What kind of Minnesota do you want?

| Kathy Tomlin | September 21, 2010 | 1 Comment

Bike RideCreating the space for civil discourse is a contribution the church could and should make as we debate the important issues before us.

The church, as a sanctuary of peace, could be the place that gives us the solace and calm to listen attentively to other members of the community as we discern the kind of Minnesota we want for ourselves.

To be sure, people have a lot on their minds these days: a jobless recovery, unemployed young adults returning home, the cost of a college education, ailing seniors afraid to give up a job, and more families in poverty. All of these can make it difficult for us to focus our energy beyond our own particular problems.

The constant barrage of partisan ads makes it seem like there is no room for conversation and little opportunity for us to come together and talk about the varied perspectives we have on issues.

The church has no role in partisan politics or debates over candidates. But it does have a role in inviting people to reflect on what kind of a state we want and the quality of life that will prepare our children for success.

Focusing on children

About 19 years ago, when I first came to Minnesota, Archbishop John Roach had just declared that we spend a year focused on our kids.

The “Blest Be the Children” campaign kicked off with a large forum at St. Paul Seminary. Nineteen years ago may seem like a long time, but in the early ‘90s, we were going through a recession and were debating some of the very same issues that are part of the political fray today.

Looking back, I have to ask myself if it seems that our kids are more blessed today than they were back then. Will they have the education, health and housing stability that will ensure success?

Perhaps the larger question is: “What does one generation owe the next?”

There are a variety of perspectives on this question that guide the decisions we make as a society. Just looking at three of them clearly demonstrates the differences:

» Viewpoint No. 1: Given the increased life expectancy and the advancing age of the U.S. population, it is impossible for younger generations to think that they could possibly provide for the generation or two ahead of them. The cost of health care alone would place a heavy burden on succeeding generations. Each generation must do its very best to save enough money to care for itself in its twilight years.

» Viewpoint No. 2: Caring for the elderly and caring for our children are ultimately the responsibilities of family. Parents are the best teachers of morals and values for their children. Adult children, in return, should assist their parents with the supports needed as they become more frail and less able to deal with the “chores” of everyday life.

» Viewpoint No. 3: The success of one generation depends on the investment made by previous generations. Conversely, the health and well-being of older generations de­pends on the investment of younger generations. This isn’t just a private family obligation but a societal one that builds the common good and prepares for the future. Each generation cannot afford to just look to the one ahead or the one behind, but must recognize that actions taken today may affect generations 75 years away.

Civil discourse forum

The staff of Catholic Charities’ Office for Social Justice believes that we should find ways to have a more civil national/state discourse on questions like these.

To that end, Professor Mike Klein from the University of St. Thomas will be leading a forum from 7 to 9 p.m. on Oct. 6 at St. John the Baptist Church in New Brighton. It is entitled “Civil Civic Discourse: Skills for Healthy Conversation.”

It is our hope that Professor Klein will help us create congregations that are not only sacred spaces for common prayer, but safe and sacred places for community discussion. Please see http://www.osjspm.org for more information.

Kathy Tomlin is director of Cath­olic Charities’ Office for Social Jus­tice.

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Category: This Catholic Life