Signs and Wonders
Children walk under a sign based on the <em>Seven Habits of Highly Effective People</em>.
Associated Press/Photo by Charlie Riedel
Children walk under a sign based on the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

Signs and Wonders: Morality training without a moral foundation

Newsworthy

Good habits, but inadequate theology.Schools around the country are beginning to use Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective Peopleto train kids, and the results seem to be good. I personally see no harm in this program, and in fact found Seven Habits to be very helpful to me when I first read it more than 20 years ago. However, the program raises the question of how you can effectively teach ethics and values-based leadership (which Covey maintained his program was), without at some point talking about the religion or worldview underpinning those ethics and values. My answer to that question is: You can’t. The real question is: Which religion or worldview underpins the program? Covey himself was Mormon, though the habits he promotes—including “be proactive,” “synergize,” and “sharpen your saw”—are ecumenical enough. But they also have their limits as a world and life view. It would be hard, for example, to find one of Covey’s habits that some of the more efficient tyrannical regimes in history failed to master. Secular programs such as Seven Habits offer helpful guidelines, but provide a poor foundation.

Lawyers for laws. The Associated Press is taking the State of Kansas to task for spending hundreds of thousands of dollars with private law firms to defend its new pro-life laws. What the AP reporter doesn’t ask or answer is why? Why does the state use outside law firms? (Lots of reasons, including the need to keep state-employed lawyers to a minimum.) Is this unusual?  (No.) Is it possible that civil service lawyers employed by the state would not enthusiastically, professionally do their jobs and defend a pro-life law aggressively? (Uh-huh.) Jim Towey, who for many years was a lawyer for Mother Teresa, said it tells you something about the state of the world when Mother Teresa needs a lawyer. I might say the same thing about this situation: It tells you something about the state of our culture when pro-life laws need lawyers to defend them, and our government can’t provide them without looking to the private sector.

Sufjan surfaces. The reclusive Sufjan Stevens came out of hiding to comment not on the twerking of Miley Cyrus, but on her grammar. Sufjan wrote on Tumblr, “I can’t stop listening to #GetItRight (great song, great message, great body), but maybe you need a quick grammar lesson. One particular line causes concern: ‘I been laying in this bed all night long.’ Miley, technically speaking, you’ve been LYING, not LAYING, an irregular verb form that should only be used when there’s an object, i.e. ‘I been laying my tired booty on this bed all night long.’ Whatever. I’m not the best lyricist, but you know what I mean. #GetItRightTheNextTime.” Whatever, indeed.

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Sat up. For 17 years, the Christian television network SAT-7 has been broadcasting Arab language programming in the Middle East and North Africa. Now, because the Arab population in the United States is growing, the satellite network will be available in North America beginning Nov. 3. The United States is home to at least 1.5 million Arabic people, with more than 470,000 persons of Arabic descent in Canada. According to a statement from SAT-7, “Arab viewers are loyal to ethnic content providers, with an overwhelming majority receiving their programming over satellite.”

Warren Cole Smith
Warren Cole Smith

Warren, who lives in Charlotte, N.C., is vice president of WORLD News Group and the host of the radio program Listening In. Follow Warren on Twitter @WarrenColeSmith.

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