Reflections to a lecture on leadership and personal responsibility.
As I listened, John Winthrop's 1630 sermon "A Model of Christian Charity" came to my mind. (Still aboard the ship Arbella, Winthrop admonished the future Massachusetts Bay colonists that their new community would be a "city upon a hill", watched by the world. Winthrop's sermon gave rise to the widespread belief in American folklore that the United States of America is God's country because metaphorically it is a “Shining City upon a Hill”, an early example of American exceptionalism.)
On 9 January 1961, President-Elect John F. Kennedy returned the phrase to prominence during an address delivered to the General Court of Massachusetts:
…”History will not judge our endeavors—and a government cannot be selected—merely on the basis of color or creed or even party affiliation. Neither will competence and loyalty and stature, while essential to the utmost, suffice in times such as these. For of those to whom much is given, much is required”...
I started scribbling a diagram on a napkin and noted that Los Angeles in not on a hill. Returning to the napkin, I wrote "You" in the middle, and around it I penned in all the big questions that affect our lives. Among the rays pointing towards us are work, education, utilities, housing, health care, food, natural resources, global interdependence, human rights, arts and entertainment, transportation, infrastructure, security and justice.
The cockeyed bit about all of these critical parts is that we elect or submit ourselves to others to make these big decisions.
Chances are you’re not particularly happy about how that’s working for you. In the shining city on my napkin, you have the right, and responsibility, to make the choices you feel are necessary for your life and your community.
So how is it that we built this new society based on autonomy, equality, self-management, mutual-aid, solidarity, diversity, and participation across all spheres of life and ended up with…?
Personal responsibility was, and I believe should be, a key principle, and if it applies to our spirituality, I see no reason to omit it from all aspects of our life. That would mean that we need to build and understand our community, and address the pressing issues of our time in the best way that we can, because there is so much to be addressed.