Activity 4: The Golden Rule
Activity time: 7 minutes
Materials for Activity
- Handout 1, Golden Rules
- Newsprint, markers and tape
Preparation for Activity
- Photocopy Handout 1, Golden Rules, one for each participant.
Description of Activity
Youth become familiar with many versions of the Golden Rule and reflect upon its universality.
Introduce the Golden Rule by noting that religions often disagree about what is right and wrong, virtuous and sinful. Some religions say you should not eat certain foods. Some say you should dress in certain ways. The lists go on and on. However, there are some ideas about behavior than many religions share. One of the most famous is the Golden Rule.
Ask participants what the Golden Rule says, and whether they try to follow it.
Say that ethicists, or people who study ethics, speak of the Golden Rule as "the ethic of reciprocity." Write that term on your newsprint, and explain that "reciprocity" refers to a mutually beneficial interchange between two or more people or groups. Explain further, "Whatever you call it, the Golden Rule or the ethic of reciprocity, it boils down to the same thing: treating other people the way you want them to treat you. Another way to say it is, 'You scratch my back and I will scratch yours.'"
Say that most of the world's religions have some version of the Golden Rule. Therefore, this is a case where many religions agree. Their rules do not all use the same wording, of course, but they mean basically the same thing. Distribute copies of Handout 1, Golden Rules. Read it with the class, asking different participants to read most of them, but possibly reading the most difficult yourself.
Ask if participants think the Golden Rule should apply in every case. After receiving a brief answer or two, pose this challenge: "What if I love peanut butter but you are deathly allergic to it? I want other people to feed me peanut butter, but should I feed it to you?"
After hearing some participants' comments, ask if participants can think of other such situations, where what one person wants would not be right for another person. Then offer this suggestion: "Would it help to add a little something to the rule and say you should 'treat others the way you would want them to treat you in the same situation'?" See what the group has to say. Conclude by suggesting that participants try applying the Golden Rule in the next week.
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