In our contentious world, it is wise that we pause and examine some of the foundations of our current chaos. We are assailed with ideological inputs from all sides. The moment someone calls for personal responsibility for social ills they are labeled insensitive, racist, or worse. When another utters the words, “systemic injustice” they are branded a Marxist. Dialogues end in both cases and resolutions are far away.
This essay is not about ideological preferences or even specific public policies. My aim is unveiling a phenomenon that hinders human flourishing: we have many good people trapped in bad systems. For decades I have listened to thoughtful women and men offer innovative solutions in classrooms and over coffee, only to go back into their offices and organizations that stifle creativity and promote conformity.
These bad systems almost have a life of their own. They breed fantasies and fatalism – promising the world with just a bit more money or promoting a bureaucratic apathy of hopelessness that hopes next year’s budget includes them. These bad systems are in private and public agencies and recognizing the signs and refusing to submit to the inevitable are the first steps forward toward liberation.
There are three insights that will help us find freedom. First, we must recognize the phenomena of systemic captivity. These include losing sight of the mission, self-preserving activities, and forgetting that all systems are supposed to serve the mission, not become an end in themselves. Second, we must accept that real change is painful and includes many finding new employment or learning new skills. Effectiveness includes new efficiencies. Institutional systems must be nimble. Transitions can be compassionate, but they will not be easy. Third, advocates of systems change will be marginalized, even hated. The purest motives and the wisest pathways will still meet the inevitable resistance to change.
Here are two applications that can change history. The first is commitment to a balanced federal budget and more local administration of vital programs. We need the universal ethics of federal influence (to ensure fairness) and the efficiencies of local systems for many public programs. Of course, there will be many job changes if we get serious about this. A second application more fun: non-profit and for-profit partnerships that help further flourishing with each bringing the best of their ethos and systems to the particular causes they are working on together. Good ethics and best practices apply to both kinds of organizations.
Before we label or libel leaders, let’s pause and look at the systems in place and see if we can find common cause in reform that leads to better results.
Dr. Charlie celebrates America’s unique contribution to religious freedom and challenges all of us to want for others the liberties we desire for ourselves.
Learning thoughtfulness amidst the overwhelming data around us is challenging. In our desires for peace and justice, we must refine our critical thinking capacities and recognize what is timeless truth and what are timely opinions.
Here are some differences that make a difference:
Legitimate outrage about racism vs. anarchy and destruction.
Repairing historic, systemic injustices vs. calls for ending the family and imposing Marxism.
Repentance of prejudices of class, gender, and race vs. hatred for anyone with traditional values.
Passionate, principled debate vs. a cancel culture of personal destruction.
Building a world with true toleration vs. fear of violence.
Serious journalistic inquiry and allowing real evidence to further investigation vs. repetition of talking points and allegations.
Repairing our environment vs. alarmism cloaking wealth redistribution.
Accepting history as a tapestry of beautiful and broken narratives vs. cherry picking for agendas.
Treating every person with dignity and respect and respecting cultural diversity vs. blanket categorizations and generalizations.
Freedom of conscience allowing us to bring our best selves to the public square vs. privatizing any moral and religious convictions.
Let’s help the world be more thoughtful.
July 4th reminds us of the best and worst of American history. Many celebrate Independence Day and the ideals of the Declaration of Independence. And there is much to be proud of as we remember the sacrifices of so many that keep freedom’s flag flying. Others consider the failure of the Founders and Framers to offer a clear road of Emancipation for the slaves, thus delaying justice for millions, costing our nation a horrible Civil War, the tragedy of Jim Crow, and the unfulfilled promises of the Civil Rights Movement. Add to this the almost 100% record of broken covenants and treaties between the USA and the indigenous Native American tribes and being suspicious of American ideals is understandable.
The USA is an experiment in virtue-based liberty and representative governance rooted in reverence of the Almighty, the equality of all people, and limitations on the power of government. But our history is a tapestry of tremendous and tortured narratives. We celebrate the Ellis Island Hospitality enshrined in the Statue of Liberty and forget the prejudice, racism, and exploitation of both slaves and immigrants. We rightly celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit and innovation of our culture and forget the painful road toward prosperity for most workers.
What makes America truly great? First, we see that our first liberty, enshrined in the first 16 words of the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights is complete freedom of conscience and religion for people of all faiths (or no faith) to live their lives and build their communities without government interference. Second, the promise of and potential for genuine access, equity, and opportunity for everyone. And third, our history of halting but continual progress toward justice.
Let’s celebrate heroes of the past and hopes for the future. Let’s feast in freedom and build a future so more can enjoy the fruits of freedom.
In 1984, a Christian poet and dissident from the
Soviet Union wrote a book, “Talking about God is Dangerous.” The wall
has fallen – and our angry culture is building a new one. Freedom for
one is liberty for all…let’s be civil and wise, but never give way to
censorship of ideas. Disagreement is not intolerance and choosing moral
and religious values does not make folks, “phobes.”
Debating our deepest differences with civility is the heart of ordered liberty. My Muslim friends regard Jesus as a prophet…I regard him as God, crucified and risen for my salvation. We disagree. I do not regard Mohammed as a prophet, but I respect my Muslim neighbor’s right to disagree with me. Atheists find my convictions quaint or even dangerous. I disagree with their arguments…and we can be friends. My biblical sexual ethic is at odds with many – and we can make the world a better place together caring for the vulnerable. But please do not castigate my ethics as intolerant.
Will we continue our historical progress toward true toleration or retreat to oppression and castigate anyone not sharing our precise language? I am confident that a free market of ideas produces much better fruit than a world of self-appointed, politically correct marshals waiting to pounce.
Let’s get to work and make our world better, one conversation at a time.