Sunday, July 30, 2017


Sunday Reflection: On Personal Responsibility

Today I have a piece in the Waco Tribune-Herald (you can read it here). This is the gist of it:

Donald Trump threatens to provide too many excuses for those who struggle and suggests that the government can fix things. Unable to find the kind of job your father had? Not making enough money? The problem is immigration policy, we are told, or free trade. And who will fix that? The government, of course. There is no suggestion that the better outcome for an individual might come about by adapting to the new economy.

In his inaugural address, Trump made clear that government was going to save the day: “We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth. And we will bring back our dreams.” In other words, you will not get a better job because you went back to school or took a risk — you will get a better job because the government will change policies to make things the way they used to be. The government will save you.

My argument is that the Republican Party is in danger of losing one of its principled values, which is an unyielding expectation of personal responsibility. I have always admired that ethic.

But doesn't that make me sound like a Republican?

Maybe. But my faith impacts the way that I think about all of this, too. And that faith says that what we must do is be responsible personally-- that is, be responsible and take the log out of our own eye-- rather than insist that other people be more responsible. Christ taught that we must address our own shortcomings, and be compassionate towards others. Unfortunately, political policies too often are about compassion for self and addressing the shortcomings of others. That's the reverse of the priorities that my faith lays out for me. So when I emphasize personal accountability, that means I need to set a high standard for myself rather than others.

Perhaps that doesn't make sense, but Christianity can come off that way in a self-centered and selfish society. I'm often not a very good Christian, actually, and one of my frequent faults is being self-centered and selfish-- so I suppose that personal accountability project has a long way to go. And if I focus on that, I may not have so much time to lay into others for their supposed failings.

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