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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
People and politicians (who are the elected subset of “the people”) are full of contradictory feelings and ideas. The tendency to overgeneralize and universalize is rampant. Who speaks for “the people?” Why are we so quick to opine on what African Americans, Hispanics, White Blue Collar folks, Evangelicals, Women and even LGBTQ folks think on any and every subject? If we are going to engender consensus on vital issues and chart a prosperous future for America and the world, we must end such facile thinking and begin to regard people with more respect and expect more of the political leaders elected and supported by the people.
Each person capable of moral action and self-reflection is unique. This does not mean they are disconnected and do not share beliefs and qualities of particular groups. America’s founders understood the tensions between individual liberty and the common good, between public service and political factions. Some of the founders and framers hoped there would never be political parties, just gentleman (few could foresee the female franchise) farmers and citizens serving for a season and returning to work after their public service was complete.
This idyllic vision quickly gave way to parties and philosophies competing for voters’ attention. By itself, two or more parties are not bad for the public, provided all parties and people share enough common virtues for social cohesion.
For 2016 and beyond, catering to constituencies must take second place to framing a vision and set of values that people of many backgrounds can embrace. This is much more than a “big tent” ethos or chanting, “we have something for everyone.” Such pandering has led to the severe challenges we face today.
Progress begins with personal character being more important than perceived competencies or charisma. Back in the 1820s, a member of Congress wrote a letter back to a disgruntled constituent: “You elected me for my moral character and sound judgment, not to procure public resources.” Imagine politicians saying to the voters, “You cannot have everything you want from the hands of government.” If this kind of integrity is united with a spiritual awakening, there is hope for America and the world.