"Wealth will increasingly be defined by our ability to go offline whenever we want." - Fernando Gros
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Blog // Thoughts
November 7, 2008

de Tocqueville And The Whole Point Of Political Debate

Andrew Sullivan pulled out a fantastic quote from Alexis de Tocqueville yesterday, “The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults,” The ability to repair faults is a powerful way to measure the morality and politics of any system, institution or […]

Andrew Sullivan pulled out a fantastic quote from Alexis de Tocqueville yesterday,

“The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults,”

The ability to repair faults is a powerful way to measure the morality and politics of any system, institution or society. All too often injustices and evils are defended by propagandists who claim that the existence of such problems in other groups are a kind of justification – e.g., racism exists in every country so the racism you encounter here is not worth worrying about.

But, if the measure that counts is not relative morality, but reparative morality, then that argument falls to the ground. Our evaluations cannot be static and must lead us to see which direction a society is moving towards and how far it has come.

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roy donkin 14 years ago

and how would we fare if we used that quote as the measure of the Church? I fear poorly.

Fernando Gros 14 years ago

Actually, Roy, I have been in churches that would fare not too badly by that quote – though in terms of “the church” as a whole, sure.

But, in a way, isn’t an inspiring quote? I find the idea of a church that shuns the claim of moral perfection, in favour of moral humility and the desire to do what they can to fix their faults very, very appealing.

Toni 14 years ago

Interesting question, Roy. Like Fern, I’d say I’ve known many churches that are repairative more than perfectionist. Without wishing to either accuse or point fingers, maybe this is a characteristic of some North American thinking that is reflected in both politics and church?

Fernando Gros 14 years ago

When I read and hear comments from USamerican evangelical and fundamentalist Christians, I’m often struck by the use of terms like “moral clarity,” “moral certainly” and having a “clear conscience” with regard to supporting political and social policy platforms. I’ve spent most of my years around evangelicals, so I’m accustomed to people who are fairly certain of their positions on theology and personal morality. But, when it comes to public policy issues, most folks I’ve known are more circumspect.

On a local church level I’ve seen some horrid cases where there has been a a lack of grace and hospitality. But, I think there is also a clear and relevant difference in terms of authority and leadership in the local church.

roy donkin 14 years ago

Fernando & Toni, I too have known many churches that were humble in their stands (although still committed to faithfulness). They are attractive.

Yes, Toni, I fear that hubris is a characteristic of both church and politics in the US.

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