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What is the virtuous role for business and civic leaders?

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Sam Waltz

Sam Waltz
Founding Publisher

Where do business ethics come from?

How we should behave in the business community?

What’s the obligation of business – aside from making a profit for its owners – to its community, as well as to its employees and other stakeholders?

Those are the kind of fascinating questions to ponder. On Oct. 20, the biggest “must attend” event that has a place on my calendar for the last 15 or so years is scheduled. The Delaware Prayer Breakfast is scheduled from 7 to 9 a.m.

Go to www.DelawarePrayerBreakfast.org for information and tickets. This year’s breakfast is  co-chaired by Beryl Barmore of M&T Bank and Tim Houseal, an attorney with Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor.

I was privileged to join them on the Delaware Leadership Foundation Prayer Breakfast Steering Committee 15 years ago when non-retired WSFS Bank CEO Marvin “Skip” Schoenhals decided it was time for him to step down and he asked me to succeed him.

A man of deep personal faith, Schoenhals did the same thing with Tom Hall, CEO and founder of CardioKinetics, who he asked to succeed him on the board of Sunday Breakfast Mission.

The website reflects the rich variety of faith-based speakers who have been featured over nearly 30 years at this largest of all Delaware prayer breakfasts, which attracts nearly 1,000 attendees. Speakers have ranged from U.S. Sen. Connie Mack of Florida to U.S. Senate Chaplain Admiral Barry Black to the late NFL great the Rev. Reggie White and former presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson.

People of other faiths, including non-believers, have been among my guests over the years, and they have not been uncomfortable, they’ve told me, despite the expressions of Christian faith. And even Gov. Jack Markell and Attorney General Matt Denn, each of them Jewish, have attended, sat at the head table and have done Old Testament scripture readings.

Speaker this year is Eric Metaxas, who is shaking up the political world, by his insistence that a monotheistic faith has a fundamental cornerstone role in the American political system, a cornerstone he calls “The Golden Triangle of Freedom.”

“It’s a self-reinforcing triangle,” he said. “Freedom requires virtue. Virtue requires faith. Faith requires freedom. You have to have faith in something beyond yourself.”

“Founders realized that, if you’re going to have self-government, you must be virtuous. If you’re going to be virtuous, you’re going to have faith. This is the idea behind the United States of America. The focus is on correct behavior – you’re not going to steal because it’s wrong,” he said.

“Faith needs to be free. We believe in a free market. We won our freedom from a tyrant with blood,” he adds.

Metaxas made headlines when he keynoted Washington’s 2012 National Prayer Breakfast, where President Obama sat immediately to his right.

Raised in the Greek Orthodox faith, the son of a Greek father and a German mother, Metaxas said he was modest in his faith as a young man, and his faith later atrophied as he attended Yale University where he drank from its secular, even agnostic, fountain of culture. At 25, via a new acquaintance, he discovered what has become his life’s purpose in a deep spiritual faith.

More about Metaxas can be found at his own website, but his work at the intersection of faith and values is an area that has intrigued me for personal and collective behavioral choices for decades. “If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty,” Metaxas’s new best-seller, priced at $26, is being given free by an anonymous donor to attendees who buy a $45 ticket. The title is a reference to a founder’s statement, “we’ve given you a republic – if you can keep it!”

Fundamentally, a core area Metaxas highlights that intrigues me is this “¦

If one rejects the idea of a monotheistic being, a one God, whether your God is an Old Testament God, a new Testament Trinity, an Allah, or whatever, and the proclamation from such Gods over the years about how to behave have represented the foundation of personal and social values, then “¦

In the absence of such faith encompassing personal behavior, from where does a value system on behavior come? Is it relative? Is it situational? Is it reasoned, if it’s not ordained or proclaimed? If no monotheistic power says “this is right, and this is wrong,” then can there be absolute rights or wrongs?

And, yes, because we as business people need to bring a moral component, a moral compass, to how we interact with each other, and on behalf of our organizations in the community, this becomes an all-important, all-consuming question.

I look forward to hearing what Metaxas has to say about this.

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