Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Hearing New Voices: Educating for Democracy

I wrote my heart out yesterday, as I discussed the two tables the churches today set for believers: the great table for the righteous and washed; and the lesser table for the unrighteous and unwashed, for gay and lesbian believers.

Readers are probably tired, in any case, of hearing me talk on and on about the same old same old (but who can stop talking, even when talking is repetition, given the needs we face?).

So I've decided today to give myself and you, dear readers, a respite from hearing my voice. The voice you'll be hearing below is that of my beloved friend and partner, Steve, dimidium meae animae. As Steve and I were talking politics yesterday, he offered some reflections on the lack of moral pedagogy among American voters, which I asked him to write up so that I could share them on this blog.

Before I launch into that weighty (and important) subject, though, I want to bring my readers up to date on some good news to which I alluded in a previous posting. I noted that my niece Kate has been interviewing for jobs in several big cities of her dreams.

Last week, within fifteen minutes of an interview for a much-sought-after position, Kate was offered the job. She'll be moving next week to begin her new position. When I spoke to her yesterday about the job, she said something nice that, to me, typifies what family is about at its best. Kate said, "I wouldn't have gotten this job if it weren't for all of you, my family."

Blessings, prayers, good wishes, and hope for my niece as she sails forth to the big city of her dreams and starts a new job. (And for her brothers, who also have such promise, and who do so much to enrich the lives of others.)

And now for Steve's reflections:

Political discussions often leave me cold these days because they seem devoid of serious ethical reflection. As I listen to my fellow citizens discuss values-based political issues, I am struck again and again by what can called nothing other than the lack of social ethical pedagogy among Americans. I am struck by how little education we receive, as the voting public, in making sound ethical judgments about building a just and humane society.

I attribute this lack of moral pedagogy to a failure of all of our social institutions and structures: it is a failure of educational structures, a failure of social and cultural structures, and most definitely, a failure of economic and religious structures. I link economic and religious structures intimately to each other, because each uses the other to reinforce its own ideology, rather than to focus attention on the creation of a just and equitable economic and social order.

The failure of American educational, religious, social, and economic structures to build a citizenship educated to make sound moral decisions affects not merely our own nation, but the entire globe, given the worldwide reach of American economic structures and American ideology. Ultimately, our most damning failure is that we live under the illusion of our own moral rectitude. Once that illusion is well established among a group of voters, the next step in the process of moral befuddlement is simple: it becomes easy to elect (and re-elect) someone with only the faintest grasp of political, economic, and above all, moral reality, as our leader. Acting in our name, since we have empowered this leader, he or she can lead us into a just war on the basis of lies that any people with sound ethical formation can easily identify as untruths.

The failure of moral pedagogy leads ultimately to a failure of the democratic political process. When we do not have the ability to make sound moral judgments in the political sphere, because we lack formation in the area of moral pedagogy, we do not permit new political voices to emerge. Our inability to welcome the new leads to an abandonment of hope, in which we would rather destroy everything than to elect someone representing a new perspective, who affirm a vision of hope for change, for fundamental change in our social and economic order that is centered on ideals of justice.

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