Practicing the Art of Virtue

Take a moment and read over the lyrics to Adri­enne Young’s song “The Art of Virtue.” They have been ring­ing in my mind for sev­er­al days now, and I can­not help share them with you now.

Includ­ed with the album that song appears on, Ms. Young includ­ed a lit­tle work­book enti­tled “The Thir­teen Virtues,” which appar­ent­ly is tak­en from Ben­jamin Franklin’s auto­bi­og­ra­phy to some extent. As the title sug­gests, 13 dif­fer­ent virtues are dis­cussed and each is giv­en a chart. Each week, it says, one should focus on one virtue, mark­ing any fail­ures at the end of each day. Over the course of a year, each virtue is focused upon for four weeks, and growth is of course expected.

The virtues are as fol­lows, verbatim:

  • Tem­per­ence — Eat not to dull­ness, drink not to elevation.
  • Silence — Speak not but what may ben­e­fit oth­ers or your­self. Avoid tri­fling conversation.
  • Order — Let all things have their places; let each part of your busi­ness have its time.
  • Res­o­lu­tion — Resolve to per­form what you ought; per­form with­out fail what you resolve.
  • Fru­gal­i­ty — Make no expense but to do good to oth­ers or your­self; i.e. waste nothing.
  • Indus­try — Lose no time; be always employ’d in some­thing use­ful; cut off all unnec­es­sary actions.
  • Sin­cer­i­ty — Use no hurt­ful deceit; think inno­cent­ly and just­ly; and if you speak, speak accordingly.
  • Jus­tice — Wrong none by doing injuries, or omit­ting the ben­e­fits that are your duty.
  • Mod­er­a­tion — Avoid extreams; for­bear resent­ing injuries so much as you think they deserve.
  • Clean­li­ness — Tol­er­ate no unclean­li­ness in body, cloaths, or habitation.
  • Tran­quil­i­ty — Be not dis­trubed at tri­fles, or at acci­dents com­mon or unavoidable.
  • Chasti­ty — Rarely use ven­ery but for health or off­spring, nev­er to dul­ness, weak­ness, or the injury of your own or anoth­er’s peace or reputation.
  • Humil­i­ty — Imi­tate Jesus and Socrates.

Ms. Young, in the album lin­er, expounds devo­tion thusly:

The desire to be a vir­tous being is an unremit­ting endeav­or, imme­di­ate, and ulti­mate­ly per­son­al. If my pas­sion to lead an hon­or­able exis­tence is sin­cere, then it is my OWN gar­den I must cul­ti­vate. Med­i­tat­ing on peace, tak­ing heart in short­com­ings by remain­ing mind­ful, fos­ter­ing patience, offer­ing for­give­ness, being joy­ful, demon­strat­ing sin­cer­i­ty & non-judge­ment, nur­tur­ing self-love, dwelling in the pos­i­tive, visu­al­iz­ing love. It’s devo­tion to prin­ci­ples in action, such as these, that build strength of char­ac­ter, and in turn, do undoubt­ed­ly nour­ish the Greater Good.

She also prints a por­tion of the 1660 Dec­la­ra­tion from the Harm­less and Inno­cent Peo­ple of God, Called Quak­ers, which I will share here as well:

…We utter­ly deny all out­ward wars and strife, and fight­ings with out­ward weapons, for any end, or under any pre­tence what­so­ev­er; this is our tes­ti­mo­ny to the whole world.

…the Spir­it of Christ, by which we are guid­ed, is not change­able, so as once to com­mand us from a thing as evil, and again to move unto it; and we cer­tain­ly know, and tes­ti­fy to the world, that the Spir­it of Christ, which leads us into all truth, will nev­er move us to fight and war agianast any man with out­ward weapons, neit­ehr for the king­dom of Christ, nor for the kign­doms of this world.

Now for the sober­ing ques­tion: Does the church as a whole reflect this? Is the church of today virtuous?

“Imi­tate Jesus,” Franklin said. May I be so bold as to say that it is easy to fol­low the prin­ci­ples of the epis­tles? I’m not say­ing we should­n’t fol­low the epis­tles, but they are far from a com­plete pic­ture. Too often we, as a whole, for­get about Christ.

Do we real­ly love our ene­mies? Is our giv­ing, our prayer, our fast­ing pri­vate? Do we love the “least of these”? Do we act like it?

Again, I’m going to be bold by say­ing that Jesus’ teach­ings bare­ly reflect those of the so-called Chris­t­ian Right, of which I have con­sid­ered myself a part for quite some time.

The thought is sober­ing that Jesus would not be call­ing for us to out­law homo­sex­u­al­i­ty. He would sit down with the homo­sex­u­al and shed abroad the love of God in that per­son­’s heart. The thought is sober­ing that Jesus would not be call­ing for a ban on abor­tion. He would sit down with the moth­er who com­mit­ted abor­tion and show­er love upon her. “Your belief has saved you, and you will see your daugh­ter again. Go, and sin no more,” I can hear the Mas­ter say.

Are we more like the Pharisees–quick to con­demn and crucify–or are we imi­tat­ing Christ? Are so sin­less in our dai­ly walk that we can cast stones?
Are we liv­ing a life of virtue? Are we liv­ing a life ade­quate­ly described by “Christian,” or have we tak­en His name in vain?

  • Tem­per­ence — Gala­tians 5:23; 2 Peter 2:6
  • Silence — 1 Tim­o­th 2:11; James 1:26; James 3
  • Order — 1 Corinthi­ans 14:40
  • Res­o­lu­tion — 2 Corinthi­ans 1:17; 9:7
  • Fru­gal­i­ty — Isa­iah 52:13
  • Indus­try — 1 Tim­o­thy 5:13; Eph­esians 5:16
  • Sin­cer­i­ty — 1 Corinthi­ans 5:8; 2 Corinthi­ans 1:12
  • Jus­tice — Philip­pi­ans 4:8; Colos­sians 4:1; Titus 1:8
  • Mod­er­a­tion — Philip­pi­ans 4:5
  • Clean­li­ness — Romans 14:14; 2 Corinthi­ans 7:1
  • Tran­quil­i­ty — Luke 3:14; Philip­pi­ans 4:11; 1 Tim­o­thy 6:8
  • Chasti­ty — Matthew 5:8; 1 Tim­o­thy 5:2; 2 Tim­o­thy 2:22
  • Humil­i­ty — Matthew 18:4; James 4:10; Romans 8:29

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Rick Beckman