics.

 

Geisler, N.L. (1971). Ethics: Alternatives and issues. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

 

Ingram, David Bruce and Jennifer Parks (2002) Understanding Ethics (The Complete Idiot’s Guide), Alpha, Person Education Company, 362 pp. Those who want to learn, review, or sharpen up will not be put off by the title of this series. As its back cover declares: “You’re no idiot, of course, But at a time when immorality, corruption, and greed seem to be not only condoned by encouraged, it’s increasingly difficult to follow your own moral compass. In a world that stresses material over the spiritual and appearance over substance, we all yearn for guidance.”  So, “Live an ethical life in an unethical world.” Here you’ll find clear outlines and explanations of the history of ethics, its principal theories, its difficult balances and applications to various areas of our lives and society.

 

MacQuarrie, J. (ed.). (1967). Dictionary of Christian ethics. Philadelphia: Westminster Press.

 

McCormick, R.A. (1981). Notes on moral theology 1965-1980. Washington, D.C.: University Press of America.

 

Mott, Stephen. (1982) Biblical Ethics and Social Change, InterVarsity Press, 262 pp. A too little known but foundational work of biblical exegesis in the best of reformed tradition as it works for positive social change. Mott considers change in both individual character and social institutions. He brings important emphases on evil and grace to our discussions and stresses the fact that justice is rooted in love. Here are important considerations: the church as counter-community, the poor and oppressed, civil disobedience, war and political reform.

 

Singer, Peter and Renata Singer, eds. (2005) The Moral of the Story: An Anthology of Ethics through Literature, Blackwell Publishing, 621 pp.  At a time when many disciplines (science, economics, political science, etc.) find it difficult humbly to admit their need of multi-disciplinary assistance, this book reminds us of ethical principles and lessons illustrated in our great philosophic and literary traditions. We will also be reminded of the complexity of ethics in difficult life situations.

Stassen, Glen H. and David Gushee (2003) Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context, InterVarsity Press, 496 pp. A very substantial book that brings Jesus and his Sermon on the Mount center stage in our discussions of sexuality and gender roles, marriage and divorce, the environment, politics, war and peace. Stassen is noted for his modifications of traditional principles pacifism in what he calls “active peace making.” Some may find here a diminishing of Old Testament law. In this regard this book and Mott’s (above) may produce a fine balance.

 

 

Thielicke, H. (1979). Theological ethics. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

 

Thompson, Mel (2000, 2003) Teach Yourself Ethics, Coventry, England: Hodder and Stoughton Educational, 201 pp. A good introduction to ethical theory. This book will draw your attention to morality and living, freedom of choice, natural law, practical results, experience of moral choice, personal virtue, law and order, global perspectives, religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and religious values generally, application of ethics and where all this has left us.

Wright, Christopher.  (1998) Living as a People of God: The Relevance of Old Testament Ethics. London: InterVarsity Press.

 
Dean Borgman cCYS


A study of moral dilemmas of early adolescence

Mitchell, J.J. (1975, Fall). A study of moral dilemmas of early adolescence. Adolescence, p. 10.

OVERVIEW

The purpose of this research is to demonstrate the developmental nature of early adolescent moral dilemmas and to point out that they are often normal manifestations of growth.

DESIGN

The research investigated the most significant factors influencing moral dilemmas related to sexual behavior, independence, conscience, double standards, and conformity.

CONCLUSIONS

  • Sexual behavior creates a moral dilemma after the adolescent experiments with and introspects his or her needs and drive.
  • The pursuit of personal independence creates a moral dilemma after the adolescent violates one’s own personal beliefs or those of one’s parents.
  • Moral anxiety is as normal to the growth of conscience as muscular aches and pains are to physical growth.
  • The dishonesty required of a double standard behavior poses a moral dilemma for the adolescent.
  • The adolescent’s growing sense of his or her "self" demands that he or she respond to "inner" (psychological) as well as "outer" (social) needs.

IMPLICATIONS

  1. The developmental nature of early adolescent moral dilemmas must be informed and communicated to teachers as well as to students.
  2. The adolescent’s psychological needs for intimacy and belonging must be understood and channeled creatively.
  3. Education for youth must take place within the dynamic context of interaction and discussion, so that they can share their needs and values.
  4. The adolescent must be given some responsible tasks for which they are accountable.
  5. To help adolescents set, strengthen, and "own" their values, test them and even allow them to fail.
Anne Montague cCYS


How to build an enduring moral order

Trueblood, E. (1961, 1946). Foundations for reconstruction: How to build an enduring moral order; new interpretations of old commandments. Word.

OVERVIEW

Trueblood’s book gives rise to the following questions:

  • To be strong must a society have a public or common morality?
  • Can American church and state share a common morality?
  • Has the U.S. been a strong society because of the legacy of the Judeo-Christian commandments?
  • Do the Ten Commandments provide a basis for public morality in a secular, pluralistic society?
  • Can the morality of the Ten Commandments be regained in our culture?

Elton Trueblood’s book does not answer all of these questions. But it does provide a foundation or first step for such discussion. His assumption is that there is moral decline in our society. His thesis is "that the recovery of the moral law, as represented in the Hebrew Decalogue, is one of the ways in which...an antidote to potential decline can be found..." (p. 6)

As the author assessed the social and moral state of America after World War II, he realized that "the ancient Commandments could be stated affirmatively and that they ought to be so stated." Their original negative expression was a vivid reminder of their importance and our negligence.

The author focused on the issue of trustworthiness as he contemplated the positive essence of the Decalogue. In a word that seems as appropriate for 1988 as 1946, "the reconstruction of our world is not primarily a problem in engineering and not primarily a problem in politics, important as they both are, but...to recover the sense of a moral order." (p. 100)

Talk of a moral order in society may sound "pious and conventional" until we consider the necessity of trust. "All the elaborate plans which we make about the control of the atomic bomb are bound to fail of their purpose unless those who agree to the controls are personally trustworthy." (p. 100)

Trueblood seems to predict that secular society will lose a sense of reverence for persons as it allows judgment by personal fulfillment. Relativistic and individualistic standards cannot produce reliable standards for public morality. The lack of a moral imperative for trustworthiness is "the Achilles’ heel of a merely secular society." (p. 100)

But if reverence for persons is seen as the essence of human morality, "truthtelling is of paramount importance...not because of loyalty to the things about which we tell, but because of the persons to whom we tell...the most practical form which the categorical imperative takes is this: thou shalt be trustworthy." (p. 99)

IMPLICATIONS

  1. Do we need a public morality? Are we in danger of being a society in which everyone believes and does only what is right in his or her own eyes?
  2. How do sexual activity and drug consumption wreak havoc on society as a whole?
  3. Does a public morality need a transcendent or traditional basis?
  4. Upon what kind of basis or what kind of standards can a pluralistic society build its ethics and everyday reliability?
Dean Borgman cCYS


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