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Public Virtue

Public Virtue: Weekly Summary

Saturday, November 7th, 2020

Public Virtue

Saturday, November 7, 2020
Summary: Sunday, November 1—Friday, November 6, 2020

The mystery of the body of Christ turns the focus outward, to ask: how can I be good for the sake of my neighborhood, my city, my church, my community, and even the world? (Sunday)

Everywhere there are people who never lose hope that the values they learned in the best of times or the courage it takes to reclaim their world from the worst of times are worth the commitment of their lives. —Joan Chittister (Monday)

When faithfulness is our standard, we are more likely to sustain our engagement with tasks that will never end: doing justice, loving mercy, and calling the beloved community into being. —Parker Palmer (Tuesday)

We must make “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34) the foundation of national respect, the standard of our national discernment, the bedrock of both our personal relationships and a civilized society. Joan Chittister (Wednesday)

What if we recognize that our engagement in politics should be rooted in our participation in the Trinitarian flow of God’s love? Then everything changes. —Wes Granberg-Michaelson (Thursday)

History is continually graced with people who have been transformed and somehow learned to act beyond and outside their self-interest for the good of the world, people who clearly operated by a power larger than their own. They are exemplars of public virtue. (Friday)


Practice: The Seventh Story

According to CAC faculty member Brian McLaren and our mutual friend Gareth Higgins, six narratives have been driving forces in human history:

  • The first was the story of patriarchal domination
  • Oppression provoked the emergence of a revolution story
  • Others simply withdrew, believing in the righteousness of their own group, called to an isolation story
  • In the purification story, all the troubles of a powerful group were blamed on a minority
  • Some people retreated into trying to possess as much as they could: living by an accumulation story
  • Some people began to define themselves by what they had suffered, developing a victimization story

However, Brian and his friend Gareth Higgins recommend a “Seventh Story.”

But in The Seventh Story, human beings are not the protagonists. Love is.

We are not [rulers] of “our” domain, but partners in the evolution of goodness. As René Girard wrote, “What Jesus invites us to imitate is his own desire, the spirit that directs him toward the goal on which his intention is fixed: to resemble [Love] as much as possible.” [1]

The Seventh Story invites us to be participants in a great play about the evolution of the story of love. To be friends, not enemies, no matter what anybody else is doing. Not us versus them. . . .

Many of us are so immersed in the six stories of separation, selfishness, and scapegoating that some decisive action is required. . . . We invite you to the following commitments:

1: Pay attention. Alongside considering the wider world, pay attention to your soul, your neighborhood, your local and regional stories, and find others who do the same. Nurture your personal well-being and that of your community, otherwise you will neither thrive in a challenging world, nor be useful to the service of the common good.

2: Don’t pay attention. Don’t fund the six stories of separation, selfishness, and scapegoating: withhold your attention and the money you steward from any media outlet or public figure that uses fear to build an audience. . . .

3: Seek mentors who will help you discern a personal sense of calling to the common good. Your gift is connected to your wound, and the world’s great need. Serving from the place where these three intersect is the best way to heal yourself, and offer healing to others.

4: Tell the truth. In a world of competing information sources, seek wisdom above propaganda. Enlarge your frame: see the whole world as your home. Learn the difference between headlines and trendlines.

5: Learn spiritual practices that heal and offer resilience: clearings, accountability, shadow work.

6: Open yourself to seeing things through “the eyes of the other.”  Seek a friendship with someone with whom you disagree politically. Look for things to praise in others, even when they vote differently. Learn about building equitable community in which everyone has a fair stake. Don’t contribute to polarization.

7: Join or help start a circle of friends committed to the Seventh Story. Don’t journey alone. Encourage others to do the same.

[1] René Girard, I See Satan Fall like Lightning, trans. James G. Williams (Orbis Books: 2001), 13.

Adapted from Brian McLaren and Gareth Higgins, The Seventh Story: Us, Them & the End of Violence (Brian D. McLaren and Gareth Higgins: 2018), 124, 171‒173.

For Further Study:
Joan Chittister and Richard Rohr, Prophets Then, Prophets Now (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2006), MP3 audio.

Joan Chittister, The Time Is Now: A Call to Uncommon Courage (Convergent: 2019).

Parker J. Palmer, Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit (Jossey-Bass: 2011).

“Politics and Religion,” Oneing, vol. 5, no. 2 (CAC Publishing: 2017). This issue includes essays from Simone Campbell, Joan Chittister, John L. Esposito, Wes Granberg-Michaelson, and angel Kyodo williams.

Richard Rohr with John Feister, Jesus’ Plan for a New World: The Sermon on the Mount (Franciscan Media: 1996).

Image credit:  Untitled (detail), Wassily Kandinsky, 1913, Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris, France.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: What if we recognize that our engagement in politics should be rooted in our participation in the Trinitarian flow of God’s love? Then everything changes. —Wes Granberg-Michaelson
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