America’s Soul, America’s Creed

“All of the various fields of human inquiry — theology and philosophy and morality and psychology meet rather beautifully in politics. And sometimes I wonder if politics isn’t exactly that, it’s the taking of all the sort of great ineffable and trying to make them have some meaning in the actually historical moment on earth in which we live.” Tony Kushner – writer of “Lincoln” interview with Bill Moyers

We live in an anti-political moment, when many people — young people especially — think politics is a low, nasty, corrupt and usually fruitless business. It’s much nobler to do community service or just avoid all that putrid noise. I hope everybody who shares this anti-political mood will go out to see “Lincoln,” directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Tony Kushner. The movie portrays the nobility of politics in exactly the right way. It shows that you can do more good in politics than in any other sphere…The challenge of politics lies precisely in the marriage of high vision and low cunning. Spielberg’s “Lincoln” gets this point. The hero has a high moral vision, but he also has the courage to take morally hazardous action in order to make that vision a reality. Politics is noble because it involves personal compromise for the public good. This is a self-restrained movie that celebrates people who are prudent, self-disciplined, ambitious and tough enough to do that work. The movie also illustrates another thing: that politics is the best place to develop the highest virtues…If anything, the movie understates how hard politics can be….Politicians who can navigate such challenges really do emerge with the sort of impressive weight expressed in Lincoln’s Second Inaugural. It’s a speech that acknowledges that there is moral ambiguity on both sides…Politics doesn’t produce many Lincolns, but it does produce some impressive people, and sometimes, great results… Why We Love Politics By DAVID BROOKS, New York Times, November 22, 2012

…the moral responsibilities of citizens and politicians in a democratic society… politics should be a high moral calling… A moral and intellectual state cannot be established through a constitution, or through law, or through directives, but only through complex, long-term, and never-ending work involving education and self-education…it might be called spirit. Or feeling. Or conscience… politicians have a moral obligation to call their followers to be true to their best selves rather than pander to or inflame their followers’ worst instincts… Building an intellectual and spiritual state — a state based on ideas — does not mean building an ideological state. Indeed, an ideological state cannot be intellectual or spiritual. A state based on ideas is precisely the opposite: it is meant to extricate human beings from the straitjacket of ideological interpretations, and to rehabilitate them as subjects of individual conscience, of individual thinking backed up by experience, of individual responsibility, and with a love for their neighbors that is anything but abstract… Václav Havel: Democracy as Spiritual Discipline by Peter Montgomery, Religion Dispatches, December 18, 2011

...The biblical purpose of government is to protect from evil and to promote the good…That vision of “common good” is what we have lost, and there is nothing more important in our public life than to find it again…To be opposed to government per se, especially when that opposition serves the ultimate power of other wealthy and powerful interests, is simply not a biblical position. Transparency, accountability, and service are the ethics of good government. “Of the people, by the people, and for the people” is still a good measure and goal of civil authority… Why the Government Shutdown Is Unbiblical by Jim Wallis, Sojourners, posted on, Oct 3, 2013

Crimes Against the Soul of Amer­ica by Car­o­line Myss, Huff­in­g­ton Post, Sep­tem­ber 5, 2009 - There is such a thing as a crime against the soul of a nation. A person or a political party can deliberately incite actions that diminish the strength, the integrity, and the overall well-being of a nation’s inner core. America’s soul is in a fragile state. It has suffered severe violations over the course of this past decade and to lesser degrees, in previous decades…of all the crimes covertly and overtly committed by the Bush administration against the soul of America, none is as vile as the deliberate efforts they poured into turning American against American. We see that in the near hatred between the Republicans and Democrats, between liberals and conservatives, between free-thinkers and evangelicals that continues to fester. This crime was a strategic one, a well thought out plan to fragment the people of this nation in a type of contemporary replay of the Civil War. And sadly, the Republicans succeeded. Thank you, Karl Rove. The result is that the soul of America is exhausted, wounded, mistrusting, suspicious, fearful — and compromised. This is not a soul that can rebuild a country, not if you know anything about the laws of nature and the fundamentals of healing…
Students on a path toward becoming high functioning human beings must be guided in matters of their soul, namely, how to recognize and respond to a moral crisis; how to formulate a personal ethical code and to withstand challenges to that code within a society that thrives on predator instincts; and how to form and maintain an honor code within a society in which any sense of honor is now held together by legal contracts rather than the integrity of a person’s word…
we now have a public that cannot discern lies from truth…
A conscious effort to “dumb down” the education of this nation qualifies as a crime against the soul of America.…
There comes a time when we have to just stand up to these carnies (slang for carnival barkers) and tell them to stop polluting the soul of America with their constant and endless transmission of psychic free radicals in the form of lies, negative press, ridiculous criticism, overall lack of intelligent ideas and comments, and complete absence of creative thought. We should just blast them with emails and tell them to stop polluting the soul of our nation. Just stop it. We’ve had enough. I know I have. And I deeply believe the soul of our nation can’t take much more of their strategy of deliberate division against the people of their own nation. That is a true crime — and perhaps their greatest crime — against the soul of this great nation.

Reclaiming America’s Soul by Paul Krugman, New York Times, April 24, 2009

The Soul of America by Bernie Sanders, published on Wednesday, January 9, 2013 by Common Dreams

The Americans no one wants to talk about By Michael Gerson, Washington Post, January 19, 2012

The Inward Work of Democracy by Krista Tippett, Krista’s Journal, June 30, 2011

Healing the Heart of Democracy by Parker Palmer, Book Review by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat , 2011

A Shining City: The Occupy Movement and the American Soul By Elizabeth Drescher, October 7, 2011

THE AMERICAN CREED an Address delivered at the General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association by Forrest Church, Quebec, Canada, June 21, 2002  

The American Creed, a spiritual and patriotic primer by Forrest Church — “Like all experiments, The Declaration of Independence started with a precept, a “given” – in this case a set of truths so rockribbed and essential that they were deemed to be “self-evident.” Truth cast in language that, in turn, spells out the truth for succeeding generations deserves to be called a creed…As understood by Lincoln, King and many others, America is a union of faith and freedom, in which faith elevates freedom and freedom tempers faith. The American Creed doesn’t impose parochial faith upon its citizens but protects freedom, including freedom of religion, by invoking a more universal authority. Though employing the language of faith, it transcends religious particulars, uniting all citizens in a single covenant. It treats believer and atheist alike, offering each the same protections, securing freedom of and from religion. Equally important, it protects freedom from itself, tempering excesses of individual license by postulating a higher moral code. In America, faith and freedom wed to form a union greater than either alone is capable of sustaining…If ours is not an explicitly Christian nation, it is nonetheless built on a religious foundation. By law, church and state are separate in America, to the signal advantage of both. But by tradition, religion and politics are interdependent, especially at times of crisis…No American faithful to the founders’ vision can view social outcomes as independent of moral consequence…conscience is the handmaiden of American freedom. Conscience also touches the heart of what it means to be human…In religion Americans are willing to accept absolutes for themselves…however we have proved unwilling (at least for long) to impose our absolutes on others…It is precisely the vacuum created when we forget the nation’s creed that invites occupation by the new fundamentalists.


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