High achievement, no morals

Parenting | Religious moral formation in America’s children does matter
by Anthony Bradley
Posted on Monday, June 13, 2016, at 1:53 pm

America has managed to successfully create a generation of young adults who excel in academics and athletics but have no moral conscience. Former Stanford University student Brock Turner is an excellent example. He represents an entire class of men on every college campus in America—that is, high achievers with no morals. Turner, 20, was convicted in March and recently sentenced to six months jail time for intent to commit rape of an intoxicated/unconscious person, penetration of an intoxicated person, and penetration of an unconscious person. Turner’s father protested his son’s punishment as too severe for merely “20 minutes of action.”

Should we be surprised? We are now a nation that believes that performance matters more than character.

The average American parent is far more concerned about his or her children’s academic and athletic performance than they are about their moral formation. Just look at where Americans spend their time and our money: According to most recent census data, the number of SAT prep centers in the United States more than doubled from 1998 to 2012 to 11,000, and youth sports has become a $7 billion industry. While Americans spend more time and money on academics and athletics, they spend less and less time and money in church—the place that specializes in moral formation, character, and virtue. The Southern Baptist Convention is in its nine straight year of decline, losing nearly 200,000 members since last year. In fact, nearly every Christian expression in the United States is experiencing a significant decline in numbers. Giving to the church, according to research by Empty Tomb, is now as low as it was during the Great Depression.

Jesus warned us about having our priorities right:

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26)

What does it profit America’s children if they excel in academics and athletics but their souls are lost in the process? America is forfeiting her children’s souls for the sake of serving the idols of success, comfort, and ease.

Brock Turner was, by today’s standards, extremely successful. He was extremely smart and an amazing athlete, but what he lacked was good character, which ultimately led to his demise and left a young woman victimized and traumatized for life. Here is a truth that modern Americans are not willing to face: No matter how smart or athletic a person is, a lack of morals and character will sabotage success every time and eventually hurt others. Lance Armstrong, Bill Cosby, Tonya Harding—the list goes on—were successful but ultimately found themselves scandalized because of poor character and morals.

If America wants a culture where college sexual assaults decline and where highly successful people are not undermined by scandalous behavior, then we can no longer buy the lie that religious moral formation does not matter.

Anthony Bradley

Anthony is associate professor of religious studies at The King's College in New York and a research fellow at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty.

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  • K Scott
    Posted: Mon, 06/13/2016 08:02 pm

    This is an excellent article, so it is difficult to say anything negative. However, having supported recovering victims of sexual assault for forty years, the victim advocate in me feels the need to speak. So, here goes. Using the phrase “traumatized for life” sends a discouraging message to anyone struggling to recover from an assault. It is better to refer to the severity of the trauma than the length of recovery. It is true a recovering victim will never be the same, and this person’s life has been profoundly altered. But, although the emotional, psychological, and spiritual challenges are overwhelming, and the losses are too numerous to count, victims can recover from the trauma of their assaults. Many do. In short, no victim wants to be treated like damaged goods for the rest of their lives. I authored a book titled, SEXUAL ASSAULT: WILL I EVER FEEL OKAY AGAIN? (Bethany House/Baker Publishing Group). The answer to the title’s question is “yes.” A full recovery is possible. I refer to myself as a recovered victim and offer my story as hope to others. Again, thank you for your excellent article. Sadly your point is well taken.

  •  Brendan Bossard's picture
    Brendan Bossard
    Posted: Mon, 06/13/2016 09:40 pm

    The saddest thing, to me, about Brock's situation is not the sin that he committed. The saddest thing is that he does not seem to have people around him to provide proper guidance to help him to gain his moral footing. I believe that it will truly take a miraculous intervention at this point for him to turn his life around.

    I am most peeved with his parents, who seem to be abandoning their leadership role in his life. But Stanford bears much of the responsibility as well. It fascinates me that the very people who encouraged him to participate in the drunkenness have vanished. They need to be held to account. He needed protection as much as his victim needed it, and his "friends" failed him. If there is a "rape culture" in college life--a dubious assertion meant to remove as much responsibility for sexual shenanigans from women as possible--it exists in direct proportion to the extent to which the "drinking culture" exists.

  • Jeff Grubbs
    Posted: Fri, 06/17/2016 01:28 pm

    Thank you for your report and comments.  I commend Daughterbygrace's suggestion.  However, I doubt the ACLU would remain silent if such a policy were put into motion on any campus