Moral Jeopardy: Good and Bad America
A philosophy professor stood before his class with some items on the table in front of him. When the class began, without speaking a word, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with rocks.
He asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.
The professor picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles, of course, rolled into the open areas between the rocks. He asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.
The professor picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up every other space in the jar. He asked once more if the jar was full.
The students responded with a unanimous “Yes.”
“Now,” the professor said to his class, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The rocks are the important things – God, your family, your partner, your health, your children – things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.”
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The pebbles, he told the students, are the other things that matter – like a job, house, or the family car.
“The sand is everything else like television, gadgets, and material things. The small stuff,” he said.
“If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued “there is no room for the pebbles or the rocks. The same goes for your life.”
The moral of the professor’s story goes like this: if you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are really important.
The story brings to light the moral issues facing modern-day society in America.
What are the things God wants us to remember every day?
Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Have supper together with the family. There will always be time to go to work and stay overtime, use your cell phone, plan another business meeting, give a dinner party and go shopping.
“Take care of the rocks first – the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand,” he said.
In other words, life is in the details.
Never before in history has an era existed, in which everything was questioned, changed, or compromised. The family has become a democracy of individuals with no real direction, psychologists argue.
Religious leaders are asking how a God-fearing nation could turn away from morality so quickly and lose its spirit of righteousness? Abortion, corruption, pornography, and other evils plaguing our society today was not so commonplace 50 years ago.
When Americans discuss moral behavior, most are referring to conduct and attitude towards other people in society. All sorts of things– mood, anonymity, empathy, hormones, rushing around, busy schedules, and worry affect people’s moral behavior.
Many argue that the moral fabric of our nation is eroding due to a lack of a system of values.
Others argue that our nation has became more reliant on ourselves and less reliant on God. When we quit praying, we became less holy – less moral. Because of our lack of virtue, we became more prone to sin. This lack of holiness and morality is a breeding ground for the great sins of our society.
Some Americans seems to have drifted away from God and a faith-based lifestyle.
Hundreds of studies and organizations continue to surface in an effort to explore the moral stuggles in life.
Morality today means more than behaving right or wrong. Psychologists argue that moral behavior is directly linked to greed and the immediate temptations that are a part of daily living in a modern society.
Human trafficking, murder, burglaries, criminal behavior, suggestive television programming, and fast-paced lifestyles are frequent news headlines across the country.
Are Americans Without Morals?
Research tell us that when we observe people’s moral behavior, religious people and nonreligious people act very similarly. That is, being religious-on its own-doesn’t seem to make a person spend more time with their family, not cheat or steal, or be generous to others.
In recent years, psychological researchers have accrued more evidence to support what many have long suspected: that morality is affected by repetitive behavior and a person's faith.
There is a lively debate going on in America today involving a major moral issue. Some will argue that the vast majority of our leaders including parents, lawmakers, social planners, teachers and even religious leaders have strayed a long way from moral actions.
This, in turn, is being passed along to the children of America. In a rushed world, instant dinners have replaced the family supper table and technology has taken the place of the hand-written letter.
One way that faith-based religion can increase types of behavior is if people are compelled to think or pray about something the moment they are making their moral decision.
Research shows that if religious thoughts are a priority in people’s unconscious, they will be less dishonest, more charitable, and more detail-oriented.
Science aside, the Bible tells us that we must "pray without ceasing."
A recent study published in the journal Psychological Science suggests that people know other people will think worse of them if they do something bad than if they let something bad happen.
"Omissions and commissions come up relatively frequently in everyday life, and we sometimes puzzle over them,” said moral psychologist Peter DeScioli of Brandeis University, who conducted a study with John Christner and Robert Kurzban at the University of Pennsylvania.
“If a cashier gives you an extra $20 bill at the register, some people think it’s OK to keep the money, but many of those people would never just swipe the twenty if the cashier wasn’t looking.”
Psychologists have often thought that this is because the brain makes a mistake; it works through the moral calculations differently when we think about a sin – not giving the $20 bill back – versus a sin of commission – stealing a $20 bill.
The study showed that when a third person was involved – or watching – people were more likely not to do a bad thing, especially if they were going to be punished by the act.
The negative judgments made by people who see you act also factors into behavior.
"The interesting thing about this study is that God is always watching us," said Dr. Paul Walburn, a retired minister from New Orleans, La.
"I do not put much stock in studies like this. People know right from wrong period. I believe it is greed that has pushed our society over the edge. If people could actually see God watching them – they would probably not act badly or do bad things. But, God is about faith and he wants us to live our lives abundantly and according to His will – not ours."
So what is the answer?
Walburn posed the question to his congregation one Sunday asking, "How can we expect to lead holy lives and possess spiritual wisdom without praying?"
"The Bible functions as a guide to living. Read it and be wise."
He said moral behavior can be summed up in one verse found in Leviticus 19:18.
Few people know what the verse really says. It does not say simply, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” It says, “Love your neighbor as yourself, I am the Lord.”
"Through constant vigilance is how we love each other, pray daily, and put others before ourselves," he said.
Invite God into every part of your life and into every conversation. Believe that the Lord Jesus Christ died for your sins. Love one another.
These three things will lead to a change in America.
The record shows, that with all the nation's problems, history has a lesson or two for all of us.
Praying for and striving to be a God-based society – like the one Moses and Isaiah to Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin envisioned – is the best chance we have to actually make one.
(Sources used for this news article: Science and Religion, Population Studies at Stanford, Conservative Daily News, Academic Blog.)