Ours is a world of survival of the fittest. As children we compete for our parents’ attention. And we are taught to fight bullies. In our teens, we compete for popularity and when we can’t be stars, we identify with celebrities. We come to expect the competitive world of high school and college athletics and professional sports. Television lives by dozens of reality of shows—Survivors, The Bachelorette, America Idol, America’s Got Talent, Celebrity Apprentice, Iron Chef, Dancing With the Stars, and the Biggest Losers.
In our cities we learn that the question, “Where are you from?” can get you in trouble if you belong to the wrong gang. We know that vicious criminal gangs push drugs and pimp, and can extort and control a city and country. We are born into a world in which we see the “greed is good” theme echoed again and again and that it’s the American way that anyone has the right to make as much money as she/he can. Ours is world in which might makes right and them that has gets the biggest piece of the pie. What isn’t told well in our history books is the endless struggle to survive by those not born into wealth and power. In our times we hear about how a fraction of one percent of the people in our country has more wealth than 99 percent of the rest of us. A military industrial political complex can manipulate Congress in the name of national security.
Counter-intuitively we see religious, civic organizations, sports, business and government organizations developing codes of ethics that assert “character counts”—that ethics matter. I grew up in a church going family and Bible School, Sunday School, and church camps were taken for granted as important to my upbringing. Yet they were so unobtrusive that I was unaware that they were teaching character. So if I have good character, I must give them credit. The question before our greedy and war torn society is: is there a way to teach character without it being faith-based? Part 2 will explore that question.