Jim Wallis, editor of Sojourners Magazine, argues in his most recent book, On God’s Side, that a key part of the foundation of the United States is its commitment to the common good for every citizen, a principle found in America’s founding documents including the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
Wallis does not equate common good with religion’s love of neighbor, but he does believe they have enough kinship that devout religion and a secular government committed to the common good can join together to produce a more just, equitable and peaceful nation.
Mr. Wallis makes his case that modern America has tragically defined itself first by unconstrained personal freedom, and second by the pursuit of wealth without regard to equity, justice or charity. Both of these defining traits have forsaken the common good inherent in the founding documents – and in the teachings of Jesus and other great religious leaders.
From Mr. Wallis’s perspective, corporations without soul or conscience have been allowed to gain control of the life of the nation. Corporations have become too big to fail and too powerful to submit to meaningful regulation. The greed that drives American corporate life has produced unimaginable wealth for the rich and nagging poverty for the poor. The American middle-class is shrinking. At one time, the minimum wage was a living wage. Today’s minimum wage must be supplemented by food stamps and subsidized housing.