The cover of TIME for Dec. 22, 2002, featuring its 'Persons of the Year' -- Cynthia Cooper, Coleen Rowley and Sherron Watkins. (TIME.com)
What do TIME magazine's "Persons of the Year" and Moses' birth have in common?
Both involve three women who showed remarkable courage.
Recall that TIME magazine named Cynthia Cooper, Coleen Rowley and Sherron Watkins as its persons of the year. Cooper disclosed the phony bookkeeping at Worldcom. Rowley, an FBI agent, warned and criticized her employer. Watkins wrote the CEO of Enron that the corporation's accounting methods were flawed.
TIME identified these three individuals as "women of ordinary demeanor but exceptional guts and sense."
"They were people who did right just by doing their jobs rightly—which means ferociously, with eyes open and with the bravery the rest of us always hope we have," TIME read.
"All initially tried to keep their criticisms in-house, to speak truth to power," TIME said.
"All three are married but serve as the chief breadwinners in their families. Cooper and Rowley have husbands who are full-time, stay-at-home dads," TIME said. "For every one of them, the decision to confront the higher-ups meant jeopardizing a paycheck their families truly depended on."
Writing about TIME's decision, Rushworth Kidder, president of the Institute for Global Ethics, said that our country has a "thirst for moral courage."
Kidder wrote: "These days there's an unusual disconnect between words and action, theory and practice, assertion and demonstration. Increasingly, it seems, there's an inertia that keeps goodness in a state of suspended animation while badness rolls on of its own momentum."
These three women showed the courage to bridge the disconnect, breaking free from the "suspended animation" that allows wrong to triumph.
Like TIME's three women, the account of Moses' birth involves three women, although they are unnamed in the story. They, too, had exceptional guts and spoke to power.
Recall the Exodus story in which Pharaoh ordered the murder of newborn, Hebrew boys.
One woman showed the courage to defy Pharaoh's order. She hid her son for three months in her home and then tried to hide him at the river's edge. Her actions spoke against political power.
The woman's daughter showed the courage to speak directly to Pharaoh's daughter, the embodiment of political power at that moment bathing in the NileRiver. Moreover, the daughter offered a gutsy solution to a dangerous situation.
The third woman was Pharaoh's daughter, a woman of remarkable bravery. She did not fear the Hebrews, as other Egyptians did (Ex ). She defied her father's orders. She protected an innocent child. She made him her son. She groomed him in the royal family.
These two sets of three women showed moral courage in male-dominated worlds. They questioned authority. They risked everything. They did the right thing.
They also share one more, albeit minor, commonality.
These two sets of three women are the subject matter in one of the lessons in BCE's new online adult curriculum, Courageous Churches. The lesson title is "Miriam: The Courage to Speak to Power."
Speaking truth to power, whether corporate, bureaucratic, political or denominational, shows courage, a virtue much needed today.
We believe that if churches will teach courage in Sunday School—the main educational watering hole in the church—then more individuals will be courageous. And if more individuals are courageous, then more churches will be courageous. And if more churches are courageous, then, well, let's see what happens.
Robert Parham is BCE's executive director.
Click here to download a free sample lesson from Courageous Churches.