I may have already posted this comic and I am afraid I cannot remember where I found it, but it is worth sharing again. (I think it is from the New Yorker.)
I post it not simply because I was cleaning up my Mac’s desktop in order to avoid writing my SBL paper but because earlier today I was talking with someone about what it meant to be a Christian. We talked about that fact that we are not perfect or really even called to be perfect. But we ARE to be transformed by the Holy Spirit in our lives. The odds are very good then that much of our current life style will have to be set aside and left behind. Why is that our current culture and environment fosters the “if everybody does it it must be ok” mentality?
I was asked this weekend by Sue Paterno (yes, that SuePa) what it is that forms today’s students’ behavior. She said that when she was a student it was church and family that taught her morals and right behavior and that each enforced the other so that even when people were not perfect they had a pretty good sense of direction back to the ideal. What, she asked, was directing and guiding kids today?
My response was simple: success. I work every day with some of the most amazing and driven students who also happen to be some of the most ethical and conscientious students you will find. Yet their motives and goals are almost exclusively “success.” They strive for a high GPA, great grad program, or research grant. They are looking for the best internship to help them get the best possible placement out of college. There is not anything intrinsically wrong with that (just as money is not in and of itself evil). The problem really is with our society and how we define success.
As SuePa pointed out, students in her day had a common background, they held certain traditions and even faith in common. Today our students don’t share such these backgrounds and as such do not share a common definition of success other than the definition provided by the culture at large, which usually devolves into money, fame, and money.
But what about a different lifestyle? What about a notion of success that insists that your personal gain cannot come as a result of someone else’s loss? What if we define success as not simply being acknowledged as a great scientist, but as a great scientist who has used their discoveries to bring healing and help to this world. And many of our students do, they share this vision of success and that is why I can tell you that they are some of the most ethical and conscientious students around. Of course, we select them for just these qualities. Which still leaves us with the question, how do we get them to leave the current lifestyle behind and embrace an old-new one that is more about others than self.