Two large thoughts: on the restoration of responsbility and family as the conduit of virtue

In my reading this week I came across two large thoughts that are valuable for the start of a week, and anytime. They are appropriate in a political season, but also for all seasons of our lives.

 1. Progress requires responsibility.  NY Times columnist David Brooks wrote a must-read piece on the disappearing ethic of responsibility and the great need for its return. He writes in The Responsibility Deficit:

 When you listen carefully, you notice the public anger doesn’t quite match the political class anger. The political class is angry about ideological things: bloated government or the predatory rich. The public seems to be angry about values.

 The heart of any moral system is the connection between action and consequences. Today’s public anger rises from the belief that this connection has been severed in one realm after another.

Financiers send the world into recession and don’t seem to suffer. Neighbors take on huge mortgages and then just walk away when they go underwater. Washington politicians avoid living within their means. Federal agencies fail and get rewarded with more responsibilities.

 What the country is really looking for is a restoration of responsibility. If some smart leader is going to help us get out of ideological gridlock, that leader will reframe politics around this end.

2.  Freedom requires virtue:  In an intriguing and colorfully written, yet obscure, book–Ecumenical Jihad (1996)–Boston College professor Peter Kreeft creates a conversation between himself, a Christian, and Confucius about how to save a society. I found this part of the dialogue to include fascinating insights:

 “Moral goodness is much more important than freedom or rights, as shocking as that may sound to you. Only virtuous people will be free, and only virtuous people will freely grant other their rights. So virtue is the practical foundation of both rights and freedoms, not visa versa.”

 “Is this individual, private virtue or social, public virtue that you are putting first,” I asked.

 “Something between the two, which is the foundation of both.”

 “What could that possibly be?”


“The family. How could you have forgotten it? Only good families can make good states; isolated, uprooted individualists can’t. And only good families can teach individuals to be good. The state can’t. So ‘family values’ must come first. And these families must be enlarged, not shrunk—in size and importance. Large extended families work.”


Responsibility and virtue (via the family).  A good place to start our thinking this new week.


About Jim Jewell

I am a writer and consultant on faith and public life, active for many years in management and communications in the evangelical community. I now work as the director of the nonprofit practice at The Valcort Group ( Everything on this blog, however, is my personal opinion and is not read or approved before it is posted. Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Valcort.
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