The free market ideal is a treasure. Without it America would not be the prosperous country that it is. But people need something more, something stronger to bond together as a community, and as a nation.
Human emotions and appetites are unwieldy and destructive. Without mitigating institutions that serve to tame human nature how would we learn empathy, or gather the wherewithal to experience companionship? It is in the self-interest of a business to behave honestly, if the goal is to have customers return for more; but a deeper level of honesty, a more complete degree of sharing, is needed for the family to create a nurturing home.
Pornography sells very well, it is hypnotic. Where have we traditionally gone to counter base desire? In football the tradition has grown up for players to display themselves by spiking the football and prancing around in inventive ways after scoring a touchdown. This is an indulgence of ego spreading through the culture. How do we relearn a sense of humility? Can the ideal of humility compete with the satisfactions of pride in the free market?
Each of us is inescapably self-centered. We are driven to better ourselves, and to gather together what we think we need. But we also need to find the grace sometimes to let the other fellow go first. The self-centered point of view is with us every step we take and within each encounter we have with another person. But we can acquire the practice of seeing the world through eyes of the other guy.
All of us experience resentment. A dictionary definition says that resentment is a "re-feeling." We feel again an emotion that was frustration, jealousy, fear, hurt. Resentment becomes an obsession occupying the mind. The mind rehearses why I am right and he is wrong. Mitigating circumstances are ignored. I am trapped in a mindset, resentment becomes blindness, and fellowship becomes impossible.
Resentment becomes a habit. The resentful mind acquires targets everywhere. To see if you have acquired the habit ask yourself whether you are often angry with people who are not with you. If you are often angry when alone then you might have a soul sickness. The problem is not the people who make you angry but the habit of being resentful.
To discover that I had resentments was an awakening. I am often aware of disturbing emotions that serve no useful purpose. Habitual emotions do not come with an off switch. It takes single-minded effort to behave kindly in the midst of unpleasant thoughts.
The best talk-radio hosts are masters of policy and they are experts at explaining how the world works. The best, like Rush Limbaugh, use rationality, logic, history, immense knowledge, and humor to make their points. To say that Rush Limbaugh as "only" an entertainer is to misunderstand that talk radio has become a major forum in which political issues are discussed.
And yet so much of successful talk radio seems to be about the cultivation and targeting of resentments on a mass scale. The same can be said of partisan politics. Are political ads geared to explaining policy, or to motivating voters through fear and resentment?
Can politics be separated from the skillful marshalling and manipulation of harsh emotions? Haven't politicians always used "war rooms"? Haven't economics, education, science, even entertainment, become saturated in bitter partisan politics? Is it really a healthy state of affairs to have so many of us walk around angry all the time?
Can difficult political issues ever be separated from the arising of destructive emotions?
I have asked many questions so far but have provided few answers. From its Founding America has always relied on strong religious institutions. A curmudgeon can always point to the strife between religious groups. For thousands of years religious bodies have warred with each other. Every human institution is liable to corruption, because we are human.
Forgiveness is a divine emotion. Forgiveness is a phenomenon. Forgiveness happens: one can want to forgive but not be able to surrender resentment. One can take all the necessary steps prescribed to let go, but still not be able to achieve forgiveness.
It is a huge benefit, one that many people do not realize, to discover that it would be a good thing, a necessary thing for peace of mind, to forgive. Then, given enough time, and having just the right circumstances fall in place, forgiveness happens. And once forgiveness is experienced companionship is possible again.
It is the religious institutions of our nation that provide the guidance that we need to attend to our troubling and turbulent emotions. Our churches create an inner check on our desires. Each of us knows someone who is a living example charity and unselfishness. It is from such people that the human race acquires a conscience. *
"[R]eligion and virtue are the only foundations, not of republicanism and of all free government, but of social felicity under all government and in all the combinations of human society." --John Adams
Some of the quotes following each article have been gathered by The Federalist Patriot at: http://FederalistPatriot.US/services.asp.