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It is said Intelligence is knowing “tomato” is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting them in a fruit salad.

Morality is a set of standards a society develops so people may live in community successfully. Without community commitment and individual conformity to these values, a community will fail in its pursuit of peace and prosperity. A moral man may know stealing is wrong but may do it anyway. An ethical man, however, does not steal because he has belief in and commitment to the moral standard.

Moral Intelligence is the ability to discern the societal rules which will produce security and success. The moral system upon which a society is founded predicts the peace and prosperity of a people, a culture, a nation. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew people were instructed to follow the moral model founded on the character of God. God revealed his values in the Ten Commandments, the code to guide people into fruitful relationships with God and with fellow human beings.

It is helpful to realize such a code of conduct was necessary because the principles of the Commandments were not common to the societies existing at the time. For us, having been raised in the standards of biblically based “western worldview”, such guidance seems natural and common. For example, The Golden Rule, Treat others as you would want to be treated, seems natural and normal to us. It does not even occur to us that there may be another way of thinking about how to treat one’s neighbor. Although we may not always practice The Golden Rule, we know it is the way we are to live.

At the time the Ten Commandments were given to Moses, however, such understandings were not common. They actually stood in contrast to typical human behavior. The standards revealed in the Commandments must certainly have been different from the norm because if they were not new and different, writing them down for all to see would not have been necessary. As it was, the Commandments expressed a far different understanding from that of the contemporary cultures including that of the Egyptians under whose rule the Hebrews had lived for twenty generations.

Don and Carol Richardson, missionaries to the Sawi people of Papua New Guinea, stumbled into a most strange and incomprehensible moral intelligence. It was known the Sawi were only one of a handful of tribes worldwide who were both headhunters and cannibals. The Sawi awarded their highest heroic esteem to the one who could be the most treacherous, the one who could find the most clever and fiendish way to betray a friend. Therefore, trust and alliances were impossible to form, each always suspicious of the trustworthiness of others. The people languished, unable to establish agreements and cooperation which are the basis for security and success.

Discovering this up-side-down morality made the outsider Richardsons nervous. Still, after more than a year living among the Sawi, Don finally had opportunity to share the Gospel story of Jesus Christ. To the Sawi and to Don’s and Carol’s astonishment and horror, Judas, the betrayer of Jesus, was the hero of the story! The Sawi reveled in the clever, intimate betrayal of the Lord by way of Judas’ kiss! The strange, misplaced commitment valuing Betrayal predicted the failure of the Sawi society. (How the Richardsons found a key to turn the Sawi to Jesus and to changing their society’s moral intelligence is an amazing story for another time.)

In order to flourish in peace and prosperity, a society must hold fast to biblical Moral Intelligence. Today in the United States and in “western view” nations, there is serious attempt to make acceptable behaviors which are not in alignment with God’s prescription for healthy community. Making changes to normalize actions such as abortion cannot be cosmetic. Such changes require restructuring of societal substance, shifting, indeed eliminating, the foundation of our present society. So it is that attacking the fundamental strength of America’s biblical roots casts us into the current contentious cultural collision and works to deny our God-prescribed Moral Intelligence.

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