Devout Citizens

On 9/11/2001, our nation was united with the spirit that “We Shall Overcome.” Now, a decade later, we live in a toxic, shouting, angry national environment. And, not just in our political lives, but everywhere we turn. How did this happen, and what can we do to change it?

We know that we must be politically involved, and that we should vote. Nonpartisan organizations, like No Labels, countless issue groups, and even President Obama all encourage us to contact our representatives. But what else can we do?

How can we be Devout Citizens? How can we live our lives as models for what we want our families, our groups and organizations, and our nation to be?

To be Devout is to respect the values and interests of others. To be Devout is to be passionate and compassionate. To be Devout is to have a higher purpose in one’s life than merely one’s daily existence. To be Devout is to be committed to a cause or belief. To be Devout is to seek common ground for the common good.

A Devout Citizen avoids simple slogans and responses to the complex challenges of today. A Devout Citizen seeks to learn more and to understand the competing interests that must be balanced.

A Devout Citizen understands that no one can have their way all of the time, not political leaders and not ordinary citizens. Sometimes, we must follow. Sometimes, we must trust others to make decisions for us, and we must respect their judgment. Without followership, there can be no effective leadership.

A Devout Citizen creates space for conversations. In a world of instant communications, the ability to be heard does not automatically mean that one’s views will be respected or that one’s wishes will be followed. The right to be heard does not mean that one’s views are right.

A Devout Citizen sets a noble example for others to follow, and follows the noble examples of others. A Devout Citizen seeks the common good by building a Devout Community of noble examples.

It is time to put aside more than our labels; we must also put aside the idea that the solution to our problems lies with “them.” To think that if only “they” would compromise, seek common ground, and work in the best interests of everyone, is to miss a larger point. We are all part of the “they.”

We are all part of the problem, and we all can be part of the solution. We all create the society in which we live, and we all can make it better. We all can be kinder and more caring, more thoughtful and more respectful. We can all be Devout Citizens in a Devout World.