Speaking at the jubilee celebration for Queen Elizabeth, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, talked about the meaning of dedication: "to be absolutely removed from other uses, being completely available to God." Dedication, he said, involves "a genuine embrace of those others, a willingness to be made happy by the well-being of our neighbors ... Dedication to the service of a community certainly involves that biblical sense of an absolute purge of selfish goals, but it is also the opening of a door into shared riches." The queen's six decades of service, he said are "living proof that public service is possible and that it is a place where happiness can be found."
Politics is frequently panned by the understandably cynical as good for nothing, most especially the soul of man. But it doesn't have to be that way.
The archbishop looked toward a future of a "rebirth of an energetic, generous spirit of dedication to the common good and the public service, the rebirth of a recognition that we live less than human lives if we think just of our own individual good." He echoed St. Paul: "We have gifts that differ according to the grace given us -- the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness. Outdo one another in showing honor, extend hospitality to strangers, rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; take thought for what is noble in the sight of all."
Show honor, even to the employee of someone you oppose. At a training session for some young people in Virginia last month, Jack Valero, co-founder of Catholic Voices, a successful media-evangelization program in England (which I'm involved with on these shores), was asked whether his colleagues receive hate mail when they appear on TV making the case for the Catholic Church's position on issues like gay marriage. They don't, he said, because their presentation seeks to be ego-free. Their approach is not expressly Catholic; it is, rather, based on common decency, on finding the positive intention in the person you're conversing with or trying to reach. It's not going for the jugular, as the rhetorical gladiators do on "Crossfire."
Civic life isn't for the perfect. But the political life can be a noble and even holy path. We should expect more of our politics, and be intolerant toward tactics that pervert it into a means of destruction.
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