Sacrifice and Neighbor-Love
YES, FINE, you might still ask--but so what? Why should we worry about how we treat strangers who do not love us and whom we do not love? In particular, why should we care enough to sacrifice for them? Why should we be generous, or trusting, or even respectful?
The answer I have offered is that a sacrificial civility is a moral obligation. But very little in contemporary political theory teaches us much about the discipline of our desires for the sake of others. Conservatism teaches us to worship our property, liberalism teaches us to worship our rights. Both teach us to worship ourselves, but neither one teaches us to yield our own desires for the sake of others. So where do we go to learn the language of sacrifice? In a nation where both discourse and behavior are dominated by the political ethic of victory-at-any-cost and the market ethic of getting-mine, where do we learn to put aside our own desires and even needs for the sake of the larger good? By now, the answer should be obvious, even if controversial: We go to our churches, our synagogues, our mosques, and our temples. In short, we go to God.
Just before her death in March of 1815, a Mrs. Martha Williams of Providence, Rhode Island, asked that at her funeral the minister