The main character of the book, Agnes Grey, works as a governess for two wealthy families.
The first family never discipled the children and even encouraged cruel behavior toward animals. I found it difficult to read through this section, as it broke my heart.
The second family was better; however, they had no regard for the feelings of others. They were snobbish, selfish, and viewed money as more important than character.
Agnes Grey was a religious woman and tried to teach moral values to the children she was instructing. At one point of the book she said, “The end of Religion is not to teach us how to die, but how to live; and the earlier you become wise and good, the more happiness you secure.”
The book does have a happy ending and is worth reading.
The documentary Children of Shame exposes atrocities committed at a home for unwed mothers in Tuam, Ireland. The home was founded in 1925 and closed in 1961.
At the time, religion was an important part of the Irish culture. Purity was viewed as an essential trait and failure to live up to that standard brought extreme shame, so unwed mothers were sent to special homes.
The unwed mothers were forced to live and work in these homes against their will. They were treated as criminals, even though fornication was not considered a legal crime.
The babies could be put up for adoption by the home, regardless of the mother’s desire to keep her child. Children remaining in the home were treated poorly. They were malnourished, abused, and did not receive appropriate medical care. This resulted in a mortality rate for babies born out of wedlock that was six times higher than the norm.
Legislating morality has been a hot topic in the United States. For example: should gay marriage be legalized and should birth control be easily available to all women.
However, stories like this one remind me of the dangers of strictly legalizing morality. The appearance of purity can become more important than people. The end result is evil acts are committed to hide immorality.
Screwtape is a demon and he is writing letters to his nephew, Wormwood. The letters are meant to help Wormwood, who is fresh out of Tempter’s College, in his endeavors to prevent people from becoming Christians. In the end Wormwood fails and is eaten by the more successful demons.
The advice given by Screwtape was potentially effective, but it was also subtle.
- Church members can be used to keep people away from the Gospel, especially if they behave rudely or practice immorality.
- Family discord, lack of self-examination, and critical thoughts toward others will promote a self-righteous attitude.
- Keep people away from prayer or have them use memorized superficial prayers that can be repeated without meaning.
- Keep people focused on themselves and their own problems to promote selfishness and prevent charitable behavior.
- Keep people focused on personal feelings.
- Teach people to reverence religious objects, so the object replaces God.
- Teach people to view the past as happy and peaceful. Teach them to view the future with dread and hopelessness, so they will believe not even God can save them from certain destruction.
- Create anxiety to prevent people from focusing on God.
- Promote hatred for those who are different from them and hatred for enemies.
- Promote malice towards the people around them and keep benevolence out of their minds.
- Increase temptation during times of struggle, so sin appears to be the best way to elevate depression and inner turmoil.
- If people desire to attend church, help them find one that focuses solely on friendship and self-help topics.
- Teach people to live two parallel lives. Sunday is for church, but during the rest of the week there is no thought of God. This will allow them to live in sin, but still feel self-righteous.
- Lull people into the path of wickedness, “Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”
- Don’t allow people to be rooted in a church, “if a man can’t be cured of church going, the next best thing is to send him all over the neighborhood looking for the church that ‘suits’ him until he becomes a taster or connoisseur of churches.”
- Promote discord in the church, so the members are arguing over petty things, then they will be unable to teach the gospel with any effectiveness.
- Encourage false spirituality among the people.
John Bradshaw defines virtue as, “an inner strength, an inclination rooted in our spiritual care that moves us toward the achievement of our full humanity, which is also our full human happiness.” Virtue is acquired through, “exercise and use.” Also, “acting virtuously embodies excellence and happiness.”
John Bradshaw warns of the dangers of teaching morality through the use of strict moral codes and neglecting to teach virtue. As a child, John Bradshaw was taught morality based on blind obedience. However, this did not make him or his friends virtuous adults. As a result, they struggled to develop a personal code of ethics and morality.
The book, “Reclaiming Virtue” discusses how to develop virtue in our own life and how to teach virtue to our children. I found the book to be beneficial and would recommend it.
Robert Bentley, the former governor of Alabama, entered a guilty plea for several criminal charges on Monday. He also resigned as the governor to avoid the upcoming impeachment hearings. Bentley admitted to embezzling funds and illegally using state resources to cover up his affair.
During his political career, Bentley opposed gay marriage rights, the state lottery, and legalization of gambling. Bentley wanted to use legislation to promote his Christian moral values. Bentley wanted to be a moral crusader.
In actuality, Bentley was an immoral moral crusader.
Legislating morality is a popular political platform; however, it doesn’t fix any problems or address the real issues. Bentley knew what he was doing was illegal, but he wasn’t concerned. His problem wasn’t based on a lack of legal consequences. His problem was based on a lack of character.
We can legislate morality, but it isn’t going to create a moral society. We need to focus on personal character. We need to value character above a person’s financial status, fame, or appearance. If you don’t change hearts of people, changing laws will not be enough to fix our problems.
Mary was engaged to Joseph, but he found out she was pregnant and wanted to call off the wedding. Joseph was a good man, he could have Mary arrested on charges of fornication and adultery. However, he didn’t want to put her through such a humiliating experience. Joseph decided to call off the wedding and not do anything that would bring shame to Mary.
While Joseph was considering his options, an angel appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (ESV)
Joseph listened and obeyed the angel’s instructions. What can we learn from Joseph’s character in this section of the Bible?
- Joseph did not seek vengeance or retribution. Instead, Joseph showed mercy and was willing to forgive Mary.
- Joseph listened to the word of the Lord, as spoken by the angel, and he obeyed God’s word. Joseph was willing to be obedient, despite the circumstances.
We would all do well to learn from Joseph’s example and implant these character traits in our own lives.
Reading the book, What’s the Difference by Marc Tyler Nobleman, was really fun. The title and cover page do a good job at explaining the purpose of the book.
Here are a few examples:
- Reptiles vs Amphibians – Reptiles have lungs and they can’t breathe through their skin. Amphibians can absorb oxygen through their skin and they may or may not have lungs.
- Fruit vs Vegetable – Fruit is the ripened ovary of a flowering plant. Vegetables are any other edible parts of the plant.
- Morality vs Ethics – Morals are what we believe regarding appropriate behavior. Ethics is the formal study of morality.