Practicing the Better: Our Marching Orders, #2

Rebuilding the foundations is the action we take to practice the better.  Using Jonathan Haidt’s moral foundation principles, we looked last week at caring and fairness.  We look at his remaining four foundations today.

The third foundation is loyalty.  It contradicts tribalism.  Loyalty is not ultimately to a particular group (though community is necessary), but rather to the highest and best we know (e.g. Philippians 4:8-9).  It is what religions mean when they refer to life together, but loyalty which refuses to allow the status quo must to become a sacred cow.  In the words of Jesus, it honors tradition, but does not allow the traditions of people to eclipse the will of God.

The fourth foundation is authority.  It contradicts domination.  Authority means a person is both a leader and a follower.  True authority is humble, submissive, accountable.  It is what religions mean when they speak of leadership. In the words of Jesus it is remembering that the greatest person is the servant of all.

The fifth foundation is sanctity. It contradicts contamination. It identifies faults in individuals, groups, systems, institutions, ideologies, and in the planet itself. Sanctity is what religions mean when they speak of cleansing and purification.  In the words of Jesus it is cleansing the inside of the cup, not just the outside.

The sixth foundation is liberty.  It contradicts oppression. Liberty is solidarity which resists any and all expressions of domination and discrimination.  It is what religions mean when they teach nonviolence.  In the words of Jesus it is being salt, light, and leaven.

We have barely scratched the surface on these means for practicing the better.  I am not surprised that Walter and John Bruggemann used them to describe what rebuilding the foundations looks like.  Taken together these foundations undermine imperialism, but they do so in constructive ways–in ways we have been calling practicing the better.

We are called to be rebuilders–the simultaneous task of removing the “stuff” of empire and replacing it with the shalom of God’s will.  This is practicing the better.

About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 45 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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