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The failure of policies and training

The ongoing sex scandals in the military demonstrates the failure of our culture's obsession with policies and training. Clearly, something has gone terribly wrong when persons charged with handling reports of rape and abuse are themselves accused of the same offenses and crimes.

The response, oddly enough, is to engage in further training and new policies--better training! Newer policies! Yet how long will we go on with this, before we admit that these approaches themselves are failing? Will further education truly change people's attitudes toward sexual violence?

It's hard not to think of Stanley Hauerwas here and his contention that modern, Enlightenment, universalizing thinking is what is to blame. Timeless universals don't save, and workshops and training don't really change people. Policies can, oddly enough, enable further abuse by providing a way around these offenses.

What truly changes people is specifics: character, culture, contexts, and particularities, and especially a community of right action. Religious communities can function in this manner. Although religion has, sadly enough, engendered further abuses, it has also provided a potent way of changing people's attitudes and actions. It can be a particularity that shapes and transforms people in deep ways. For example, if Christians were to agree to never commit sexual violence precisely because they are Christians (transposing one of Hauerwas' arguments about war and violence), it would accomplish much more than further sensitivity training and renewed policies.

Only the context of a strong community and a deeply formed character – what former eras would have called virtue – will truly change people's hearts and actions.

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