The moral conversation

David Brooks hits the moral conversation issue hard again. 

Where do we find the answers to the great questions we have, such as, “What is the purpose of my life?” We still ask those kinds of things, but where are the voices that can help guide the answers? Public conversation doesn’t want a moral voice any long. We want political voices. It’s so odd that as much as we say we hate politics and political voices, that’s really all that’s left.

For instance, we don’t really want someone helping us form a more full-voiced opinion on immigration. We only want to find the voices that fit our narrow bandwidth of opinion and camp on that. All other voices that may help nuance our position, or help us modulate our position, are simply “too left” or “too right.”

Public debate is now undermoralized and overpoliticized. We have many shows where people argue about fiscal policy but not so many on how to find a vocation or how to measure the worth of your life. In fact, we now hash out our moral disagreement indirectly, under the pretense that we’re talking about politics, which is why arguments about things like tax policy come to resemble holy wars.

We’re good at offering knowledge, or at least our slim view of it, but not much on wisdom. And we certainly don’t want a moral discussion in the public square any more. It’s about our political agendas, but not about what is wisdom in a situation, or how to attain an overarching wisdom that can help inform particular situations.

Baltimore. Ferguson. The shooting in Garland, Texas. All politicized powder kegs.

The Connecticut school shooting? The Aurora shooting? All politicized powder kegs. Have we had the needed conversation on mental health in this country? Nope.

Hopefully the conversation is shifting, and David Brooks is offering to help find a way to facilitate it. Read his column and join in on the conversation.

Where do you find your source of wisdom? Where have your found your purpose? Who has helped you on that journey? How does that inform your life?

Those are the big block questions we really need to put on the table and let people wade through in this volatile time.

The moral voice

David Brooks continues to be one of my favorite columnists in a the dying industry of journalism. In the past few years he has done more to raise solid moral questions for the culture and he does it without a shrill voice. (Shrill would describe a lot of the comments he gets in the “comments” section below his columns.)

THIS COLUMN is a “coming out” for him. He makes it clear that, yes, he is trying to ask moral questions for a culture. And for him, yes, it is necessary.

People sometimes wonder why I’ve taken this column in a spiritual and moral direction of late. It’s in part because we won’t have social repair unless we are more morally articulate, unless we have clearer definitions of how we should be behaving at all levels.

There are tough questions that can be asked of anyone in a particular society. They don’t have to be yelled out, but it is wise if we would somehow get our cultural guts back and ask them. 

Next it will require holding people responsible. People born into the most chaotic situations can still be asked the same questions: Are you living for short-term pleasure or long-term good? Are you living for yourself or for your children? Do you have the freedom of self-control or are you in bondage to your desires?

Those are excellent question anywhere in the world. They are really necessary in our day and in our nation. We are rudderless at a very high speed and that isn’t a good situation. At some point, hard questions need to be gently asked… over and over.

We should start with the Church in America. And move from there.