TEXAS FAITH 68: How far should religious institutions go in defining the common good?

Dallas Morning News,

Dallas Morning News,

Each week we will post a question to a panel of about two dozen clergy, laity and theologians, all of whom are based in Texas or are from Texas. They will chime in with their responses to the question of the week. And you, readers, will be able to respond to their answers through the comment box.

Here’s a follow-up to our ongoing dialogue about defining the common good. This

question comes out of the discussion we had at our first Texas Faith public forum last


And the question is this:

How far should churches, synagogues, mosques and other religious institutions go in helping define the common good?

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. certainly acted upon his religious convictions

and led many other people of faith in protesting the nation’s civil rights laws. He believed

his faith was drawing him into the public arena, and his work changed America’s course

for the better.

And he hardly is the only person of faith who has acted upon his beliefs about the public

good. You can find examples from peace movements to the religious right.

Yet it also is true that there is a greater weariness today about the mixing of religion and

politics. Polling data from the Pew Center for Religion & Public Life has shown that. In

fact, a recent Pew poll that showed Americans are growing tired of so much religion in

politics formed the basis of one of our questions back in March.

But I’m not talking here simply about religion and politics. Instead, I’m interested in

hearing your thoughts about the role institutional religion should play in helping shape

the common good, which is not always about politics. The civil rights debate, after all,

was as much about changing the culture and the way Americans live as it was about


NITYANANDA CHANDRA DAS, minister of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), Dallas 

I do not know of any other institution that can do the work of defining and promoting the common good other than a spiritual institution. To understand what is the common good one must know the distinction between the body and the soul. Those who act for the body alone are never satisfied. Their hunger for enjoyment comes at other’s expense.

"A person who is not disturbed by the incessant flow of desires – that enter like rivers into the ocean, which is ever being filled but is always still – can alone achieve peace, and not the man who strives to satisfy such desires." – Bhagavad-gītā As It Is 2.70

Those who are not yet at peace within themselves, whose sense of pleasure is invested in the temporary, cannot do good for themselves or others. (even though they may try)

To see all responses of the TEXAS Faith panel click here.