Friday, September 12, 2008

Bedroom, Boardroom and Breakroom

The moral and religious rhetoric is heating up at we approach the election of a new President. McCain's faltering efforts have been reversed by the galvanizing choice of Governor Palin while the glow of Obama's Olympic acceptance speech has been replaced by sarcastic remarks about lipstick and swine.

Stepping back from the rhetoric, I notice that the ideological Left and Right have their visceral values and core concerns that animate the denunciation of enemies and the elucidation of policy. The ability of each side to eschew critical thinking and embrace caricatures is astounding and unfortunate for an electorate that deserves better.

I am committed to "thinking deeply and acting decisively." I think belief and behavior are inseparable and that moral and religious values are not intended to be "privately engaging but publicly irrelevant." (Os Guinness)

As your "Messenger to the Thoughtful" and a friend of all who want to get to the heart of issues, I offer the following critique of the extremists on both sides of the current debate.

There are profound issues to confront and they require examination of the fundamental way we see the world and adjust our moral compass.

The Right tends to take the ethical high horse when it comes to the morals of the bedroom. Conservatives are deeply concerned about the Left's attacks on the sanctity of marriage, the capitulation of public schools to amoral thinking and the collapse of the traditional family.

I agree with conservatives on many of their values; however, their vision is too narrow. The same folks who renounce premarital sex are often mute on CEO compensation of crumbling companies or how we serve the poor who are buffeted by an ineffective welfare system. Conservatives love to tout the "magic of the free market", citing Adam Smith and his "invisible hand" of economic freedom; however, most have not read the whole book. Writing in 1776, Adam Smith spend a large portion of his writings on the personal and social virtues necessary for a capitalist economy to flourish for all facets of society!

The Left loves to denounce the injustices of the Boardroom, excoriating capitalism and forever scheming on how to fulfill the Marxist dictum, "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need" without appearing to be Stalinists. The Left is suspicious of business owners, especially successful ones, but they have no problem with illiterate actors making millions manipulating images on a movie screen.

The Left has a different kind of tunnel vision. There is no cohesion on sexual morality, only resignation to Epicurean impulses and vagueness about the fluidity of gender and social mores. The Left wants to affirm that gays are "wired this way" while at the same time allowing individuals complete liberty to choose their gender, regardless of the "gender assigned at birth." (this is an actual phrase in California educational policy!) Money is bad - unless you make it certain ways and give up large portions to government functionaries to distribute to passive recipients.

Both Right and Left claim Jesus of Nazareth as their inspiration. The Right cites the strict moral codes of the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus renounces lustful thinking as well as adulterous behavior. The Left tries to transform "turning the other cheek" into anti-military policy.

Jesus transcends ideological categories and frustrates all who try to place him in a box. He will not be turned into a capitalist or a communist. He unites compassion and conviction, holiness and hope and his words and works are not those of either a CEO or a community organizer - though both can learn from him!

To my conservative friends I issue the challenge of holding business leaders accountable for the "compassionate use of accumulated wealth." To my liberal friends I challenge you to call for high moral standards, expecting more of people than mere impulse control.

The Bedroom and Boardroom matter - perhaps we need to learn to debate real issues in the Breakroom and find common cause as we battle ignorance, poverty, racism, sexism and the violence that dominates this planet.