How America keeps the Sabbath day holy occupies my thoughts quite a bit. I really like to discuss this question with Americans of whatever faith. I do think it is something worthy of extremely serious thought, both for us as individuals and the country as a whole. We used to have blue laws that required businesses to close on Sunday, and now it almost seems that Sunday is not treated any different than other days. What is the best course of action that America should pursue in this regard?
Below are some pictures from St. James Episcopal Church in Leesburg, Virginia and an excerpt from the interview with a very energetic group of members about this topic.
In 2009 we began contemplating whether America's numerous and diverse places of faith (including the personal "spirituality" place of faith) are successful enough in teaching us virtues that are indispensable to a society trying to govern itself. While faiths aren't the only entities that teach virtue, they have a long history of doing so, and are generally considered to have been a great help in the founding, saving, and perpetuation of the American experiment in self-government.
We had noticed that there was a growing gap between the collective behavior one might expect from a "believing" country (~90% of American believe in God, by some surveys) and actual behavior.
- Americans as a whole are experiencing great difficulty with entering into and keeping marriage vows, historically and traditionally a religious rite.
- It would be difficult to argue that the religious majority "remember[s] the sabbath day, to keep it holy".
- Reports of domestic abuse, a contradiction of all forms of the Golden Rule, continue to grow.
- McMansions, reflective of materialism, anathema to almost all religious creeds, are not considered extravagant by most Americans.
While we didn't think that religion, or faith, would solve all of these - we observed that the tenets of many faiths naturally address a large number of our greatest problems. That is, we thought, if more of us followed more of our declared faiths' beliefs more carefully, would many of our problems be reduced in size?
So, we decided to try and initiate a national conversation about the collective capacity of our places of faith to instill necessary virtues in America's citizens. We would travel the country and visit places of faith to discover what virtues they taught, how successful they were in doing so, and the extent of their reach. At each church, synagogue, or temple we would interview the spiritual leader and lay members, as well as visit a worship service to take photographs. The collected information would be disseminated via various media outlets - something similar to what StoryCorps does.
The pilot program lasted about 18 months, and we surveyed 16 places of faith in Loudoun County, Virginia. It was exceptionally successful. We are now expanding the project nationally.
The subject of this blog from this point into the far future will mostly be to feature these places of faith and their virtue-teaching capacities, and bring the reader excerpts from the interviews and photographs. Hopefully we can all then carefully think about whether we are adopting virtues sufficient enough to be "keepers", as Ben Franklin used the word, of the republic.
I hope you will come back periodically and follow us on this national survey.
Below are some pictures of 2nd Mount Olive Baptist Church just east of Hamilton, Virginia. I will post some interview excerpts later.
Chris Stevenson investigates the indispensability of faith to the American experiment in self-governance.