Tag Archives: common good

Rightly Ordered Loves, Part 1 Understanding Our Challenges

In these contentious days, it is hard for voices of sanity to be heard about the name-calling and ideological noise. In this four-part series, I want to present a new vision and voice for public dialogue that offers hope for both peaceful engagement and prudential solutions to our seemingly intractable problems.

It is my conviction that underneath all the anger and insults are disordered human affections. Our “loves” are confused. “Passion” has replaced principle and emotions seem to triumph over ethics. When politicians argue that, “facts do not matter if you are moral” we have a serious confusion of categories, a loss of critical thinking, and signs of inner chaos.

Ancient sages often speak of at least four kinds of love: familial bonds, brotherly/sisterly affections, the comradery of soldiers and workers, and romantic attractions. Whether the stories come from China or Greece, Africa or India, such affections and their proper ethics are universal.

There is another type of love that the Hebrew Scriptures and Christian theology have brought to the world: the covenantal love of the Almighty (Hebrew: hesed) the unconditional and self-donating agape love embodied in the person and work of Jesus. This altruistic, holy, and sacrificial love helps all other loves find their proper place. Familial and friendship love are now rooted in sacrifice, and comradeship is more than suffering together – it can take on nobility. And erotic attractions – powerful as they are – have boundaries of behavior and loyalty.

So much of contemporary confusion comes from eros overtaking agape and the perversion of other categories that arises when self-fulfillment overtakes service. Whether it is sexual attractions and actions, economic policies, political discourse, or cultural expression, disordered loves subvert the common good and leave everyone ultimately impoverished.

We need visions and voices rooted in agape that considers others before self, and refines actions according to their long-term consequences and not immediate power and success. Stay tuned for the applications of agape to the challenges of our day. There is hope – but not in the lowest denominator of human passion, but the highest aspirations arising from the image of God in humankind.

Justice is Social: Advocacy with Humility

Dear justice warriors,
Advocacy for justice concerning class, gender, race and religion is vital. The key principle underlying effective progress is the dignity of the human person, with all the natural rights inherent in her or his being. I am first a human being made in God’s image, uniquely fashioned and able to contribute. Only after this identity is secured can we then speak wisely about secondary facets of identity, oppression, privilege and responsibility. May we see each person we encounter as a gift and listen deeply for those places of connection and cooperation.

For every necessary prophetic word against evil may we offer a visionary word of hope and justice. As we protest current realities, may we promote a vision of flourishing, articulating what “there” looks like.

Either/Or extremist thinking keeps us from principled compromise and wisdom for the common good. Praying today for all local, state and federal leaders to worry less about sound bites and more about stewardship.
Always hopeful because there is only one God who loves all.

 

 

 

Some Wisdom Amidst the Noise, Part 2

As we face personal and community challenges, there is “wisdom from above” that is pure and peaceable and unites love and justice, compassion and empowerment. Here are some more reflections as I listen to God – and that listening is mediated through wise people in my life.

Confusion leads to anarchy and ultimately external control. Clarity leads to accountable liberty and greater personal responsibility. On most issues, ethical/moral clarity is not difficult – it is just demanding.

Reflecting and responding beats reacting and resenting every day.

Instead of castigating former and present leaders, how about constructing new friendships?

Current reactions in our civil conversation are morphing from legitimate dissent to hysterical accusations and perceptions. Instead of anger and violence and quashing voices, how about concrete actions of love and service and policy proposals that have a chance to work? I challenge all parties and groups to think of the common good of all – Black and White, rich and poor, religious and secular.

Grateful for the global church of all ages today: Jewish and Gentile, African and Asian, Near Eastern and Western, in soaring cathedrals and hidden catacombs…from Mt. Sinai to Monte Cassino, from Armenian chapels to American campuses, from bells and incense to freeform dance and song…may their testimonies inspire our fidelity and service.

Choosing contemplation over cynicism, helpfulness over hatred and vision over venom. Such responses are harder than reactions, but so much better for the soul and society.