I am truly touched that President Obama wants the government and its citizens to embrace empathy. Certainly, many of the problems facing America (and around the globe) stem from individuals who are motivated only by self-gain, the love of honor and power, and a determination to grab what does not belong to them. This is why Jesus said that we are to love another as our neighbor.
While empathy is noble (even spiritual) it cannot be legislated. There is a growing belief in the “progressive” movement that the obstacle to offering all people equal opportunity lies in flawed institutional systems. Change the system (the way the game is played) and you automatically fix the problem.
What is not taken account is that humans have both an outer and inner reality. So when you legislate love through external laws, inner disdain (from the principle of self-love) continues to nourish itself and remain concealed due to the threat of some punishment and loss of reputation.
Opportunity can lead a person to success or disaster. In other words, when opportunity knocks, evil can answer the door.
I once heard a woman in San Francisco speak about her efforts to improve the quality of the lives of street people. She observed that a number of such downtrodden individuals had artistic talent. So she created an organization that would inspire them to draw and paint and provide some income by selling their artwork.
After the organization proved to be successful, she took the next step by allowing the members to gain important positions on the board and the chance to take part in the company’s policies. She offered them the opportunity and freedom of self-determination. Soon after, she herself was voted out of the board and the members began to raid the treasury.
Similar scandalous activities have emerged from individuals who suddenly win the lottery and begin a descent into devious behavior (there is even a cable channel that has shown a documentary of this phenomenon called “The Curse of the Lottery”). It was not the money that caused these people to act in shameful ways. The money simply gave them the freedom to bring out what was previously hidden – from deep within.
Religion is the only institution that addresses and understands the fallibility and reality of human interiority. God’s laws go deeper than mere obedience to civic laws. They go to the heart of the matter – we must all fundamentally change who we are and transcend our worldly and biological selves. This happens one person at a time.
No other policy change or legislative bonds can bring about a heaven on earth.