From the Editor

A modest proposal

Michael L. Sherer

Michael L. Sherer

Here’s a suggestion for a couple signs we could erect in public

Some observers believe the last election was decided as it was because “moral values” have been ignored or spurned in the United States. I suspect it was more complicated than that, although “values” was surely a buzzword.

I’ve heard devout believers say a sure sign of our nation’s moral decay is the removal of the Ten Commandments from court houses and other civic locations. Thomas Jefferson might have argued that decay is evidenced through the act of placing such displays on public property. But, then again, Thomas Jefferson wasn’t really a Christian, so why should he be shaping the public agenda for Americans?

I rather like the modest proposal put forth recently by a friend of mine who teaches religion and philosophy on the West Coast. He suggested, “Let’s post the Magnificat and the Beatitudes in the White House.” Certainly in the current values-friendly climate that’s not such a bad idea. There might even be religious groups ready to step forth and pay for the posting.

The Magnificat, of course, is that wonderful hymn of thanksgiving sung by Mary, the mother of Jesus, after learning she will be the mother of God’s Son. The theme of this powerful text is that God will cast down the mighty from their thrones and lift up “those of low degree.”
Likewise, the Beatitudes (a section of Matthew’s “Sermon on the Mount”) remind us who is and will be truly blessed (“happy,” according to some translations). Included are those who know they are spiritually poor, those who mourn, those who are humble, those who desire what God requires, those who are merciful, those who are pure in heart and those who work for peace.

Of course, it’s about as likely that the Beatitudes and the Magnificat will end up prominently displayed in “the people’s house” in Washington D.C. as it is that the stone Ten Commandments monument will be returned to its place of one-time civic prominence in downtown Duluth, Minnesota.
Perhaps, then, we could start a drive to get these two documents displayed in Christian houses of worship — Christian of all stripes. They could help us better to remember, as a brand new year begins, what “moral values” truly mean for the followers of Jesus. The New Testament Gospels are consistent in telling us that we value God when we value vulnerable people — in the womb and after they are born.