Moral leadership, moral decline and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

| January 22, 2016 | 0 Comments


Chaplain (Capt.) Jeffery B. Herden
25th Infantry Division


As an Army chaplain, one of my primary areas of concern and influence is in moral leadership.

The Army considers the subject important enough to devote a pamphlet to it. That pamphlet has a couple of very important statements that are well worth our thought:

“A key attribute to an Army professional is character. Character is a person’s moral and ethical qualities; it helps a leader determine what is right and gives a leader motivation to do what is appropriate, regardless of the circumstances or consequences.” — DA PAM 165-16

How true! It was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who dreamed of a day in which character, and not skin color, would be foremost on our conscience. Though the day we set aside to celebrate his legacy has come and gone, his words still resonate in our ears: “I have a dream that my four children will be not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

The content of one’s character is indeed a matter of highest importance. The Army has always recognized this and includes in its definition of moral leadership, these words:

“Moral leadership in the Army reflects a clear vision of right and wrong based on specific ethical guidelines. Moral leadership requires that leaders possess the courage to live out those beliefs. …”

So, there you have it. The Army wants to develop morally strong men and women, with a clear vision of right and wrong, and the courage to live out those beliefs. So where does this clear vision of right and wrong come from? And what will give our Soldiers the courage and fortitude to live consistently by these standards even after they take off the uniform?

It seems to me there are two basic visions one can resort to in answering these questions. One vision is secular, without God, without faith. In this vision, we adopt a set of standards to live by with no great value or real meaning. The other vision is rooted in confident belief in the real existence of a wise, all-knowing, all-powerful, just and merciful creator as the foundation for morally upright living.

The Army is made up of a diverse culture of many beliefs and worldviews and cannot advocate for any one of them. But people who wear the uniform certainly can and hopefully will advocate for what they believe about God, absolute moral standards and the need to uphold the values and virtues of justice, fidelity, integrity and upright living.

I believe it’s time for us all to reconsider just how monumentally important faith is to our own moral vision. Faith speaks to these issues with great clarity. It provides what I believe is a vision of right and wrong based not merely on ethical guidelines, but on the character of God.

People must decide for themselves. It’s my prayer that our Soldier-leaders and their families will carefully weigh these issues in the year ahead.

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Category: Footsteps in Faith, News, Standing Columns

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