The Apostolate of the Laity

Waxing philosophical in communion with one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.

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Location: Portland, Oregon, United States

I am just a sinner who holds fast to the notion that every human being on the planet is the result of a thought of God.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Greater Good

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Declaration of Independence, 1776

Americans spend a great deal of time, money, and energy in the pursuit of happiness. For the twenty-first century man, a measurement of pleasure serves as the primary barometer for one's state of well being. The more gratification one has, the more content one must be. A tremendous emphasis on how something feels predominates the motivation of those fully acculturated to modern, secular, Western thought.

"If it feels good, do it," was a mantra of sorts for the Baby Boom generation, and the liberties it took with life served to erode the very rights our founding fathers considered incapable of being surrendered. As this generation stares at age sixty and beyond, it now must come to grips with the reality that it consumed far more than it left behind, and now its children must piece back together a morality based on something more substantial and less shallow than pure self-fulfillment and enlightened self-interest.

It seems clear that our founding fathers had a different idea of happiness. George Mason wrote, "Pursuit of self interest in opposition to the public good is not only mean and sordid, but extremely short-sighted and foolish."

Mean and sordid.

Do not these adjectives describe many of today's social ills? Abortion, divorce, euthanasia, pornography, unfettered capitalism, social apathy. All of these have their roots in the pursuit of self interest. None of these calamities are restricted to the individual. They each impact the public and decidedly not for the good.

In a certain sense, Mason and the rest of the founding fathers were not Revolutionary in their thought at the time. They were all steeped in Christian thought and proposed ideals from a foundation of a life in Christ. And while they desired a country where the state neither dictated nor restrained religion, they most assuredly never had in mind a country separated from God. They assumed the country would keep its sense of what was sacred, what was providence.

The pursuit of happiness was intended to transcend individualism. Notice that all men are created equal...not each man is created apart. There exists a very real element of communion, and the greater good rests not in pleasure seeking, but in the freedom to follow the path that got one to a condition which fit one's character. For the 18th Century man, this was definitely a Christian character, and a Christ-centered character is one that gazes beyond self. This is not to suggest that America's founding fathers were saints; however, they understood that with freedom came a responsibility and a need for wisdom in its exercise.

Contrast that with the present sentiment oriented towards unique treatment for multitudinous classes of special interests based upon such unchangeable attributes like race, gender, and even banal sexual preference. Duty towards community comes in a distant third to the individual, first, and his niche demographic, second. Freedom comes to mean entitlement to act without regard to ones actions on the greater good of society. A common standard of Christian virtue shared by the population as a whole has faded to political correctness and situational ethics. This is the legacy of the children of the Greatest Generation.

For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
Gal 5:13-14

Love is the happiness we are to pursue. Love of God first. Love of neighbor second. With those two fulfilled one will find oneself in that condition of Christian character envisioned by the country's first leaders, and discover the inalienable rights that should be the mainstay of the American citizen.


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