By Rev. Dave Brewer
At one time developing character was a primary goal of the public schools and the Boy Scouts. The 1920 Boy Scout Handbook included a list of books for Scouts entitled, “Every Boy’s Library,” including such titles as: The Last of the Mohicans, Scouting with Daniel Boone, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Ben Hur, Scouting with Kit Carson, The Call of the Wild, and Tom Strong, Washington’s Scout. This is what the Scout Handbook said about honor:
“A Scout holds his honor to be his most precious possession, and he would rather die than have it stained. His honor he guards as jealously as did the knights of old. A scout is a patriot who loves Old Glory, and he patterns his life after those of great Americans who had a high sense of duty and served the nation well. A scout practices self-control and never uses alcoholic liquors. He is courageous in emergencies, and considers the safety of others before that of himself. He is especially considerate of the helpless and the weak. The scout should believe in God and God’s work.”
Today, however, in many people’s eyes, competence and charisma are more important than character in our leaders. What leaders do in their private lives is separated from their public performance of their duties. This involves a tragic misconception. Journalists need to hold leaders accountable for their words and their behavior. A leader who lies or cheats on his spouse can be bribed, or cannot be trusted to follow through on their promises. Leaders who have strong character operate out of core convictions based upon moral principle that govern everything that they do. John Jay, our first Supreme Court Chief Justice was a Christian, and he said, “My Conduct moves on Fixed Principles, from which I shall never deviate.”
Activist judges on the Supreme Court who do not have fixed moral principles, and who are not loyal to the Constitution, have done great damage to our country. By removing God from the public schools and by their moral relativity they have left America’s youth without a moral compass. The upcoming election is about who will appoint judges on the Supreme Court, which will largely determine America’s future. How tragic it is for the Christian community that millions of Christian choose not to vote in presidential elections.
Secular universities abandoned in loco parentis in the seventies—their responsibility for character development and the monitoring of student behavior. These universities, which are overloaded with atheist professors, have become graveyards for the faith and morals of many young students.
We can easily see the importance of character in our greatest presidents: Character was the essence of George Washington, who was legendary for his courage under fire, his perseverance over 8 years of war, his leadership, his integrity, his faith in God’s providence, and his example for all succeeding presidents. Dwight D. Eisenhower modeled his life after his hero Washington. Likewise Abe Lincoln led our country with honesty, steadfast resolution, moral principle, prayer, and great moral courage to save the Union and eliminate slavery. He was a giant among pygmies in terms of his character, which helped to heal the nation’s wounds. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Teddy Roosevelt brought great energy, character, and strength to the presidency as America rose to new heights on the world scene. He was a wonderful family man known for his courage and his patriotism. He spoke repeatedly of the importance of character to young men all over the country:
“No man is a good citizen unless he actually uses the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule in the ordinary affairs of everyday life. Any boy is worth nothing if he has not the courage to stand up against the forces of evil, and the courage to stand up in the right path.”
The famous Christian basketball coach John Wooden won 10 NCAA titles. He once said, “Be more concerned about your character than your reputation because your character is who you really are, while your reputation is who people think you are.”
The primary place for the development of character is the home. Deut. 6: 4-9 teaches that parents need to teach their children reverence for God and his commandments. Fathers have been given the responsibility to assume spiritual leadership within the home and to model integrity to their children. We fathers need to lead by example by going to church and getting involved in the Men’s Ministry. Make sure that your kids are going to Sunday School and Youth Group. These leaders reinforce your values and morals when your kids are developmentally moving away from your influence and identifying with their peers.
Mothers too have an enormous impact upon their children. Chuck Swindoll in Finishing Touch states: “I know of no more permanent imprint on a life than the one made by mothers. . . More than any statesman or teacher, more than any minister or physician, more than any film star, athlete, business person, author, scientist, civic leader, entertainer, or military hero . . . you are the most influential person in your child’s life.” Terry Gibbs, Heartstrings of Laughter and Love Dallas: Word, 1997
If we are going to build future leaders, we need to have solid Christ-centered families who are supported by strong youth and family programs within great churches like Christ Church at Grove Farm. Then we will have young Christian men and women of character whose word will be their bond, who can say with the famous general Stonewall Jackson, “You sacrifice your life rather than your word.”
*Dave Brewer is a retired pastor who attends CCGF along with his wife Darlene, an Elementary Reading Specialist. Dave is the Pastor Emeritus of Saxonburg Memorial Church, and the former Executive Director of the Mars Home for Youth and a Young Life Area Director.