Their Little Wheels Were Turning

wheels turningLast night’s class was very gratifying. We are looking at morality and focusing on the Ten Commandments. Last night we focused on the first 3 Commandments that call us to love of God. As the evening went on, it was interesting to see their “little wheels” begin turning as they grappled with some moral dilemmas. Here’s a summary:

  • I began with a “song of the week” – this time playing a song by Shakira called RULES. In the song, she basically lays out a set of “rules” for her boyfriend to ensure that he remains “hers.” I used this as a way to explain that people in love set rules for the relationship to guard and protect it and that the reason we have the Ten Commandments is to protect the loving relationship we have with God.
  • I showed a 10 minute segment from the movie Scent of a Woman that shows young Chris O’Donnell as a high school student faced with a moral dilemma. He witnessed classmates pull off a prank on the headmaster. If he doesn’t reveal the truth, he will be expelled and miss a chance to go to Harvard. If he tells, he turns his back on his classmates who tell him that “here, we stick together.” It’s a good clip but be sure to preview it well…I had to press the mute button to eliminate an expletive!
  • The young people worked in groups on the worksheet I put together, identifying which of the first 3 Commandments each statement referred to and whether the example was a virtuous or sinful act.
  • We then spent the rest of the time going through the items and this is when their wheels started cranking.
  • I always enjoy telling junior high students that messing around in religion class is a violation of the 2nd Commandment! We gather to honor God’s name (everything that God stands for) by learning about him and that to goof around is to show disrespect for God’s name. Love the looks on their faces when I explain that! 🙂
  • When I explained about the 3 elements in determining the morality of an action (object, inention, circumstances) and pointed out the “gray area” between black and white, they got to proposing their own dilemmas.
  • One asked if it was a sin for soldiers to kill. No doubt they have relatives serving in the armed forces. I told them that soldiers fight in defense of their country and that self-defense is justifiable. I went on to suggest that rather than a personal sin, the killing taking place in a war is a “corporate” sin – something that we all share responsibility for.
  • I added that one of the issues that made the Iraq war so complicated was the principle of pre-emptive strike and contrasted it with Pearl Harbor in WWII. One of the girls said, “but we WERE attacked first…you know…9/11.” I told her that in a broad sense, she was correct – terrorists did attack us first – but that the terrorists involved in 9/11 were Saudi Arabians, not Iraqis. I said that this is what makes the issue so complex.
  • One young man, who is often very giddy and hyper but also can show some depth, did just that. He asked, “what if you were freezing to death and the only thing available to burn to keep you warm was a Bible. Would it be a sin to burn it?” Great question! I asked his classmates what they think and one girl said, “God would want you to do what you need to survive so no it wouldn’t be a sin to burn the Bible in that situation.” I agreed but the young man went on to say, “I’d rather freeze to death. I would never want to burn a Bible.” WOW!

It was gratifying to see them grapple with these matters. Should get even better next week when we turn to the 4th, 5th, and 6th Commandments!

About Joe Paprocki 2366 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at www.catechistsjourney.com.

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