The F-bomb flew with frequency between two middle-aged businessmen sitting a row behind me on a flight. They weren't arguing with each other. They were talking bitterly about their plight. They were vulgar. They were indifferent to other passengers. They were angry white men.
I haven't seen these two businessmen in the angry crowds at town-hall meetings on health care, anti-tax parties and anti-immigration rallies. But I've surely seen some of their "kin" at these events.
If Gallup polls are accurate, these two men and their ideological soul-mates believe in God, consider themselves Christians and think the United States is a Christian nation. After all, most equate citizenship with Christianity.
Yet civility and commitment to the common good appear in short supply.
Why is that?
We surely can't blame all bigotry, untruthfulness, narrow selfishness and the embrace of injustice on rant radio, cable-TV talk shows and blogs.
I suspect that "we" are part of the problem. I suspect that one of the reasons is the lack of moral education in congregations.
Moral education in Sunday school is foundational if people of faith are to do justice, love kindly and walk humbly with God in the public square.
Baptists have not been and are not big on moral education in Sunday school. We prefer pie-in-the-sky spirituality, textual diagnosis without purpose and empty affirmation instead of discerning discipleship that contributes to transformation.
Next time you receive an e-mail about church resources, see if my description is off the mark.
But I digress. I don't want to contribute to an analysis that leads to paralysis.
Instead, I want to encourage the growing readership of EthicsDaily.com to move from readership to discipleship. Make no mistake: I'm grateful that we are moving quickly toward some half-million articles read each month on our Web site. I think it's critical that we keep people of faith informed and help to frame issues.
But social transformation requires moral education. And EthicsDaily.com is a warehouse full of educational resources.
Here are a few of our online, undated moral education units:
- Honoring the Ten Commandments: Monument or Movement? This 13-lesson unit with an accompanying leader's guide is foundational to moral education.
- Questions Jesus Asked centers on Luke and examines what Jesus said about defining neighbor, judging others, doing good on the Sabbath and obligations to government. It's a 13-lesson unit.
- The Agenda: 8 Lessons from Luke 4 is an intense study of Jesus' "first" sermon in the synagogue in Nazareth and the reaction to his moral agenda. It comes with a thoughtful commentary prepared by the department of religion at Belmont University.
- Being Doers of the Word: 13 Lessons from James has lessons on speaking truthfully, pursuing wisdom, practicing patience, enduring temptation and developing a mature faith.
- Walk His Way: Discipleship Lessons from Mark's Gospel explores authentic generosity, true worship and just living among the 13 lessons.
- Living Wisely, Living Well: Lessons from The Proverbs focuses on wise work, anger, happiness, marriage and thinking before speaking.
- Looking at Leadership examines traits of faithful leaders, actions of failed leaders and knotty experiences for leaders based on the accounts in 1 and 2 Kings. These lessons provide a framework of assessing leadership.
- Courageous Churches has lessons on the courage to witness, to speak to power and to change culture.
All of our educational units are biblically based and practically applied. All are undated. All are available to order securely online with a credit card. Plus our moral education curriculum pieces have free sample lessons.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a news story based on a formal presentation, impromptu remarks and a report at the annual gathering of the Baptist World Alliance. Each made the point that Baptists are transformers.
"Baptists are at their best as transformers," said Bill Brackney, a noted Baptist authority who teaches at Canada's Acadia Divinity College.
"We want to see growth and progress in one's walk. And we want to see changes in communities and nations," he said. "Baptists are not merely social do-gooders, rather there is a deep sense that what we do we do in the interest of transformation."
I think he's right. I believe most of our readers agree. I'm confident that our moral education resources can play a vital role in such transformation.
I hope you will use these units because you want to see real moral growth and social transformation.
Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics.