Comments about ‘Michael Gerson: Religion and the common good would make the nation better’

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Published: Wednesday, May 8 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

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salt lake city, utah

Nearly every Christian tradition of social ethics encompasses two sorts of justice...the second is a distributive justice...social justice is not the same as egalitarianism, social justice requires a decent provision for the vulnerable, and is not a matter of personal charity, and it is more than crumbs from the table.

This is conservatism prior to Regan and the rise of libertarianism. Strangely enough it is these same principles that now define many of us as "extreme left". I'm sure if these principles governed the Republican party today we would have policy arguments, but we would all be looking in the same direction and would work something out for the common good. Now in places like this thread the phrase common good makes you a communist, rather than a patriot. Sad, sad what's happened. Cheers to Mr. Gerson.

American Fork, UT

"The common good" is by no means a commodity exclusive to religion. In fact, it's way easier to find anything common without the sharp divides religion imposes.

Craig Clark
Boulder, CO

Christianity became so skewed toward a message of personal salvation that the cause of social justice for our fellow man became secondary. It's enough to make one wonder if Jesus failed in what he tried to accomplish.

Tyler D
Meridian, ID

There are three strategies used to promote religion – 1) religion is true, 2) religion is useful, 3) having no religion is bad.

All religions engage in #3 on a regular basis, but by and large liberals tend to focus on #2 while conservatives tend to focus on #1. The problems related to #1 are legion - the obvious problem of “which religion is true?” being at the top of the list - and have the perverse result (from the believer’s perspective) of driving many away from religion, as evidenced by the rise of the “nones.”

Seems like #2 would be the better strategy, and appears to have been the growing strategy since the rise of modern science, but given the historically recent push by conservatives to double down on the first strategy, it is unclear whether this long term trend will continue.

Many religious folks appear resigned to a smaller yet more pure group of core believers – this sentiment has been echoed by many evangelicals as well as the recently retired Pope. But it’s undoubtedly a strategy based on fear and is probably misguided as from the perspective of a non-believer, it simply makes the fish larger and the barrel smaller.

Bountiful, UT

I think it's an admirable idea, using religion for constructive, unifying efforts.

However, I think the phrase "Common Good" poisons the whole effort and concept. This phrase is like "Common Core", which is actually like the word "Communism".

"Common Good" is too easily associated with "Collectivism".

From the conversations I have with the hard right folks I know and converse with, I think they should rename the idea and convince everyone that Democrats and liberals have nothing to do with it.

Then it might work.

Saint George, UT

The problem with the 'common good' is that it has nothing to do with government. The best 'common good' doesn't ever take away individual rights because those rights also are imbued with responsibilities, responsibilities that are shattered by any form of government that isn't guided by God and the Constitution. 'Social justice' is a scary term, a euphemism for government control, and certainly having nothing to do with God!

Ernest T. Bass
Bountiful, UT

One could very easily argue that religion makes the country worse.
Most religious people view democrats as godless and without morals yet it's the democratic philosophy to take care of everyone who needs it. There is nothing religiously about the desire to deny a national healthcare program yet its the right wing base who oppose those sorts of things.

the truth
Holladay, UT

The argument is who will take care of others.

Religion or rather the scriptures are quite clear it is an individual responsibility,

When all are individually acting as one heart and one mind only then you arrive at true community.

Government control and edict take away moral agency and individual responsibility both of which are bad things. and it ends up enslaving making all dependent and controlled, and ends up stopping spiritual progress.

none of that is true religion or true Christianity.

The best solutions start with the individual and agency, not government or communal force and control or compelled "goodness".

Saint George, UT

Ernest T. Bass: It is quite a mystery to me that there are so many democrats and republicans, but mostly democrats, who continue to not understand the concept that government is compulsion, something absolutely contrary to religious belief and God's way of dealing with His children. The principle is so fundamental but for some reason is not comprehended. You can wrap it up in as many different wrappers as you want, but the bottom line is the taking away of agency and delegating to an all powerful entity the ability to compel someone to do something. Jesus never advocated compulsion for a way to help others. His was a gospel of individual decision making! How can goodness, i.e. government charity, healthcare, etc., come from compulsion! How is that possible? In a Democrats mind, the end justifies the mean! How is that a good method of government for any human being? I would ask someone to defend their position, but I'm certain it would do no good. Someone once said that it isn't what a man knows that is true, it is what he knows that just ain't so.

Huntsville, UT

Today's organized religions are focused on more ways to make money than ever before. That is not to say that they can't do good and work for the common good in many other ways, but still, this focus on grander and grandeur should generate pause. The Catholic Church has done a lot of good, as has the Mormon Church and many others, but religion should focus on the soul and not on the secular - stay out of politics.

Also the Golden Rule is not solely a "Christian" concept.

Huntsville, UT


You claim to follow Jesus, yet wasn't it Jesus who said: "Render unto Caesar..."?

Craig Clark
Boulder, CO

Jesus never used the term social justice. That's our term for what he was talking about when he told us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, etc. In doing so, we do it unto him. We are the sheep of the Good Shepherd. In his time, a sheep was a beast offered for sacrifice. Are we not called to sacrifice ourselves in selfless service to our fellow men?

Religion is about the soul. It is in serving others that we find our souls in altruistic labors of love. If all Jesus is to us is a means to personal salvation, then our motives in being Christians are purely egocentric. Jesus asks more of us than that. Much more.

m.g. scott
clearfield, UT

Re: Ranch Hand

You say todays religions are focused on making money. And that they should focus on the soul and stay out of politics. That is why I became a member of the LDS Church when I was 27 years old. Because it was the first church I found that focused on the most important things, not money. As for the politics, the Church does officially stay out, always saying that they do not support any particular political party. Or ask the members to vote a certain way. The only place they might weigh in with a public statement is when an issue is directly related to basic church doctrine, such as same sex marriage. And then, the Church never tells a member that they cannot vote the way they want on any issue. ( Sometimes I wish they did when it came to Harry Reid, but they don't.)

Salt Lake City, UT

The common good has absolutely nothing to do with religion. In fact, I would argue that religion is counter to the common good. Historically religion has taught humans to be ashamed of their bodies, that men should rule over women, that slavery is sanctioned by the Bible, that questions should not be asked, that humans should be obedient sheep, that condoms will help spread AIDS instead of prevent it, and that humans can do whatever they want to the Earth because God said he wouldn't bring another flood.
Rational people can discuss what constitutes the "common good" and how to bring about the "common good", but religion is not based on facts and therefore is not rational. I prefer those that put forward ideas based on evidence to those that are based on myth and fantasy.

m.g. scott
clearfield, UT

Re: Candide

Don't you just love the secular world though? Girls pregnant at 13 because secularism makes no value judgements on sexual behavior. Drugs now becoming more and more legal because secularism makes no value judgements on drug use. Marriage now under attack because secularism makes no value judgements on single parent households. Government dependency increasing because secularism makes no value judgements on personal responsibility and work. No discussions on the "common good" because secularism does not want "judgementalism" on how people behave. Not the world I want to live in.

Tyler D
Meridian, ID

m.g. scott – “Don't you just love the secular world though”

Just to be clear, what you’re talking about is moral relativism and not secularism per se… they are not synonymous.

As someone who considers himself a secular humanist in many respects (and is a huge fan of the first purely secular governing charter in history – the U.S. Constitution), I share much of your apparent disgust with our modern society that seems often incapable of making moral judgments anymore… moral relativism and nihilism run amok.

But I think many secular post-baby boomers (and even some boomers) are beginning to wake up to the fact that many of our guiding moral intuitions have been neutered in the name of extreme tolerance and a 60’s allergy to any form of judgment.

I’m optimistic that with the recent decline of some moral standards combined with the threat of Radical Islam, hopefully we’ve seen the worst of moral relativism and will turn away from the path Europe seems to be struggling with.

Huntsville, UT

@m.g. scott;

Surely you jest. When Gordon B. Hinkley stated: "I vote a straight Republican ticket", you don't think that influenced a large number of active LDS? That was simply an indirect way of telling members to vote Republican ("always follow your leaders", remember?).

Same sex marriage IS a moral issue, but not the one you expect. It is moral to allow loving couples to marry (especially if you are against pre-marital sex). It is IMMORAL to impose your religious views on those NOT OF YOUR FAITH. If you don't believe in same-sex marriages; don't have one. How much more simple could that be? (Do unto others as you'd have them do unto you).

Additionally, the LDS church's constant harping on "pay your tithing" (do you want net blessings or gross blessings) is akin to the moneychangers in the temple. A particular story in the Ensign a few years back comes to mind; a single mother praises her choice to pay tithing, then has to go to the church for funds to pay for clothing and food for her kids. Tragic. Pay your obligations first, then of the surplus pay tithes.

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