The Life Value and Christian Worldview

Posted By on March 12, 2011

I mentioned awhile back that Jack Hoban has done an excellent job of explaining the Life Value from the perspective of the Marine Corps in his article, Developing the Ethical Marine Warrior, over at the Marine Corps Gazette.  One of the comments from “Chappy” brought up some interesting discussion regarding how the Life Value relates to a Christian Worldview.  A lot of what he said was valid concern mainly because when the Life Value is not properly interpreted or applied, it, like all values, can lead to misunderstanding.

It took me a while to find time to actually reply, but I finally got to this:


I know exactly how you feel. I had some similar concerns and I’ve seen many with the same concerns over the years. However, I think that much like Mr. Hoban mentions, you might agree with more than you think. No one is trying to replace anyone’s faith here. And I would argue that truth is truth (though truth isn’t always valued by everyone the same); I am definitely not a moral relativist or a religious one.

But I can also say that there is nothing at odds with the Christian worldview here, and no one has said that it is the “end all, be all” philosophy. Instead, try to look at it as another stepping stone or tool in the backpack. A few above me have already replied with some very good answers, but given your signature, I’m guessing you’re a Navy Chaplain. Since I’m one, too, I thought you might like a perspective of someone of likely similar background.

As I’ve thought through a few of the responses to the Life Value, particularly yours, I tried to think of a few examples that illustrate the commonalities that exist.

If person A says “murder is wrong” and person B says “murder is wrong” then an observer would probably state that “they agree.” But what if person A’s reasoning is “Because murder is against the law” and person B’s reasoning is “Because it is against the Ten Commandments/Scripture.” Does their reasoning make their first statement any less agreeable? Of course not. Do they automatically disagree simply because their reasoning is different? I don’t think that’s necessarily the case, either.

Since you brought the Christianity Worldview into the discussion, I’ll build on a parable that you’re familiar with… the wise and the foolish builder, as they build their houses – great since you reference it with your title. Consider the Live Value to be the foundation of the house (as in, part of the house) and the Christian worldview to be the foundation under the house… rock or sand (as in, what the house is built on).

I would say that the Life Value is present in everyone because, well, that’s how God made us. What if the following statement was made: “Murder is wrong because the Life Value says so… because God imprinted His law (the Life Value) on the hearts of all men.” Such a statement is completely in line with the discussion, the Christian worldview, etc.

The Life Value is a solid and reasonable view of Natural Law. It’s also in keeping with a Christian Worldview (because, I would say, God would not codify something in Nature that is at odds with His Nature). If you state “God wrote His law on the hearts of all men” and if you state “No greater love has any man than that he lay down his life for another” and if you say “love your neighbor as yourself…” then simply ask how do any of those beliefs or views become “at odds” with a stated philosophy of Natural Law viewpoint that says, “Valuing, protecting and defending Life is so important that it is the standard to judge all other values if for no other reason than it is a prerequisite to all other values”? Nico points out a great question along these lines: “Should divine faith simply preclude our ability to reason and deconstruct our own nature?”

In fact, is there any example of a Life Value application that actually disagrees with a Christian Worldview? I’ve yet to find one. Mind you, I do not agree with everything Dr. Humphrey states regarding Natural Law and the Life Value, but I also don’t agree with everything that “people of faith” state about their beliefs and reasoning, either.

Now, as I read your comments, the following thoughts surface.

You mentioned the Holocaust. That’s ironic since it’s a prime example of the validity of the Life Value in that it completely goes against it. Would someone argue that the Nazis were “Protecting all life… even the life of their enemies?” I doubt it.

Just like if someone brought up the Crusades and religion… most would argue that they are not a good example of Religion/faith as true north, either. In fact, the reason they were not valid in a Christian context is because A) they were not in keeping with Jesus’ actual teachings and B) a lot of people needlessly died (there’s a reference to life in that) which, again, was not in keeping with Jesus’ teaching.

You mentioned 9/11. Again, that’s an example of what the Life Value is NOT about. It’s also a good example of “religious rooted” (and faith as one’s true north) beliefs gone wrong. Life is not nebulous. It is a prerequisite. It is intrinsic. Furthurmore, the Core Values don’t have to be used to justify it… however, the Life value is probably the only solid justification one can find for the Core Values. You say there is nothing courageous in “throwing one’s life away” and I agree. And as for what is “fanatical” I don’t think Mr. Hoban would classify you as one because, well, you’re not killing anyone for simply disagreeing with you like THEY are. I think that’s fanatical, and I think you’d agree.

The Founding Fathers and Freedom: yes, you make an excellent point. But anyone who has studied the philosophy of Freedom will be quick to point out that freedom is not the absolute with which to judge (already addressed by some above). If I were completely free, I could simply do what I want without regard to the affect it has on others. I could kill someone and not face consequences… that’s true “freedom.” But I don’t think anyone would be a proponent of that… and neither would the Founding Fathers.

Sidebar: While we discuss the Founding Fathers, I think a good case could be made that they talked a great deal about religious freedom and yet they expected a Christian foundation for the the Nation they founded. But our Country no longer follows that “intent” because “freedom” overcame original intent. Just a note of caution on that topic. The same as in the courtroom… law professionals will happily explain that “original intent” of the law is not what matters… only “current interpretation.”

On the Declaration of Independence, yes, Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are mentioned. But can you have liberty without life? Happiness without life? Obviously not.

Honor, Courage and commitment – Spiritual readiness… got it. But that means a lot of things to a lot of different people and you would be hard pressed to force a creator theory on everyone in the Marine Corps. In fact, you would most likely be removed from the system because it would be considered unacceptable.

I would raise, also, an interesting question that directly pertains to the statement that “faith” should be the true north on the moral compass. Really? So which faith? What determines if that faith is morally correct? Or does the terrorist that does what he does because of his “faith” deserve credit for following his compass? What if one’s faith imposes itself in a negative manner on innocents? Would one argue that all faith is equal? Or simply the faith of thoses who’s faith agrees with yours?

A bit more on that statement that “True north on the moral compass is one’s faith.” I think the leaders of 9/11 would make a similar statement. Leaders of the Crusade would make a similar statement. I’m not going to make that statement UNLESS the “faith” one is talking about is qualified. The Founding Fathers didn’t qualify Christianity as that faith because they assumed it was obvious. Yet look at what has happened.

You mention a Diety that gives us the freedom to say “You are not true north, I am.” That assumes that one’s faith points to THAT particular Diety (which, btw, mine does), but it also doesn’t take into account other faiths have different dieties (that don’t allow for such, um, “liberty”), and some have no diety, etc. So how far are you willing to pursue that line of reasoning? I would state that, not simply”faith” or even Spirituality, but specifically the Christian faith. But that’s me, and the simple fact of the matter is that I can’t do that in our country of “freedom” from an authoritative and teaching perspective (which is why MCRP-6-12C mentions “spirituality” and not faith and not a specific faith… it’s being politically correct). In a Bible Study? Yes. In a Command capacity or teaching environment? No.

I think Jack (who is far more of a philosopher than he lets on) summed it up extremely well: But my faith is not my true north – the object of my faith is.” Amen! However, I’m also willing to state that “Life is a univeral value” because, well, A) it aligns with Scripture (my first few paragraphs) and B) no one has shown me something contrary… and I’ve been teaching it as a foundational ethics course for Sailors, Marines, etc. for about five years now.

And you’re right… there is no room for moral relativism in the military. But if you say “Honor, Courage and Commitment” are core values, one simply has to ask, “why?” to gum up the works. What makes our’s right and the enemy’s wrong? The only way to answer WHY they are good values is to either bring a specific faith into it (which you cannot do in uniform at an official level) or you have to find a common truth you can agree on, which in this case is Life. Because your faith aligns with it.

As for Kung Fu, Caine was the kind of guy that protected life. He didn’t needlessly take it. Maybe he went through MCMAP, I don’t know, but I’d call him an “Ethical Warrior” any day.

Truth isn’t in the eye of the beholder… I agree. However, I do know that the Life Value isn’t morally relative, either. I have yet to see an example where it is is made so when properly applied. What if all our Marines valued life like Caine to the point that the world assumed the good of every incident? Imagine the possibility.

Yes, moral relativism is a sickness of our society. But even honor, courage and commitment can be made morally relative. Even truth (as a value of people) can be made morally relative. E.g., if someone holds a gun to your head and demands to know where your family is so they can kill them, you’re value of truth changes – it isn’t primary, is it?. Now, to be clear… that doesn’t mean absolute truth doesn’t exist (because it does!). It just means that a person’s value of truth changes.

But as for the direction of the Marine Corps… are you really saying you don’t want Marines who value the lives of themselves and those they are responsible for above all? You don’t want protectors and defenders of life? You don’t want Marines who will risk their own lives in order to save the life of even an enemy, if they can (in accordance with their Rules of Engagement) because their reason is that they value all life because all men are created equal?

A few things to think about.

Very respectfully,

Kermit Jones



Developing the Ethical Marine Warrior

Posted By on September 1, 2010

Jack Hoban has done an excellent job of explaining the Life Value from the perspective of the Marine Corps in his article, Developing the Ethical Marine Warrior, over at the Marine Corps Gazette.

If you’re looking for an excellent read on what and Ethical Warrior is, how it applies to the military, and why it’s important, Jack does a great job explaining.

Check it out.

Letter to a Fallen Marine’s Children

Posted By on January 31, 2009

I received the following and think that much of it embodies TLV.  I may comment more later, but for now I think it speaks for itself. – KJ

5 Months Before He Was Killed in Combat, Marine Maj. Doug Zembiec Wrote  a Letter to Keep Alive the Memory of a Fellow Officer Who Gave His Life
in Iraq

Widow Karen Mendoza asked her husband’s fellow Marine officers and  his men to write something about Maj. Ray J. Mendoza that his children, Kiana and Alek, could read when they were older. One of the officers who  responded was Maj. Doug Zembiec, a 1991 La Cueva High School graduate legendary among Marines in Iraq as the Lion of Fallujah.

Mendoza and Zembiec attended Expeditionary Warfare School together,  received their first commands together at Camp Pendleton and were both  deployed to Iraq in 2004.

Marine Maj. Ray J. Mendoza was killed in action along the Syrian  border Nov. 14, 2005.

Karen Mendoza writes that “Doug’s letter took some time to get to me, which I understood. … The last time I spoke with Doug before he deployed to Iraq this time, … he told me that he wanted to write the  letter in a good state of mind. He wanted the letter to be perfectly 20 clear, so Kiana and Alek would understand and feel their father.

“I did not allow my kids to read any of the letters until recently.  My daughter was in a speech contest at school. The topic was American  leader or hero. She chose her father. It was emotionally difficult for  her, and during the process I realized that she did not understand how  Ray was a leader. So I let her read some of the letters that his Marines  had written.

“The one letter I knew would explain her daddy the best was the  letter from Doug Zembiec. He nailed it. His words still send shivers  down my spine, because those are the exact words that I could now tell  his daughter, Fallyn, about Doug.”

Marine Maj. Doug Zembiec was killed May 11 leading a raid on Baghdad  insurgents. His letter to the children of a fallen comrade-in-arms:

Dear Kiana and Alek,

Ray and I had a conversation late May in 2004 while we were deployed  to Iraq. He spoke of why he fought. He fought to give the people of Iraq  a chance. He fought to crush those who would terrorize and enslave  others. He fought to protect his fellow Marines.

The last thing he told me that day was, “I don’t want any of these  people (terrorists) telling my kids how to act, or how to dress. I don’t  want to worry about the safety of my children.” Kiana and Alek, your  father fought for many things, but always remember, he fought for you.

As you fight this battle we call life, you will find your challenges greater, your adversity larger, your enemies more numerous. The  beautiful thing is, you will grow stronger, smarter, faster, and you  will overcome the obstacles in your way.

No one could’ve better prepared you than your father. In the month and a half your family stayed with me in Laguna Niguel, Calif., while  waiting for base housing to open up, I saw how, with the help of your  incredible mother, he instilled in you the essentials to life:

· Live with integrity, for without integrity we deceive ourselves, we  live in a house of cards.
· Fight for what you believe, for without valor, we lose our freedom.
· Be willing to sacrifice, for anything worthy in life requires  sacrifice.
· Be disciplined, for it is discipline that builds the foundation of  your success.

You will encounter misguided people in your life who may question  America’s attempt to help the people of Iraq and the Middle East. These  pathetic windbags, who have nothing so sacred in their lives that they  would be willing to fight for it, will argue and debate endlessly on  what we should’ve done.

While they criticize, they forget the truth, or conveniently  overlook the fact that it takes men and women of action, willing to make  a sacrifice, to free the enslaved, to advance the cause of freedom.

Our great nation was built on the shoulders of men like your father.  While the nay-sayers and cowards hid in the shadows sniveling that  nothing was worth dying for, men like your dad carved our liberty away from the English, freed the slaves and kept the Union together, saved  Europe from the Germans twice; rescued the Pacific away from the  Japanese, defeated communism, and right now, fight terrorism and plant  the seeds of democracy in the Middle East.

Your father was a warrior, but being a warrior is not always about  fighting. He was patient with those he led, and he understood people  make mistakes. He cared about the men he led as if they were his own  family. To him, they were. His work ethic was tremendous. But he made  time for his family, to enjoy life. He was balanced, at equilibrium. He  was an inspiration. He was my friend.

In your future, when you are pushed against a wall, in a tight spot,  outnumbered and seemingly overwhelmed, it may be tempting to give up, or  even use the absence of your father as a crutch, as an excuse for failure.

Don’t. Your father’s passing, while tragic, serves as an endless  source of your empowerment. Your father would not want you to wallow in  self-pity. I know you will honor him by living your life in the positive  example he set. Respect and remember him. Drive on with your lives. Serve something greater than yourself. Enjoy all the good things that  life has to offer. That is what he would want.

Kiana! I have never met a more capable young lady in my life. You are the most well-read, articulate, disciplined young person I know.  Often I tell people of the arm-bar you demonstrated on me in your  parents’ garage. When you become a worldwide Judo champion, I will say with great pride, “that woman nearly torqued my shoulder out when she  was 11 years old!”

If my daughter grows up with a quarter of the strength of your  principles, determination and intelligence, she will be an incredible  human being. Like your mother, you are a beautiful woman, a fact of  which you should be proud.

Alek! You are blessed with your father’s strength of character and  his unbreakable will and his broad shoulders. Your mother gave you her  determination and unwavering mental toughness.

Your mother told me the story of you hanging up the sign, “Be a  leader, not a follower.” My eyes well up every time that I think of you  doing that. My eyes fill not with tears of sadness, but of pride, to  know you grasped the mindset your father passed on to you. This mindset  will allow you to be a leader and protector like your father, and one  day, to raise an upright, solid-as-a-rock family of your own.

When I look in your eyes, I see your father. Courageous, determined  and resolute, your father embodied all that is virtuous in a warrior.  Even now, you strive to embody his same character. Remember, there will  never be any pressure for you to be exactly like your father. Be your  own man, but build your character in his image.

Many people may be concerned about your future because of the early  passing of your father. I don’t worry at all. Your dad gave you all you  ever need to become a great woman and a great man. I know your father  would have told you to be your own hero/heroine. Don’t wait for someone  to rise up and lead you to victory, to your goals. If you do, you might  wait for a very long time.

Ray died as a warrior, sword in hand, in service of his country, his  comrades and you, his loved ones. His spirit and example give us all hope, reaffirms our faith. Your father reminds us there are men willing to fight for people that they don’t even know so that all may live in peace.

I joined the Corps to serve beside men like your father. There is no other Marine I’d rather have protecting my flank in combat than your  dad. Even now, as I write this letter in Iraq, I will honor him on the  field of battle by slaying as many of our enemies as possible, and fight  until our mission is accomplished.

You will always be in our lives. Please stay in touch. We will  always be in your corner for assistance, advice or just conversation.  Pam and I plan to retire in Idaho and would love for you to visit us so  we can take you white-water rafting and mountain climbing.

Very Respectfully,

More Resources about Capt. Douglas Zembiec, USMC, USNA ’95: 1973-2007

‘He Was a Hero in Every Sense’ (May 17, 2007)

Marine Doug Zembiec Has Shown Perseverance from Toddler to La Cueva Athlete (September 24, 2004)

The unapologetic warrior – Los Angeles Times profile from 2004

Douglas A. Zembiec Wikipedia entry

“We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.”   —
C.S. Lewis

This is from the ABQ

Why these values – Honor, Courage & Commitment

Posted By on January 26, 2009

Honor, Courage and Commitment.  You’ve no doubt heard countless definitions of these three values that we, as the Navy and Marine Corps, hold to be the primary driving force of what we do.  Have you ever stopped to asked, however,  why these values are correct, right and good?  You see, there is more to it than simple definition, because almost any value, if misapplied, can become wrong… despite its definition.

Take the current War on Terrorism… our enemies are clearly committed, much of what they do requires a great deal of courage, and one could even argue that they possess a certain form of honor.  So the question then becomes… why are our applications of Honor, Courage and Commitment right and “theirs” wrong?  It is not simply a matter of defining these three terms, but the underlying assumption of why they matter, and it can be summed up in one word: life.

I hold the value of life and equality of people to be supreme.  The Life Value states that life is the only prerequisite to all other values.  Consider that you cannot have any other value if you are not living.  It is, however, a dual value of self and others; the only thing that all humans value (outside of culture, religion and politics) is that we value our own life and the lives of our loved ones (or those we feel responsible for).

So again, consider why our versions of Honor, Courage and Commitment are right and the enemies wrong?  The answer is simple… they hold to the equality, sanctity and respect for human life.  All life.  Even our enemies.  You see, the reason we give an 18 year old the right to make a split-second kill or protect decision with regard to another’s life is because we trust that that young Warrior will risk his or her own life to protect another’s… even if they are an enemy (our ROE demands it, as well).

Why do we do this?  Because “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  Not simply all Americans.  Not simply all people like us.  All men. All people.  All equal.

It is because of this belief that our Honor is clean.  We “support and defend” in order to protect and defend life (even though it is sometimes necessary to take a life in doing this).  Our courage overcomes what we might naturally want to do with what we actually will do… often risking our lives to protect others.  Our commitment is demonstrated in our actions and in our follow through; the “rightness” of each value that we hold goes back to that basic respect for human life… that all people are created equal and endowed with the same inalienable Rights.

We, in the military, often say that we “take care of our own” but our actions often fail to meet our intent.  Any value, misapplied, can turn against us, and though we will be professional and faithful in the execution of our duties, we must ensure that something as basic as a good “work ethic” does not turn us into a workaholic (impacting our home life).  In the same light, high standards must be appropriately applied to prevent and attitude of impractical perfectionism and micromanagement.


Posted By on January 9, 2009

This website is a tool to help people understand and apply The Life Value to various aspects of their life. We’ve got a lot of information to make available, but it will take a bit of time, so please be patient with us and check back often.

You’ll see that we had a “gap” in postings but that will change here shortly.

The Hunting Trip

Posted By on September 28, 2006

So how do we teach equality and what, exactly does it mean? Man has been trying to appeal to Natural Law for thousands of years without success.

Setting the Stage

After World War II, America was the undisputed champion of the world. For a while everyone loved us, even our former enemies. But soon people began to resent us due to our superior attitudes. We Americans thought that was unjustified and ungrateful. In one particular country, the unrest was beginning to have strategic implications during that delicate time of detente. Dr. Humphrey’s job was to find out what the problem was and solve it.

What is Human Equality?

Posted By on September 28, 2006

A seemingly never-ending question.

Human equality is a universal (Natural Law) concept, and it is the only unshakable justification for political freedom. Because we are equal as human beings, we are each entitled to an equal voice in the government over us. Political freedom, if you will.

If humans are not equal, then dictatorship of the superior persons over the inferiors is justifiable. Those who plead the cause of freedom but reject human equality actually plead a different cause: consciously or unconsciously, they defend preferential status and a license to exploit others.

As seen in the responses to Humphrey’s questionnaire, equality is something deeper than logic; it is an irressible feeling in each person. The disregard of the human-equality/political-freedom principle on any grounds will cause problems, just as it did in 1776.

– paraphrased from pg 46, VFNM


Respect Us as Equals

Posted By on September 25, 2006

Maybe you’ve been following along… if not, you should probably catch up real quick.

The U.S. Ambassador said to not bother with a survey. Dr. Humphrey simply replied that, if it was ok, he wanted to proceed with questioning the locals, anyway. And he did. Those two simple questions were:

1) What do you want from America?

2) What can Americans do to (or not do) to make things better?

The amazing thing was that he actually got the same answer back to BOTH questions!


Ugly Americanism

Posted By on September 16, 2006

There is a book entitled The Ugly American, by William J. Lederer and Eugene Burdick. Although it was written five decades ago, it seems very much like it could have been written yesterday. I’ll give you the “super short” version now, and I’ll put up an “official” review of it at a later time. For now, just know that it talks about how Americans and our government are often perceived overseas: in short, not very well.

Back in the fifties, we thought that big money and big projects were the key to developing third world nations, and we only interacted with their governments on a very snobbish level. We didn’t want to connect and help the common folk because of several reasons… that would require actually talking to them and we nor their government really wanted that to happen. What do ignorant peasants know, right? We know what’s best for them. I did say this was back in the fifties, right? Nothing at all similar to today…


The Life Values System – A definition

Posted By on September 9, 2006

The Life Values System (LVS) is a system of guiding principles that help you understand people and hopefully get along with them more easily. It shows, without a doubt, that we are all equal. It will help you understand people… what makes them tick, so to speak, and it is especially useful in cross-cultural conflict resolution, which is a long way of saying it helps people get along… no matter where they are coming from.

It is based on the “Dual-Life Value” as presented by Dr. Robert Humphrey in his book, Values for a New Millenium. The book is excellent in its depth, but it requires a good deal of effort to properly understand the meaning of some of the things it talks about. That’s an easy way of saying it is hard to read. Consider it both “academic” and “philosophical,” however, and you will not be disappointed in what it has to say.

Be aware that the LVS is a work in progress. I happened upon it when listening to martial artist Jack Hoban give a “Warrior Ethics” class