“The more plural a society we become, the more we need to reflect on what holds us together. ”
“In a society of plurality and change, there may be no detailed moral consensus that can be engraved on tablets of stone. But there can and must be a continuing conversation, joined by as many voices as possible, on what makes our society a collective enterprise: a community that embraces many communities. ”
“We have neglected the institutions needed to sustain communities of memory and character. The assumption has been that society could exist on the basis of the private choices of individuals and the occasional intervention of the state, as if these were the only significant entities in our social landscape. But a plural society needs a moral and cultural base. ”
“Just as there is political, so there is religious totalitarianism, and it comes from eroding the distinction between religion and God. God is the covenantal partner to particular forms of religious living. But beyond this He is the author of all being in its irreducible diversity. A plural society tests to the limit our ability to see God in religious forms which are not our own. ”
“In relation to nature, God is creator, but in relation to society, God is a teacher. ”
“[At Sinai] a fundamental truth was established: that a free society must be a moral society, for without the rule of law, constrained by the overarching imperatives of the right and the good, freedom will eventually degenerate into tyranny, and liberty, painfully won, will be lost. ”
“In a plural society – all the more so in a plural world – each of us has to settle for less than we do when we associate with fellow believers. ”
“Society is a moral construct, a place where freedom is a collective reality to which all contribute and by which all have equal access, if not to wealth and power, then at least to human dignity in its most tangible forms: food to eat, clothes to wear, a source of independent livelihood, and a home. ”
“Society is where we come together to achieve collectively what none of us can do alone. It is our common property. We inhabit it, make it, breathe it. It is the realm in which all of us is more important than any of us. It is our shared project, and it exists to the extent that we work for it and contribute to it. ”
“It is not that religious people have abandoned society: it is that they feel society has abandoned them. ”
“Society does not belong to any of us, but to all of us. It is the home we build together. ”
“Just as God creates the natural universe, so we are called on to create the social universe – a universe, like that of the planets and starts, that is ordered, rule-governed, a space of integrated diversity, a world we can see and saw, as God saw and said, that it is good. ”
“Society is made out of the contributions of many individuals. What they give is unimportant; that they give is essential. Society is what we build together – and the more different types of people there are, the more complex and beautiful will be the structure we create. The important thing is that we build together. A nation is made by contributions, not claims; active citizenship, not rights; what we give, not what we demand. A national identity can be made out of the contributions of many cultures, many faiths. What matters is that together we build something none of us could make alone. ”
“What the great religions understand is that society is larger than the state. Politics depends on pre-political virtues, nurtured in non-political environments: the family, the community, the congregation. These are where were first discover the give and take of reciprocity and the healing power of love and forgiveness. They are where we learn to negotiate the tensions between independence and inter-dependence. They are the matrix of the larger ‘We’ that makes possible the ‘I’. They are where we acquire moral intelligence. Without families, communities and friends, society becomes a mere aggregation of individuals, ‘the lonely crowd’, without trust or grace or meaning: without hope. ”
“What then is society? It is where we set aside all considerations of wealth and power and value people for what they are and what they give. It is where Jew and Christian, Muslim and Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh, can come together, bound by their commonalities, enlarged by their differences. It is where we join in civil conversation about the kind of society we wish to create for the sake of our grandchildren not yet born. It is where we share an overarching identity, a first language of citizenship, despite out different second languages of ethnicity or faith. It is where strangers can become friends. It is not a vehicle of salvation, but it is the most effective form yet devised for respectful coexistence. Society is the home we build together when we bring our several gifts to the common good. ”
“When a society loses its religion it tends not to last very long thereafter. It discovers that having severed the ropes that moor its morality to something transcendent, all it has left is relativism, and relativism is incapable of defending anything, including itself. ”