Posts

The Perversion of Loyalty

I was never a Boy Scout, but for some reason I memorized the Scout Law when I was an adolescent, and to this day I can recite it with confidence: A scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. Because I was not a Boy Scout, I never had to recite either the Scout Oath (On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight) or the Scout Law in the company of my peers or in public, but I have on occasion slipped the Scout Law into a sermon or a lecture, always with attribution. Lately, however, I have been giving some thought to one item on the Law’s list: loyalty. The reason for this is all the political noise surrounding the current president and his propensity to require loyalty from his associates and political appointments, a requirement which he apparently does n…

Good City and Affordable Housing

The following article is an expanded version of an op-ed piece published April 10, 2018 in The Gazette in Colorado Springs.  What makes a city a desirable place to live? What is the recipe for a healthy and thriving community? I have been thinking about these questions for some time now, but I’m not an urbanologist so the ruminations that follow are somewhat unsystematic. It may sound odd, but I think a city must have a purpose, a reason for being, beyond just providing a physical place where people live. The purpose answers the question of why people would want to live in a particular city, and whether stated explicitly or merely implied, it speaks not only to the vision for a quality of life but also to the diversity of values, beliefs, and traditions held by its populace. A city’s purpose goes a long way toward creating a welcoming atmosphere where people can find a way of belonging. If a city has character or personality, it probably also has some shared sense of what it stands f…

Criminalizing Sanctuary in Colorado

I know there are many people who believe that undocumented immigrants should be deported straightaway. Many also believe that any effort or expense to make it possible for them to live here, contribute to our economy, and improve their circumstances is misguided at best because these immigrants have broken U.S. immigration law. Those who believe it is important to recognize that these immigrants have come here seeking a better life for themselves and their families are also those who care deeply about how they are treated and how they can be helped to navigate their way forward in realizing their aspirations. Those who hold these beliefs do not see themselves as aiding and abetting law-breakers. Rather, they see themselves as acting more humanely toward others whose circumstances in their homeland make the realization of their aspirations impossible and whose life in their country of origin is at risk of debilitating poverty and suffering, to say nothing of violence. Practically all p…

Strategy to Downsize Political Polarization

I am always amazed at how contemporary and relevant a passage of ancient literature can be in our present circumstances. Even more stunning is the occasion in which an all-too-familiar passage of a religious tradition’s sacred literature brings new and unexpected lucidity to an otherwise opaque situation. For me, this amazement was recently revived on a reading of the letter to the Christian group at Philippi, a congregation undergoing an appreciable degree of internal conflict because of opposition and persecution from their fellow citizens. What prompts this observation about new insight from old literature are the waves of social, economic, and political polarization that have been sweeping this country. We have known for some time that the political spectrum is clustered more at the extremes of left and right. As far back as 1996, Sarah Binder at the Brookings Institute wrote about the disappearing political center. Since then, our politics have become more extreme, our political…

Taking the Responsibility to Think

Over the years, I’ve met some rather opinionated people. Some of them I actually liked. Some I thought were really brilliant and others were sadly out-of-touch. Most let their views be known with candor and humility, though some were arrogant and contentious. But what they all have in common is this: They have an opinion, it’s theirs, and they’re sticking by it.
We do not need opinions to survive as individuals, but I suppose it is helpful to have them. On the other hand, as Pascal Boyer points out in his book Religion Explained (Basic Books, 2001), in addition to oxygen and nutrition, what human beings need in order to survive is “information about the world around them” and “cooperation with other members of the species” (120). Unfortunately, these are two “commodities” that are in rather short supply at the moment. The quantity of information is high enough, but whether it is accurate and useful is something else. And whatever cooperation there may be, it cannot be said to extend …

Captive to the American Oligarchy

It is disconcerting to think that the possibilities for personal freedom and well-being intended by the founders at the birth of our republic have not been realized in the way or to the extent they envisioned. Their experiment in democracy became a work-in-progress for succeeding generations, and we still haven’t quite got it right.
In fact, the tenor of our partisan politics at the moment suggests we have neither the political nor the moral will to complete the task of securing “liberty and justice for all.” As citizens who are the ultimate source of sovereignty in this nation, we have given up and given in to a factionalism that pits interest-group over against interest-group, majority against minorities, class against class, in ways that for some amount to a form of socioeconomic and political tyranny. “We the people” have become “we the vested interest groups,” each of whom is more interested in gaining or consolidating advantage and acquiring or retaining control of the “system.…

Making the News Fake

Back in the eighteenth century, the founders of this country invented a liberal democratic government that secured and protected personal economic liberty. They wanted a government to guard the freedom of everyone (except slaves) to assure that minority interests and concerns would not be trammeled on by the majority. They desired a political system that had the capacity to resolve conflicts and competing interests while maximizing freedom. And, they sought to form a government that citizens could change when it needed changing and keep when it did right by its citizens.
And now, that’s the problem. Competing self-interests and group interests, disparities in economic power, economic exploitation, and safeguarding the rights of social, economic, and political minorities have produced partisan obduracy and personal indifference to practically anything but one’s own well-being.
We could change this situation, but it’s not likely. We have become too partisan in our approach. Politics is…