COLUMN: Faith & Politics: Do we rise and fall together?
What’s the story of America? There are many ways to tell it. In recent years, a polarization narrative has seized center stage—a story of America divided. One doesn’t have to look far to find examples of divisive, mean-spirited political and religious rhetoric. As Greg Garrett writes in Faithful Citizenship and as we discussed Monday, “Christians on both sides of issues have taken the culture’s distinctly unloving methods to heart.”
Is there any hope? A seed of hope is the simple yet profound awareness that, like it or not, the fates of people on both sides of the divide are linked. As Greg puts it:
“While we like to think of ourselves as radical individualists, and our mantra ‘freedom’ would sometimes seem to stand in opposition to an awareness that we need each other and make up a community, we also have a pragmatic understanding that we are all in this together, and a record of secular American saints who used their resources for the common good. To be a good American, then, is to be someone who gives of his or her resources for the common good, to recognize that we rise or fall together. Most of us can accept this, although we might argue about how we live this out, whether our giving is to private charity, church, or government.”
Benjamin Franklin is one of the examples Greg cites. Franklin “founded America’s first subscription library, a volunteer fire department, and a hospital and was active in promoting a society with shared resources for all.” Andrew Carnegie gave away his great wealth for great public causes. Our enviable national park system was backed by John Rockefeller’s fortune. Today’s philanthropists include Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, as we’ve discussed several times on OurValues.org.
Most of us don’t have fortunes to give for the public good, but we do have whatever resources we have—time, energy, creativity, and money. Is it the size of the gift that counts, or the spirit with which it is given?
Do we rise and fall together?
Does a good american give his or her resources?
How do you give back?
Dr. Wayne E. Baker is a sociologist on the faculty of the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. Baker blogs daily at Our Values and can be reached at email@example.com or on Facebook.