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Hard work ahead…

October 21st, 2016 by Stephen Bauman

Starting in the mid-’90s and running till about 2008, I presented short, pithy teasers on WCBS NewsRadio concerning values, civility, and the common good. At the time, that news station had the largest audience on the eastern seaboard, so, depending on the weather, I reached over a million people each day from nearly as far south as Washington D.C. and nearly as far north as Boston. These bits were well-received, garnering three awards over the years and leading to a book entitled, Simple Truths.

It was good fun for me, gave the church some “market positioning” while delivering what now seems a prescient cultural message. This project concluded during a year of financial triage when it was determined we required another full-time slot on staff to accommodate a growing congregation. I’ve been thinking of late it might be time to see if we can’t re-engage this project somehow.

Do you agree with me that our moral culture has fallen off a cliff, where, with each passing week, yet one more marker tracks our descent? As David Brooks states it today, “It’s becoming ever clearer that the nation’s moral capital is being decimated, and the urgent challenge is to name that decimation and reverse it.”

Here’s more: “Moral capital is the set of shared habits, norms, institutions and values that make common life possible. Left to our own, we human beings have an impressive capacity for selfishness. Unadorned, the struggle for power has a tendency to become barbaric. So people in decent societies agree on a million informal restraints — codes of politeness, humility and mutual respect that girdle selfishness and steer us toward reconciliation.

“…The sad fact is that in the realm of common life, gnats can undo the work of giants. ‘Moral communities are fragile things, hard to build and easy to destroy,’ Jonathan Haidt writes in his book The Righteous Mind. ‘When we think about very large communities such as nations, the challenge is extraordinary and the threat of moral entropy is intense.’”

It’s important to restate what we already know: moral capital is created one decision, one person at a time. The possibility for a better outcome resides in the hearts and minds of each individual citizen. Those of us who follow after the pattern Jesus established understand that often this requires some “cross-bearing” since the surrounding culture is so very often resistant to listening to the better angels of our nature.

Encouragement is helpful; supporting one another as we advance a different way of speaking with, to, and about others; practicing empathy and promoting human dignity in its infinite varieties, not least for both women and men and those of every race and religion.

We have a lot of work ahead. We need each other. As I look back, that’s what I intended to communicate on WCBS. And here once more…

Stephen Bauman

Rev. Dr. Stephen P. Bauman is the Senior Minister at Christ Church.