You’re both talking about a vision of human flourishing and of the common good that grows out of Christianity. But in a pluralistic society, can this Christian vision be translated into politics?
West: The Christian way of life allows us to look unflinchingly at the wretchedness in the human condition, and still emerge with joy, with a commitment to perseverance. Happiness in the modern sense is not really part of Christian discourse. The Declaration of Independence tells us that we have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But that’s a secular influence. When it comes to spiritual food, I don’t really go to brothers like Thomas Jefferson. When you’re committed to trying to love people, really trying to be a neighbor, then you run into W. H. Auden’s wonderful question: How do you learn to love your crooked neighbor with your crooked heart? That’s the call, that’s what’s demanded, that’s the wretchedness that we must look at unflinchingly. But it doesn’t turn you into a nihilist, or to revenge or hatred. What’s on the other side is following Jesus: “Pick up your cross and follow me.”
George: Human flourishing has got to be something more substantial than just “happiness” considered as a pleasant psychological state that might be induced by serotonin-stimulating drugs, or hedonistic living, or by wielding power over others. We are embodied creatures who are also rational souls. And we can make choices that advance our flourishing in our physical and intellectual lives. We can eat well; we can think carefully; we can nurture our relationships with family members and friends; we can appreciate excellence in literature, music, art and architecture, sports, and other domains; we can delight in the beauty of nature; we can love and honor God. We can make choices that define our character.
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