Dear Abby’s column today asked its readers if there is one greatest problem facing society today. My wife and I discussed this over breakfast and decided that we think the basic problem, from which almost all other problems of which we are aware stem, is that there is too much greed and selfishness.
People have always had a tendency towards greed and selfishness but in the past our religious and political leaders almost universally called on us to rise above these baser tendencies. Earlier generations were, at least for an hour a week in church, routinely reminded of what our conscience also tells us when we listen, that we have a primary duty to serve others and to society – not just ourselves. Most of today’s sermons no longer seem to emphasize that. There are even preachers today who preach a theology of greed -- the so-call Prosperity Gospel. They promise that God will reward you with material goods and earthly treasures, rather than the spiritual rewards that religion used to offer.
Political leaders in the past called on their fellow citizens to sacrifice for the common good. “Ask not what your country can do for you...” Today we have entire political and economic theories dedicated to the supposed benefits of greed. They actually claim that we can blindly pursue our individual self interest and the magic of the market will transform those actions into something that will feed the hungry and house the homeless. Look around at the growing income disparity and the number of children and families without health insurance and ask yourself how well that is working out.