“Christian Values!?”

Honesty.  Truthfulness.  Hard work.  Integrity.  Dignity.

Values to live by.  Values to strive for.  They’re “Christian values.”  I say “Christian values” because I passed a Christian high school and there’s banners all over saying, “Teaching Christian values.”  I drove passed the school thinking to myself, “Mmmmm, what’s a ‘Christian value’?”

I ran through a list in my mind and came up with what you just heard.  There are more but I just remembered that I forgot “sacrifice,” didn’t I; big mistake.  Big Christian value.  Oh hell, I forgot “forgiveness” as well.  How can you forget our greatest sin next to cheating at Bingo.  Can you cheat at Bingo? Jesus says not once or twice for forgiveness but more times than we care to do it.  Sacrifice is the toughest of them all because it calls for us to step back and step forward for someone or something else.  Just look at any parent with small children and you soon discover sacrifice’s definition.

None of us created these values, they’ve been handed on to us by the generation before us and they were received from the generation previous to theirs.  It is ongoing cycle and living up to those laudable values is no easy task.  It takes a context, an anchor that holds us in place to be honest, truthful, hard working, dignified and sacrificial people.  These are truly Christian values.

Moses says it best in our first reading today.  Returning to the Lord with both your heart and soul is no mystery.  It is not remote.  “Who’ll go to the sky for us?” he says and “who will cross the sea to get it for us…that we may carry it out?”  Moses answers with the simple remark that it is “very near to us, already in our mouths and in our hearts; we only have to carry it out and read Fr. Joe’s blog, joejagodensky. com.

We know what the important values are that need to be rooted in our lives.  We only need to uncover them and cherish them as much as we do eating the Body of Christ.  Did I mention “sacrifice” as a value?

You know, on second thought, forget everything I just said because most of it isn’t true.  There is no such thing as a “Christian value.”  How divisive of that high school to place banners proclaiming values unique to the Christian church.  Jews don’t work hard?  Muslims aren’t trustworthy and dignified?  My Unitarian sister isn’t a person of integrity?  Hell, Moses wasn’t a Christian.  Let’s separate ourselves even more from each other when we have so much in common, like values.  Have I told you about “sacrifice” yet?

Values only take on a unique twist when anchored in something or someone.  For us, it’s Jesus Christ.  For many, many others it is someone or something else.  If you want to worship a tree every Sunday at Whitnall Park, and are striving to live values – then hug that tree a little harder today because that’s what we’re doing here every Sunday – trying to make the values of Jesus our own.  (And Jesus didn’t create values either by the way, just in case you’re trying to get a step ahead of me.)

And you don’t “teach values,” you live and witness them.  If the sacrificial dad counsels his son on charity and then kicks the cat after his first drink; then you know what I’m talking about.  That’s teaching minus the true living, the authentic witness.

Honesty.  Truthfulness.  Hard work.  Integrity.  Dignity and so many more values to aspire to.  These are all universal values we can all cherish and make a part of our lives.

I ought to call that high school and suggest a new banner for their marketing scheme.  How about “Teaching Christian Values That Aren’t Really Christian But We Want To Lure You Inside Our School Because Of Elitism.”  I know it’s more words and replacing the old banners would cost more money but do you think they’ll buy it?  No, it’s just too easy to keep doing what they’re doing.  Just keep selling “Christian values” as though there are any; as though they belong only to the Christian church.

Forget my revised banner suggestion, I’m confident their high school is full of students dying to hear made up “Christian values” that are universally held and believed. If I haven’t brought up “sacrifice” yet, would this be a good time?

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About Rev. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.

A Roman Catholic priest since 1980 and a member of the Society of the Divine Savior (Salvatorians). www.Salvatorians.com. He is associate pastor of partnering parishes, Christ King and St. Bernard parishes in Wauwatosa, WI.
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