CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (RNS) Harvard University scholar Robert Putnam has
earned a reputation as an expert on the threads that hold America's
social fabric intact. His 2001 bestseller, "Bowling Alone: The Collapse
and Revival of American Community," drew national attention to an
alarming decline in civic engagement.
enemy curses me. No enemy raises fists at me. No enemy persecutes me.
No enemy hates me. I doubt anyone in the enemies of my state - Taliban
or Al-Qaeda - care much about a stay-at-home dad living in a suburb of
nothing in Texas. Frankly, I'm not important enough to have enemies in
this world, and I'm not doing anything important enough that might make
me any, either.
During college, I taped a
religious poster on my dorm room wall. Under a photo of a white country church
against a green, timbered hill were the words, "I lift up my eyes to the hills
from whence cometh my help."
I liked the Bible verse, the scene was pretty, and I enjoyed the peaceful
reminder of rural home places. But a friend who was knowledgeable in scripture
said the poster was theologically incorrect.
If Barbara Kingsolver's masterpiece The Poisonwood Bible has formed your image of Christian missionaries in the 20th century, you need an equal and opposite set of characters to round out (not replace) your historical, theological and literary imagination.
Accumulation of wealth beyond meeting our basic needs doesn’t make us more content, studies show. Dr. Michael Finkelstein says that contentment takes practice. Think back on a time when you felt a sense of contentment, he says—it likely didn’t come from material possessions. “Our task is to simply discover where [contentment] resides” and focus on those times and places. It helps to “practice thinking, believing, and saying that you’re grateful and thankful for what you’ve been given” (excerpt from Slow Medicine: Hope and Healing for Chronic Illness in Utne, July).