Contemporary Values Clarification


September 27, 2019

Values are basic attitudes about human life that shape our thinking and behavior. Our values help us find human life meaningful and worth living.

Last week’s reflection was on being an open-minded believer. I continue that reflection this week, with a reflection on values clarification: being an open-minded believer also requires an ongoing personal and group values clarification process. (In the old days, I guess we called this “an examination of conscience.” )

In the values clarification process, there are two areas to examine: (1) one’s personal values and (2) the values upheld by one’s contemporary culture. For example — Since I claim to be a Christian believer, the first question therefore is this: Is my speech and my behavior consistent with authentic Christian belief? Second question — Do the values of my parish, my school, my fellow Christians truly reflect authentic Christian belief?

Without becoming too political, one can ask the same kinds of questions about being a citizen. For example — Although an “expat,” I am still very much an American (USA) citizen. I am an active member of my US political party. I vote and I help with voter registration of USA students. And I encourage other expats to vote. I do believe in the core USA values of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. First question — In my life as a citizen, do I truly live those values in my words and behavior? Second question — Is the contemporary rhetoric and behavior of our leaders consistent with the key values of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness for all Americans?

If one answers NO to any of the above questions, there are some major challenges in his or her values journey.

Moral dilemmas are an unavoidable part of our human experience and development. We develop and promote our moral self-concept based on our daily experiences. There we have to make decisions and regulate our behavior, coping with new challenges and contemporary social influences. We observe. We judge. Then, we act. Just observing and then doing nothing is a cop-out.

I conclude this values reflection with a personal observation about the values conflicts that I see in contemporary Western culture (not just the USA). These demand our Observation, Judgment, and Action:

Some Contemporary Values Questions

Is the institutional church’s real value CHRISTIAN MINISTRY to all men and women or SAFEGUARDING ECCLESIASTICAL power, paternalism and homophobia?

In our political life, do we want DEMOCRACY or an exaggerated AUTHORITARIANISM that grows ever closer to a revival of FASCISM?

Do we want ETHNIC and NATIONAL COLLABORATION or ETHNIC INTOLERANCE and NATIONAL ISOLATIONISM?

Do my words and actions promote LOVE OF NEIGHBOR or EGOTISTICAL SELF-LOVE?

Do we respect the PERSONAL DIGNITY of each person or simply USE PEOPLE for their

temporary utilitarian worth?

Is a key value in our society UNITY of word and action or DUPLICITY in speech and deeds?

Is the key church or political value today institutional LOYALTY or a non-critical ADORATION of institutional leaders?

When it comes to Christian values, Paul reminds us in his letter to the Christian community in Corinth:

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.

If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.

It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Take care,

Jack

4 thoughts on “Contemporary Values Clarification

  1. Dear Jack,

    You have asked the essential questions. Defining one’s religious and political positions and living them is not always one and the same. It is alarming to see those who truly believe they are living in “truth” displaying behaviors that would appear to contradict their declared doctrines. It really hit me when you used the word “moral” in describing how behaviors should demonstrate belief. It stuns me to see self-proclaimed Christians acting contrary to what Jesus taught both in the faith realm and the political realm. I am always drawn to Jesus’s response when asked what was the greatest commandment and he responded simply, “Love the Lord God with your whole heart, your whole soul, and your whole mind and love your neighbor as yourself.” Although none of us can hope to match that expectation, it is sobering to see how many of us believe that we are doing just that when nothing could be further from the truth. What does it matter how one self-defines if the practice contradicts the belief?

    Thank you for opening up this thoughtful meditation and self reflection. Much to think and pray about.

    Peace,
    Frank Skeltis

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