Letter: Have we forgotten to listen to our nation's noble truths?

Posted 1/18/23

A retiring Episcopal priest moved to a city where a younger friend led another congregation.  He told his friend that every Sunday he would sit in a back pew reading the newspaper, …

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Letter: Have we forgotten to listen to our nation's noble truths?

Posted

A retiring Episcopal priest moved to a city where a younger friend led another congregation.  He told his friend that every Sunday he would sit in a back pew reading the newspaper, “…because, my friend, I’ve heard it all before.”

We, too, have heard it all before: Love your neighbor; turn the other cheek; do unto others; forgive our debtors; a time to love. These canons are deep within our culture, irrespective of religion. They scribe the moral universe. They also comprise our ultimate safety net, because what we’ve all “heard before” challenges our darker impulses and undergirds our belief system so essential to democracy where everyone counts and everyone matters. Everyone.

Yet, today we live in a whirling world where AI-enabled bots can write. Where social media can overwhelm our ability to discern. Where normal parental discipline becomes gaslighting. Where political orthodoxy is more valued than cooperation. Where sports gambling is the game, not the contests. Where colleges vying for top ratings employ ill-paid adjunct staff. Where many with wealth decamp to low tax states. Where a two-tier legal system preys upon the poor. Good luck making sense of all this! Hear this: Making sense of all this will require closing the yawning gap between what we say and what we do. 

We say this is a great country, and for some it may be. But ask Black farmers in the rural South losing their land because their forebears weren’t allowed to register their land “properly.” Ask the teachers in New Mexico who “tithe,” not to churches but to buy school supplies and snacks for their classes. 

We say we give extra value to the young and the aging. But consider that pre-K child care and schooling are unavailable to millions of kids. Think about the current attacks on Social Security and Medicare, programs seniors have paid into.

We say the most central role of the federal government is to protect Americans. But ask the thousands of families who have lost children, adults, and friends to gun violence how they grade the government on this tsunami of tragedy. (Stand Your Ground and Open Carry laws: Really? Really?)

Many fortunate Americans have arrived at wealth, fame, and influence. Yet, if they seek real happiness, and if we claim to be a great and good country, then only humility and service throughout society will bring about that joy and honor our claim. So, yes, we’ve heard it all before. All of us. But maybe we need to move to the front pews and hear it all again. And again.

Will Newman

Tiverton

 

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