David Brooks has an excellent piece today in the opinion section of the New York Times. He reflects on the same type of idea I have been talking about here as to the real motivations or helping the poor. Here is a segment of what he said in his op-ed piece.
The discussion also reinforced a thought I’ve had in many other contexts: that community service has become a patch for morality. Many people today have not been given vocabularies to talk about what virtue is, what character consists of, and in which way excellence lies, so they just talk about community service, figuring that if you are doing the sort of work that Bono celebrates then you must be a good person.
Let’s put it differently. Many people today find it easy to use the vocabulary of entrepreneurialism, whether they are in business or social entrepreneurs. This is a utilitarian vocabulary. How can I serve the greatest number? How can I most productively apply my talents to the problems of the world? It’s about resource allocation.
People are less good at using the vocabulary of moral evaluation, which is less about what sort of career path you choose than what sort of person you are.
In whatever field you go into, you will face greed, frustration and failure. You may find your life challenged by depression, alcoholism, infidelity, your own stupidity and self-indulgence. So how should you structure your soul to prepare for this? Simply working at Amnesty International instead of McKinsey is not necessarily going to help you with these primal character tests.
Exactly. Young pastors today are rushing into the social gospel without asking what their motivation or the motivations of their congregants are. I believe that many are substituting "helping the poor" for solving pesonal sin and guilt instead of emphasizing the cross as the solution to that problem and the social gospel coming out of the cross, the cross being the center of Christianity, not the social gospel being the center.
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