Monday, October 15, 2012

The Power of WE – Building the Common Good



            It is “Blog Action Day” and the theme is “The Power of We.”  As a Christian and as an active participant in interfaith and multi-faith efforts, this is a theme that resonates.  We (Americans) live in a very individualistic culture, and while our individual identity is crucial, too often we’ve so over-emphasized individual rights that we forget the value of community.  We focus on attaining what will enhance our own lives, forgetting about the other.  This sentiment is a major force driving the current political conversation.  Because we’ve become a consumerist economy and culture, candidates are digging deeper into niche markets, hoping to gain our support based on appealing to our own wants and desires, not the common good of the whole community. 

            To give but one example of this tendency, consider the debate over climate change.  We face choices in the coming years about the way we develop and use energy sources.  Carbon-based energy, including petroleum and coal produce an inordinate amount of carbon-dioxide, which raises the earth’s temperature.  Long term this will lead to the melting of glaciers and polar ice-caps, raising the sea level, perhaps overwhelming island nations and people leaving in coastal areas.  It could lead to desertification in some areas, and changes in the way plants grow and where they grow.  It could affect the spread of disease and pests.  There are a lot of issues that are raised by the debate over climate change, but some of the conversation is being driven by an individualistic view that my current needs outweigh the needs of others, especially in the future.  Now we could add a number of other topics to the conversation – including the national debt, immigration, tax policy, and more. 

            So, how do we turn from the “Power of I” to the “Power of We”?  How do I as in individual not just suppress my own desires, but actually contribute to the betterment of the other?  It’s not just what must I give up, but what can I create that will make a difference?

            From my own faith tradition, I draw from Jesus’ principle of loving my neighbor as I love myself – putting the other firmly in my purview.  I’ve also learned in the course of my work with other faith traditions, that the beginning point is an attitude of hospitality.  Although we often equate hospitality with sharing food, it doesn’t have to involve food.  It can take many forms, but the key is being gracious to the other, to listen, and to respect.  When we do this, we begin to build relationships, and when we build relationships we can do important things.

            I’ve recently gotten involved in Community organizing.  We’re building a coalition of religious communities in Suburban Detroit (Southeast Michigan).   The Metropolitan Coalitionof Congregations is focusing on raising awareness and action around four major issues that affect the broader community – health care, foreclosure, gun violence, and regional transportation.  We believe that the only way the citizenry can make its voice felt with political, cultural, and corporate leaders is by joining together, doing our research, and then making strategic relationships with the people who can get things done. 

            This is truly the power of WE.    

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