Imagining New Neighborly Covenants

Covenant is a different way of ordering social relationships. It leads to a more intimate, a more interdependent way of being. Contracts are more based on agreement between autonomous individuals.

Our task is to imagine a culture ordered differently. Imagine the human benefit of an alternative to the market ideology that defines our culture. We call this the Neighborly Covenant because it enlivens and humanizes the social order. The Neighborly Covenant is an alternative to a market ideology that has reached its limits, no matter how high the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbs. The map we have really isn’t working. It is visibly flawed. We see in every political campaign a rhetoric designed solely for marketing the candidate, not for meaning. We force all politicians into promising what they can’t deliver. It becomes a concentrated version of the consumer ideology. Citizen as consumer, candidate as supplier. And so we campaign and vote on marketing slogans: liberal, conservative, values, democracy, end poverty, maintain standard of living, jobs, education, marriage this, guns that. These catchphrases are just code words, like advertising, that exploit people’s needs and anxiety for the sake of candidate market share, namely winning their votes. This language is another subversion of the common good and the longing for public servants. We think the wish for an alternative culture will be fulfilled in the ballot box. What we are proposing is language for alternative ways to a covenantal culture. The free market consumer ideology has defined the dominant codes, that particular way of talking about our culture. This is what has led us to stalemate. Our work is to create another set of code words—ones that are active beyond election years and have different substance in defining our communal identity. This is the departure.  

To depart the systems of scarcity and contracts, we must leave for the wilderness, ready to learn a new vocabulary together. Here are just a few phrases from the last week’s readings you may want to use to inspire your own continued departure:

  • How might I trust my community?
  • How am I making, repairing, or sustaining promises?
  • When do I most believe that there will be enough in the face of uncertainty?
  • What habits help me to open to a mystery larger than my certainty and control?
  • Can I dare to make covenants that realize both divine resolve and human agency?
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