Not since the era of the Civil War has our nation faced such a threat from within, a threat far more insidious than terrorism or a military attack from beyond our borders.
The threat is the erosion of commitment to the common good, especially by the political leadership of our nation.
Partisan political ideology, personal ambition, financial clout, narrow self interest, and lust for power dominate our political process. Dysfunction, polarization, falsification, and fear mongering determine policies related to healthcare, taxation, the environment, access to voting, financial regulations, and who serves on the courts.
Bullying and intimidation have become preferred images of leadership, and political influence is controlled by special interests of the financially advantaged.
The efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act is emblematic of the loss of concern for the common good. Flaws in the Affordable Care Act need to be addressed; but opposition to the ACA has largely been based purely on political partisanship and rigid market ideology.
The failure thus far of divisive efforts provides Congress with an opportunity to move beyond the self-serving, partisan political and personal agendas and work for the good all citizens. Doing so may provide a more effective healthcare system and take a step toward restoring confidence in the ability of the government to function as intended, “to provide for the common welfare.”
We all share the responsibility for restoring a vision of and commitment to the common good. Preoccupation with gaining a personal advantage and advancing our own narrow political, religious, and economic agendas contributes to the problem. We must be willing to sacrifice personal benefit for the well being of others, particularly the vulnerable and under resourced.
At the heart of the biblical vision is a covenant community in which ALL have access to that which enables people to flourish as beloved children of God. The nations are judged on the basis of what happens to the most vulnerable, “the orphans, the widows, the strangers (immigrants).”
The common good begins with insuring that the poor, the powerless, the marginalized receive preferential consideration when it comes to public policy. Biblical justice doesn’t trickle down from the powerful to the weak; it bubbles up from the weak to all segments of the community.
The church is called to embody God’s alternative community. Regrettably, churches tend to reflect the political partisanship, ideological divides, and class distinctions of the society. We have become conformed to the world rather than being agents of transformation.
How might we contribute to a vision of and commitment to the common good? Here are a few suggestions:
- Get in touch with the vision of covenant community portrayed in the Bible, especially in the Prophets, the Sermon on the Mount, and Paul’s image of the New Creation.
- Break out of our ideological, political, theological, economic, and racial conclaves and respectfully listen to the dreams and aspirations of those different from ourselves.
- Develop ongoing relationships/friendships with the poor, the physically and mentally ill, immigrants, the incarcerated, the frail elderly, at risk children.
- Help our local churches to become centers of dialogue on crucial issues confronting the world–economic disparity, poverty, criminal justice, immigration, healthcare, climate change, war and violence, addiction, nationalism, etc.
- Proclaim and live the one Gospel with its personal and social ramifications.
- Advocate on behalf of the weak, vulnerable, and powerless.
- Practice the means of grace with others who will hold us in love and hold us accountable to the common good.