Statement on Virtues and Values: What Christians Can Do
(Participants in the third Maston Colloquium met in Dallas on November 28 to talk together for a day about virtues and values. As a company of committed Christians concerned about today's moral climate and committed to improving it, they discussed this issue of paramount concern in the churches particularly and throughout the culture generally. Declaring themselves heartened by the many voices being raised in the public arena in support of virtues and values and commending those who are in good faith championing them, the participants fashioned their findings into an open letter. It was introduced by some shocking but encouraging statistics to counter the currently popular pastime of trashing America. Then the virtues and values without which civilization itself would disintegrate into moral ruin were named and briefly defined in the hope that more and more Christians will lead out in helping Americans generally to name them, absorb them, live with them, and propagate them. The Maston Colloquium, sponsored by the Center for Christian Ethics, is named in honor of Dr. T.B. Maston for his pioneering work in Christian ethics The open letter is printed here with the names of its drafters, those positions are provided for identification purposes only.)
Do you know how good you are?
Before you shovel that last clump of dirt on the corpse of a "degenerate" America, consider these facts gathered from recent releases by Gallup Poll, Harris Poll, Newsweek, New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times Survey:
95 percent of Americans never use illegal drugs; 88 percent drink moderately or don't drink at all
95 percent pay their taxes and don't cheat
85 percent have never cheated on a spouse
62 percent of adults think teens have had sex by age 16 when, in fact, 70 percent are still virgins
96 percent believe in a Supreme Being
55 percent attend church regularly
89.2 million Americans volunteered last year--19 billion hours or 9.5 million man years.
But do you know how much better you could be?
As a company of committee Christians, we believe there are virtues and values which, if preached, taught, and practiced throughout the land, would make us better.
The enduring virtues and values we affirm are wisdom, courage, temperance, justice, righteousness, peace, faith, hope, love, and freedom.
These habits of the heart, these strengths of character, these virtues and values are important to our personal lives and to our common well-being. We diminish them if we try to privatize them and miss their application to our life together as a people.
Wisdom discerns between good and evil, between right and wrong; in difficult situations, wisdom knows how to weigh between competing goods or between competing evils.
Courage is the moral grit to choose right, to reject wrong, and to walk in the good way in the face of adversity.
Temperance is bridling desire, rejecting greed and shunning excess.
Justice is love at a distance; it moves beyond the circle of personal likes and dislikes and gives to all their due.
Righteousness is doing the right thing without self-righteousness because God's righteousness sets the standard.
Peace is the condition of being in right relationship to God, to others, and to all creation.
Faith is trust in God which frees us to accept ourselves and to serve others.
Hope enlivens all the other virtues and values, for it accepts God's ultimate control of the future for the good of all his creation.
Love delights in the goodness of God and actively seeks the good of others.
Freedom is the God-given power of choice, constrained by the God-given power of love.
We recognize that this focus on virtues and values is not the solution to all our personal and social ills. Indeed, both we ourselves and America itself are still works in progress.
Participants in the Maston Colloquium on "Virtues and Values: What Christians Can Do."
William F. May, Director of Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility and the Cary M. Maguire Professor of Ethics at Southern Methodist University
Elizabeth Morgan, former teacher in the English departments at Texas Woman's University and the University of Texas at Arlington
Richard Pierard, Professor of History, Indiana State University, Terre Haute
Herbert R. Reynolds, Chancellor, Baylor University, Waco
Frosty Troy, Editor, The Oklahoma Observer, Oklahoma City
Foy Valentine, President, The Center for Christian Ethics