November 2006 - Volume 11, Issue 4

What It Takes

By Rev. Ray Petrucci

Photo of a city at duskAnumber of years ago Senator Hilary Clinton titled her book with the African adage: It takes a village to raise a child. The recognition and appreciation of the multifaceted effects of the institutions, groups, and values of society on the development of the individual is growing in significance. The weightiness of this statement is underscored by a unique historical phenomenon: A majority of the human population of the earth now lives in cities. Admitting the diversity of city life, the success and, indeed, the survival of these urban entities carry certain requirements. Throughout history, the inhabitants of cities came to understand civic life as being influenced by religion, commerce, security, and a common vision. City dwellers share a sense of pride and togetherness in the positive endeavors that build a community.

The importance of community in human existence largely has been ignored or diminished outright by postmodernist commentators. The exaltation of self over all other considerations has become paramount. A commonality of moral purpose or of ethical vision is to be most vigorously resisted. Personal responsibility for the health of a community is unfashionable. A reality such as this portends national woes that are as catastrophic as any act of terrorism.

In the sprawling cities of the developing world, the lack of a healthy economy and the absence of a stable political order loom as the most pressing problems. The critical problems facing urban regions in the West, and in developed parts of East and South Asia as well, are of a different nature. Though safe and prosperous, these cities seem to lack a shared sense of sacred place, civic identity, or moral order. And the study of urban history suggests that affluent cities without moral cohesion or a sense of civic identity are doomed to decadence and decline.

- Joel Kotkin

Generations imbued with the doctrine of narcissism have labored rather unsuccessfully to fulfill the human desire for loyal friendships and lasting marriages. An insufficiency of knowledge and practice in the skills of molding strong and loving interpersonal relationships is more than apparent. One might conclude that the end of their long and desultory journey will leave them isolated and medicated.

It takes a Church to raise a world. The underpinning of the moral character of a society or of a world is to be found in what it worships. The golden idols of power, materialism, wealth, ideology, and so forth, need to be non-deified. These very real forces in life must acquiesce to a more propitious expression in human activity. The abode of the sacred in the human heart lends itself by the very nature of its location to the need of communion. God is love and desires an intimate closeness with the object of that love. Whether pondering a Trinity of Persons in One God or the significance of being a member of the Body of Christ, the essential feature of faith is life in community. Thus, the reason for being is to be for others. These words signify a radical departure from current sentiment. A world of people needs to be evangelized, to be taught about the ultimate source of their value, and to become cognizant of a shared mission to care for one another and the planet upon which they live.

Photo of a church steple in AutumnAssuredly, most would say that this image of a world in which people and nations heeded God's will in determining their relationships is the most fanciful of pipe dreams. Yet, the norm of mutual interest is employed commonly in establishing relations between peoples. Perhaps, this concept could be extended to a higher plain than trade and commerce or even security. Perhaps, the realization that we all belong to a global community and that God holds us accountable for the gift of life and that we essentially seek the same things for ourselves and our loved ones may benefit the whole field of human relationships.

It takes a Christian community that actually sought to follow Christ. It takes a common moral strength that would thwart the machinations of any madman toward seizing power. It takes an unflagging personal effort to act with dignity and decency. In the truest spirit of this Thanksgiving Day, it takes each citizen to fashion and to sustain a City of God.