TCF and The Common Good
I wonât pretend that I donât take a position on the creation/evolution debate. And Iâll admit that there have been times when Iâve felt polarized from my Christian brothers and sisters due to our differing positions, and I have come to the conclusion that these momentary schisms often mimic the polarities of American partisan politics, where reflections on the common good are woefully absent.Â Whatâs worse, very often the church is also guilty of neglecting the concept of the common good, which can have at least two consequences: it can result in a sectarianism that rejects any possibility of cultural participation, and it can render unintelligible the churchâs own vision of the common good. These consequences, Iâm afraid, carry over into our conversations on evolution and creationism. Andy Crouch has recently written an article for Christianity Today that briefly outlines the content of Pope Leoâs XIIIâs papal encyclical, Rerum Novarum (âOf New Thingsâ), which kicked off the movement known as Catholic social thought. Crouch engages this encyclicalâs idea of âthe common good,â which he says Christians have generally defined as "the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily." Drawing from Leoâs insights, Crouch says the following: âThe common good is measured by fulfillment or flourishingâby human beings becoming all they are meant to be. And the common good is about persons, both groups and individualsânot just about 'humanity' but about humans, and not just about individuals but about persons in relationship with one another in small groups.â Furthermore, â[The common good] can both draw Christians into engagement with the wider society and prevent that engagement from becoming âall about politicsâ. . . . Family above all, but also congregations, guilds, and clubsâthese âprivate associations,â with all their particular loyalties, paradoxically turn out to be essential to public flourishing. If we commit ourselves to the common good, we must become more public in our thinking and choices, and at the same time not too public. The common good is sustained most deeply where people know each other's names and facesâŚâ The Colossian Forum cares deeply about the common good. In a significant sense, the reason TCF exists is to bring persons in relationship with one another in small groups, to cultivate the virtues of charity and hospitality in order to receive our differing positions as gifts. Rather than fostering a sectarian imagination, TCF hopes to embody the way the world is supposed to be precisely by partaking in the worshipping practices that shape us into the kinds of people whose idea of the common good is intelligible. This is done as a means of public witness for the sake of public flourishing. And TCFâs mode of discourse and action is an alternative to that of mainstream politics, where âsidesâ and âpositionsâ seem to exist for the mere purpose of battling other sides and positions. Given the truth that all things hold together in Christ, positions simply will not receive that kind of reverence. Crouch seems to agree: â[The] common good can give us common ground with our neighbors. We may not agree with themâindeed, Christians don't always agree with one anotherâabout what exactly human flourishing looks like. But the common good is a conversation starter rather than a conversation ender. It can move us away from pitched battles over particular issues and help us reveal the fundamental questions that often lie unexplored behind them. In a time when many conversations between people with different convictions seem to end before they begin, we simply need more conversation starters.â I still take a position on the creation/evolution conversation, but The Colossian Forum has helped me understand that Christ transcends my position, and that schisms over this debate do not serve the common good of the church or the common good of the world.