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Wednesday, December 20, 2017


An old acquaintance of mine, Colonel Jim Ammerman, retired from the Army as a chaplain. Notably, after retiring from the Army he and his wife, Charlene, founded the Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches (CFGC).

Thirty-three years later, the CFGC endorses chaplains in all branches of the Armed Forces as well as hospitals, correctional institutions and industry. As such, the CFGC represents 15 million constituents in 225 Full Gospel fellowship groups and 1325 independent churches making it the fourth largest among all denominations and faith groups in the United States.

In the July 1997 CFGC newsletter, Jim offered a character checklist of sorts as a measure or guide for determining the merits of behavior. This guide is applicable to religious and non-religious people and is worth reviewing given today’s societal norms.

Words such as honor, character, fidelity, conscience, integrity, and courage are seldom part of everyday conversation. A casual observation of conduct in public life confirms this. Ideals portrayed by these words do not appear to hold a high cultrual priority. Even small towns are no longer exempt from the perils of low moral standards.

A summarized version of Chaplain Ammerman’s checklist in quiz format follows.

1.  The personal test:  Will doing this thing strengthen or weaken my character? What will this activity do to me as a person?

2.  The social test:  Will doing this thing influence others to be stronger or weaker in character? Our actions do influence others around us -- especially the children. If I engage in this specific activity, what effect will my conduct have on other people?

3.  The practical test:  Will engaging in this behavior bring desirable or undesirable results? What are the consequences of my behavior? Will the outcome be good or bad?

4.  The universal test:  Would it be alright for everyone to engage in the behavior that I am about to pursue? Would it be alright for my mother to do this thing? Would it be all right for my husband or wife or fiancée to do what I am about to do while I am apart from them? Do I want my children to live in this manner?

5.  The sincerity test:  Would it be okay for people in the world around me to know I engage in this type of conduct? If I have to hide my behavior, then maybe it is inappropriate. Am I being hypocritical by speaking against this behavior and then turning around and engaging in it?

So far, so good. For those who are religious or have an affinity for Christianity there are a few more test questions to answer.

6.  The prayer test:  Can I ask God's blessing on this thing that I am about to do? Can I ask God's help and protection when I engage in this behavior? This question is especially pertinent in those areas of life that are not clearly black and white; right and wrong. If the answer is, "No, I cannot," then consider the activity or conduct wrong.

7.  The scriptural test:  Is this behavior expressly forbidden in the Word of God? If the behavior is clearly forbidden, then the activity is wrong. Shun the behavior.

8.  The stewardship test:  Will doing this thing I am about to do help or hinder the furtherance of the Kingdom of God? By indulging in this behavior, am I being a good steward of the things God has given to me? Will this conduct dull my spiritual life and lessen the joy of my Christian experience?

Jim served his soldiers faithfully for thirty years. In retirement he continued to serve with all of his heart. Jim passed away in 2011.

Anyone who would raise the subject of morality today runs the risk of being branded with epithets and slights. In a society where all too often freedom is divorced from responsibility, any challenge to such freedom is an easy target for criticism.

Our forefathers understood something we seldom see clearly today. Government of free people must begin with self-control. To govern oneself internally is the prerequisite of free people living in a republic. If people cannot govern themselves internally, then all the external forms of government in the world will not be effective in a democracy. In America’s great experiment with democracy, morals matter and character counts.

If my generation has a low aptitude for moral behavior, then there is always the next generation. The younger generation may find that morality tends to provide some structure to an otherwise chaotic life.

Let us hope so.


Dennis M. Patrick can be contacted at (JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


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