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That is why two of the people whose views I most respect are so perceptive in America today. Charles Murray on the political Right and Robert Putnam on the political Left came to the same conclusion, Murray in his 2012 book Coming Apart, Putnam in his 2015 book Our Kids. Between them, they concluded that whilst half of America has supportive friends, communities and families, half doesn’t. America, they argued, has become not one nation, but two nations. It is a divided nation today. So if you lose your religion, you see birth rates decline, but you also see community begin to decline.

And so onto the third:  society. What is society? Over the past 50 years, political discourse has been dominated by two institutions, the market economy and the liberal democratic state. But society is something different from the market and the state. Society is about culture and our shared values and the way we act towards one another. It is about, to quote that great phrase from Alexis de Tocqueville, “habits of the heart”. It’s about our shared spaces in the public square, and the thing about society is, it isn’t the market or the state.

The market is about the production and distribution of wealth. The state is about the creation and distribution of power. Society is about relationships that don’t depend on wealth or power. They’re the way we behave to others, to friends and neighbours and strangers without the market paying us to or the state forcing us to. In Britain and America in the 19th and 20th centuries, we had very strong societies — strong collective identities, a shared moral code, strong voluntary associations. The English tended to take this for granted. A 19th-century Englishman once wrote, “To be born an Englishman is to win the first prize in the lottery of life.”  But America, which received wave after wave of immigrants, had to work for this identity, this shared bond of society. You had a word for it and that word is a very interesting one. It’s a key word in American politics. That word is covenant.

Presidents often speak about it in their inaugural addresses. John Quincy Adams did in 1825. Benjamin Harrison in 1889. Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1937. The most explicit one was Lyndon Johnson in 1965. Listen to this small section of his inaugural address: “They came here, the exile and the stranger, and made a covenant with this land conceived in justice, written in liberty, bound in union. It was meant one day to inspire the hope of all mankind and it binds us still. If we keep its terms, we shall flourish.” The most famous expression of the American covenant is a phrase that is perhaps the key phrase of American politics: “We the people.” It’s a phrase you never hear in Britain, but it’s a key phrase in American politics. It’s there at the preamble to your constitution. It was the leitmotif of Barack Obama’s second inaugural address. He used it five or six times. “We the people” is a phrase that comes from a covenantal view of society because it embodies this notion of collective responsibility, that we’re all in this together and we’re all responsible for one another. That’s a very rare and special and very religious idea.

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April 14th, 2018
10:04 PM
It was Peter Hitchens on Radio 4 yesterday who stated clearly that the far-left in Labour have been infiltrated by islamist groups hemce all the anti-jewish and anti-Zionist activity.

November 27th, 2017
3:11 PM
Pagan science has created the internet and social media that will result in a Labour victory in the next UK election. By `pagan` I mean Camille Paglia`s pagan modernism, it`s democracy and it`s popular culture. Jonathan Sacks is not yet an enthusiast for artist Akiane Kramarik`s paintings (see her website) She`s the only person alive with any direct experience and knowledge of God. Christians and Muslims are also lacking in culture in this respect. The Pope. Jewish leaders and Ayotollah/imams should be inviting her to exhibit. The artworld is just as silent and as ignorant as swans. The Royal Academy has only Gilbert & George being pro Brexit. Bob Smith RA displays his painting BREXIT IS STUPID AND WRONG. And Islam isn`t ? Bob Smith also advocates a boycott of Israel. UK artists,princes and politicians with delusions of adequacy is the new normal. The sexist and misogynistic culture at Messminster is a sexist and misogynistic lack of culture. As an artist I voted Leave and will vote Labour,

Ipsedixit Dixit
November 7th, 2017
8:11 PM
Wonderful article. Thank you

November 3rd, 2017
2:11 PM
{n the kind of religion the world needs now Rabbi Sacks doesn`t include any women. Camille Paglia also describes what cultures are ascending and what declining. I have 40,000 children and none of them visit me.

Interested Reader
October 28th, 2017
7:10 AM
It's articles like that that give us the will and hope to carry on - just when everyone around is saying what's the point, that's the exact moment you need to be on the alert and ready. Take up your cross daily and follow Him.

October 5th, 2017
11:10 AM
The Woody Allen joke describes the Tory Party. When Religion advocates £10 per hour minimum wage ,building thousands of council houses,a Labour Manifesto etc then Religion would `value` people . Capitalism is not secular it`s pagan. Socialism is not secular it`s pagan. Pagan logic,pagan science. Christianity,Islam etc have lost to pagan popular culture and continue to do so. The victory of 17.4 million Brexiteers is a great pagan victory.

September 12th, 2017
5:09 AM
What starts as an interesting article descends into the classic 'it doesn't matter if you believe it or not, but it's better to believe' acts of proselytization.

Jose Carp
September 9th, 2017
9:09 AM
Rav Sir Jonathan Sachs who I admire immensely, omits the fact that the world population has quadrupled in the last 40 years. This has certainly contributed to more ignorance and the dispersion of religions into various sects (some more redical than others).

J Dale Debber
September 8th, 2017
2:09 PM
Rabbi Sacks has put words and meaning to the identification of precisely what is happening In the 21st century world. Moreover he outlines the choice of paths that both societies and individuals have.

North West Johnny
September 1st, 2017
1:09 PM
Rabbi Jonathan Sachs is seriously one of the greatest thinkers of our time. He needs to come home to the UK and speak from every corner of our island to give the silent majority a voice and some direction. The decades to come are going to be dark if we do not break the growing threats to our society.

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