Christians have believed that Christ's life was exempliary. They believe that his life was a life of virtue, as he "gave up his life" for others. This was the fulfillment of the "law of Moses" and the Golden Rule. He did not consider himself above others. While his life was exempliary, was his life the only life that is to be emulated?
Our nation's values of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" is the virtue of Jesus life, as he believed, as any moral model does, that others were to be valued equally. Each individual has the "right" to choose how he defines what life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness means. As a nation, we have protected civil liberties where the individual was a self-determining agent. Our nation had no "moral agenda", per se. We believed that "common sense", and nature had endowed humans with reason, which would inform the conscience and will.
The clash over values and virtue is a dirty one, as the humanistically inclined would adhere to a values based education that believes in reason's right to choose, whereas, the religiously inclined would look toward the life of virtue, as based on the example of Jesus.
While the religiously inclined tout Jesus life and example, they do not use virtue as their own measurement when their ideology clashes with those of a "values based" mentality, or other religious moral models. While values define the society, virtue defines the individual. Both are necessary components to a full view of personhood made in God's image. While virtue and values are the necessary ingredients for a full developed person, each person will uniquely manifest those components within their life.
Virtue without values is a person who has not developed their own identity and value system, while the value based person could be one that was oriented toward values that would destroy themself or others. The values based person, who has no virtue, in their pursuit of life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness is bound to breed a destructive influence in society. Therefore, both virtue and value need to be affirmed for a balanced and beneficial life.
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