Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Gerson and Wallis Agree on "The Common Good"

Michael Gerson, a Wheaton College graduate, former George W. Bush speechwriter, and Washington Post columnist, is an evangelical Christian of conservative political sympathies.  Jim Wallis is the founder of Sojourners, a progressive evangelical organization and an outspoken leader of the Christian left.  I would imagine that Gerson and Wallis share a common faith in the Christian gospel, but have profoundly different political convictions.

Except on their mutual commitment to "the common good."  Gerson has several nice things to say about Wallis's latest book, On God's Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn't Learned About Serving the Common Good.

In yesterday's column Gerson writes:

...But the book has broader value in challenging a variety of shallow modern ideologies. 

Contra libertarianism: The common good is not identical to the triumph of market forces. Constructing it is the shared duty of communities, corporations and government. 

Contra modern liberalism: The common good is not identical to the triumph of autonomy and choice. Humans flourish in the context of binding moral commitments such as marriage and family. And the most vulnerable members of the human community deserve special concern and protection. 

Contra secularism: The common good is not achieved by banishing religion from the public square. Religious institutions perform works of mercy, carry ideals of justice and should be sheltered by a generous interpretation of religious liberty.

Wallis’ argument, offered by a man of the left, reaches well beyond the left: In a political era of rights talk and special-interest pleading, a greater emphasis on the common good would make American politics more civil, admirable and humane.

Read the entire column here.