Spiritual energies in daily life / Rufus Jones, 86-91.
A genuinely Christian democracy, such as the religious soul is after, cannot be conceived in economic terms, nor can it be content with social units of equality or sameness. We want a democracy that is vitally and spiritually conceived, which recognizes and safeguards the irreducible uniqueness of every member of the social whole. This means that we cannot deal with personal life in terms of external behavior. We cannot think of society as an aggregation of units possessing individual rights and privileges. We shall no longer be satisfied to regard persons as beings possessing utilitarian value or made for economic uses. We shall forever transcend the instrumental idea. We shall begin rather with the inalienable fact of spiritual worth as the central feature of the personal life. This would mean that every person, however humble or limited in scope or range, has divine possibilities to be realized; is not a "thing" to be used and exploited, but a spiritual creation to be expanded until its true nature is revealed. The democracy I want will treat every human person as a unique, sacred, and indispensable member of a spiritual whole, a whole which remains imperfect if even one of its "little ones" is missing; and its fundamental axiom will be the liberation and realization of the inner life which is potential in every member of the human race.
On the economic and equality level we never reach the true conception of personal life. Men are thought of as units having desires, needs, and wants to be satisfied. We are, on this basis, aiming to achieve a condition in which the desires, wants, and needs are well met, in which each individual contributes his share of supplies to the common stock of economic values, and receives in turn his equitable amount. I am dealing, on the other hand, with a way of life which begins and ends, not with a material value-concept at all, but rather with a central faith in the intrinsic worth and infinite spiritual possibilities of every person in the social organism—a democracy of spiritual agents.
It is true, no doubt, as Shylock said, that we all have "eyes, hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions," are "subject to diseases," and "warmed and cooled by summer and winter." "If you prick us we bleed, if you tickle us we laugh, if you poison us we die," and so on. We do surely have wants and needs. We must consider values. We must have food and clothes, and houses. We must have some fair share of the earth and its privileges. But that is only the basement and foundation of real living, and we want a democracy that is supremely concerned with the development of personality and with the spiritual organization of society. We shall not make our estimates of persons on a basis of their uses, or on the ground of their behavior as animal beings; we shall live and work, if we are Christ's disciples, in the faith that man is essentially a spiritual being, in a world which is essentially spiritual, and that we are committed to the task of awakening a like faith in others and of helping realize an organic solidarity of persons who practice this faith. Our rule of life would be something like the following: to act everywhere and always as though we knew that we are members of a spiritual commmunity, each one possessed of infinite worth, of irreducible uniqueness, and indispensable to the spiritual unity of the whole—a community that is being continually enlarged by the faith and action of those who now compose it, and so in some measure being formed by our human effort to achieve a divine ideal.
The most important service we can render our fellow men is to awake in them a real faith in their own spiritual nature and in their own potential energies, and to set them to the task of building the ideal democracy in which personality is treated as sacred and held safe from violation, infringement, or exploitation and, more than that, in which we altogether respect the worth and the divine hopes inherent in our being as men.