Greg Bell: Are we paying the price for failing to honor and teach morals?

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Organized religion has helped set the moral tone of nations throughout most of history. Regrettably, Americans attend church less often and thereby miss critical lessons in moral standards.

Our nation’s founders knew the constitutional republic they formed would function properly only if citizens were moral and educated. John Adams said, “we have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Washington emphasized the key role of morality as well, “The foundations of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality ….” Samuel Adams and Jefferson made essentially the same statements.

While we should ask if Americans still qualify as a moral people, a more practical question is whether and how we are training moral citizens, especially the rising generations.

Parents have primary responsibility for training their children in morals and virtue. That teaching will occur through direct instruction; some will be passed on in daily interaction; and much will be imparted by the example parents set for their family.

Unfortunately, because of financial and domestic pressures, many parents have too little time and structure to instruct their children in honesty, responsibility, self-discipline, kindness and sexual morality. Some don’t believe in such “old-fashioned” values, or they don’t know how to formulate and teach them. Far too many parents naively hope their children will pick up foundational moral principles at school or church or by societal osmosis. Children are certainly not learning those great virtues from texting or apps or video games.

Churches have been a critical source of preserving and passing on high principles and conducting effective education in morality and ethical behavior. Indeed, most denominations speak less of ethics and morals in favor of the stronger stuff of commandments and covenants, violation of which is sin. In this way organized religion has helped set the moral tone of nations throughout most of…

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