Thursday, November 6, 2008

politics of the common good

at the end of such an incredibly difficult election season (excessive partisanship and division) and the start of such a monumentally historic presidency, i'm reeling too much to offer much personal reflection or articulate anything coherent at this time.  with that said however, in our neighborhood at least, we've certainly observed an entirely new air and sense of life...but more about later.

today i read an op-ed piece in the local paper that did offer these insights.  in this column, thomas friedman noted that

Obama will always be our first black president. But can he be one of our few great presidents? He is going to have his chance because our greatest presidents are those who assumed the office at some of our darkest hours and at the bottom of some of our deepest holes.

in addition, friedman argues that

Obama will have to reinvent government as an instrument of the common good — to regulate markets, to protect citizens against the risks of unemployment and ill health, to invest in energy independence."

But a new politics of the common good can't be only about government and markets. "It must also be about a new patriotism — about what it means to be a citizen," said Sandel. "This is the deepest chord Obama's campaign evoked. The biggest applause line in his stump speech was the one that said every American will have a chance to go to college provided he or she performs a period of national service — in the military, in the Peace Corps or in the community. Obama's campaign tapped a dormant civic idealism, a hunger among Americans to serve a cause greater than themselves, a yearning to be citizens again."

as a missionary and student of this culture, noticing how much we suffer under individualism and private concern, my heart leapt at the thought of a fresh emergence of other-orientedness among us -neighbor relying on neighbor, christians serving the least in our midst, civic action and commonwealth as commonplace.  how redemptive, how good, how true to what it means to be humans made in the image of a relational, triune god.  at least for followers of jesus in this country, what a conversion it would be to actively, in the most ordinary of ways, seek the welfare of others...

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