Thursday, November 28, 2013

THYME Magazine American Renewal Issue VI

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VI, Issue XXVI
Pursuit of Virtue
Cover: The School of Athens by Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino

"Properly understood, therefore, when John Locke, Samuel Johnson, and Thomas Jefferson wrote of 'the pursuit of happiness,' they were invoking the Greek and Roman philosophical tradition in which happiness is bound up with the civic virtues of courage, moderation, and justice. Because they are civic virtues, not just personal attributes, they implicate the social aspect of eudaimonia. The pursuit of happiness, therefore, is not merely a matter of achieving individual pleasure." -- Carol V. Hamilton, Ph.d.

The 'other' weekly news magazine a while ago considered The Pursuit of Happiness [click to read]. Quoting the philosophers who say we're "wired for happiness," they then delve into the conundrum of why we are so unhappy. THYME once again ventures in where angels fear to tread... to consider the truth intended by the original writers.

Consider These Advertisements [click to read] for Colorado's Health Insurance Marketplace. While they are an insult to the fine young people I actually know and work with, they nonetheless represent the popular narrative's description of "Pursuit of Happiness." Really?, "Kegstands" and "shotsies?" Again, I have to wonder if ageing advertising executives are being allowed to define young people they really need to go out and talk to. One surprise in Virginia's recent gubernatorial election was that the Conservative candidate actually won a strong percentage of the so-called 'Millenial' vote. The 18-24 demographic broke strongly for the Conservative [1.] begging the question: "Is the self-actualization message of the popular culture deconstructing under its own weight as young people open their eyes and see the true cost?" 

Those who seek to write the narrative about modern Americans err because they've replaced the institutions of virtue and protection with the multiplex cinema and the mall as center of the settlement. Consider the first Jamestown settlement, where the church, the storehouse and the armory were at the center. Personal happiness, in the packaging of self-actualization demands we redefine marriage and reduce consequences for pleasurable behaviours. Society must now provide outcome instead of opportunity, even if that outcome is tepid compared to the results of mankind unchained to pursue loftier goals that are out of the direct pervue of government.

Thus, many are lauding the Supreme Court's latest "Dred Scott"  [2.] moment as an American triumph, overturning a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act and striking down the restoration of California's popularly ratified Proposition Eight. The portion of DOMA actually overturned has to do with an inheritance case and is NOT at all like Roe vs Wade, which nullified state abortion laws in a sweeping motion. The media rushes to herald it, but it does not really create what qualifies as a landmark decision. In fact it is but one more strike against traditional thinking which includes the government forcing Catholic Charities in Massachussetts to place children with same-sex couples (they folded rather than compromise their beliefs), the suit against a photographer who, on faith grounds, declined to photograph a same-sex ceremony and the Methodist group in New Jersey who were denied tax-exempt status because they would not allow a same-sex ceremony to be performed in their facility [3.]

Marriage Wins in the Big Picture [click to read]

In each of these cases, there were other options open to the couples and they were in no way forbidden from creating their covenant relationship. At issue, in each case, was the religious freedom of those who hold that G-d alone may define what is marriage. Beyond the religious freedom considerations, a strong body of research suggests that children are best raised by a father and a mother [4.] While the thought may nor be politically correct, the evidence is well-documented. State law is still able to support traditional marriage and may well strengthen the virtues epitomized in eudaimonia by doing so. Courage, moderation and justice would ask: "what is best for our children?"

The First Amendment of the Constitution both prohibits government establishment of a 'state' church and protects citizens in the free exercise of their faith. While it is a good thing to restrict the government's direction of the distribution of an estate (property being an important right), it also follows that the government has no business redefining what for many is a matter of faith (freedom of belief being one of the fundamental rights). Providing protection for a person's directives concerning shared property and hospital visitation priviledges is in keeping with the virtues of courage, moderation and justice. Creating a 'right' for someone to overwrite the tenets of faith with fines and sanctions is the antithesis of them.

Much of the so-called 'Affordable Care Act's' controversy surrounds the law's establishment of access to contraceptives and abortion as 'fundamental rights' in defiance of those institutions and traditions who's purpose is to instill virtue. Requiring Faith-based institutions to provide coverage for things they don't believe in violates the true spirit of "pursuit of Virtue." Mandating that Christian businessmen like David Green [click to read] provide them is equally intrusive on true personal liberty.

Indeed it would seem that the time has come to offer a clear alternative to the tired old cliche's that would reduce significant personal choices to the level of a Superbowl beer commercial. I am not a recognized expert on youth, but I have worked closely with enough young people to know that they can indeed wrap their fingers around noble purposes. History tells us that young people of old took up the task before them to survey great lands and build great works. They were not shipped off to "professionals" to be trained, but rather, received mentoring from older people, often in a highly individualized fashion. Older people were not always 'retired' from service in a mandatory fashion. In an era when few lived past the age of 62 they were a cherished resource. That changed when leaders like Prussia's Otto Von Bismark discovered that their most effective opposition was from people over the age of 65 [5.]. In the days before penicillin it was a safe bet to pension the relatively few Germans who did live past that age.

As one who is two years into his sixth decade, I can tell you that it is a great joy to freely share the things you have learned with a bright young apprentice! Sadly, this does not happen in a world where people enter productive life late and leave too early. There is more of a competitive than collaborative mindset in a workforce that excludes experience and enthusiasm found at the ends of the age spectrum. We need to return to a world where we train our own replacements, cherishing the creation of a legacy more than the accumulation of one's own accomplishment. We do not create a legacy for ourselves, rather we pass the baton and cheer. Virtue WANTS the next generation to run faster, farther and surer!

What better place for this to be reborn than in our churches. A couple of Sundays ago I heard a most inspiring message of intentional care for the younger generation. We were encouraged to pray for each child in our congregation... creating intentional relationships for mentoring, support and discipleship. All of the clever programs in the world cannot surpass the strength of such intentional relationships.

In Colossians 1:9-12 we read: "For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of G-d; Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:" What would it look like to pray/model that for our young people? The results would certainly be changed young lives...and changed young lives would make an impact on their world! What if our young people were to be brought up in the narrative that they are for us a cherished investment?... Masterpieces of IMAGO DEI entrusted to our care?

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