…”˜virtue ethics’ has grown in importance over the past 30 years. What matters is not just following the rules but becoming a good person and developing virtuous habits. Rules help us to see what this might entail but crucial to moral growth are the following of practices and learning from life in community. Tradition, the example of others, training in moral goodness ”” these are all important elements in becoming good men and women. For Christians this underlines the importance of life in the church. Christianity is not something we learn just by reading books but by being with others and taking part in such regular practices as prayer and worship. ”˜CafÃ© church’ and other so-called ”˜fresh expressions’ that are not tied to such traditional practices often overlook this.
How does a secular society teach its members moral values and enable them to grow in virtue? The favourite prescriptions of New Labour, lessons at school on how to be happy or sex education and citizenship classes, only go so far. Most people learn by joining the ”˜little battalions’, voluntary organisations like the scouts and guides, who carry out certain practices designed to inculcate a particular ethos. At their best, church schools do this, which is the real reason why they are so effective. Once the public schools aimed to turn out ”˜Christian gentlemen’, a flawed ideal, perhaps, but better than the entrepreneurial creed taught today.
Parliament needs to think about how it can instil in members a genuine sense of public service. A start has been made by the Speaker’s departure, but we should see the deselection of MPs who grossly abused their expenses. In fact, what is so alarming about the whole affair is the little sign of genuine remorse on display anywhere among politicians.