Sunday, November 16, 2008

Children Are a Superstitious and Cowardly Lot

I was working in children's church this morning, and it made me think about the nature of morality. I wondered whether or not our morality is a decision in which we choose to do the right thing, or whether we simply conform to the standards of society out of fear of retribution.

For some children, it is obvious that they are simply as "good" as they have to be not to get in trouble. They don't particularly care to listen to what I have to say, and they are constantly trying to undermine my authority.

For instance, a common occurrence this morning were several variances of the same exchange: Me: "Don't do X". (Let X be some activity which the children are not supposed to do) The children then proceed to do X. Me: "What did I just say?" Them: "Don't do X." Me: "What are you doing?" Them: "X".

It is not, in this case, a matter of not knowing the good and therefore committing a sin of omission or ignorance. This is willful transgression of a known law. But, there are others who are content to follow my instructions and behave as I have requested. And I wonder as I wander whether those who behave have committed themselves to do good, or whether they simply fear whatever retribution I might bring down upon them.

“The Promised Land always lies on the other side of a wilderness.”


Anonymous said...

You might be interested in reading about Lawrence Kohlberg's stages of moral development.

brinticus said...

Kids don't always reason the way we adults do. Oddly, they might very well understand the good, but yet not know the good. My own kids seem to have all sorts of disconnects between giving a full account of what they understood to be wrong, but can give no account of just why they did something wrong. Naturally, I ask them all sorts of questions about this from different angles, trying to trace the logic of their thinking. But they just don't seem to make the connections in ways that seem intuitively obvious to us adults. So much the worse for moral intuitions, then, as being shared between adults and kids. (Yes, Kohlberg is a good read on the subject.)

Anonymous said...

I would NEVER laugh at the Joker's boner.