It has become accepted in many circles that religion should play no role in public discourse, that it be confined to spiritual institutions attended frequently or not at all, like the gym. After all, look at the destruction throughout the world in the name of religion that continues today. But at the same time, it can’t be disputed that religious values built America, whose founding documents, such as the Declaration of Independence, are replete with references to the rights of man:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks of Britain has noted,
“Science will explain how but not why. It talks about what is, not what ought to be. Science is descriptive, not prescriptive; it can tell us about causes but it cannot tell us about purposes. Indeed, science disavows purposes.”
Thus, we must look outside science to find meaning, which is the role of philosophers and theologians. One of the core messages of Christmas and Chanukah is the belief that we are all responsible for each other’s well-being.
The battle between the selfish and the selfless plays itself out over housing in the suburbs where the place you live, with few exceptions, determines your destiny. The people you meet, the schools you attend, the safety you enjoy all contribute to opportunity or the lack thereof. Suburban zoning that eliminates the poor and minorities by restricting development to expensive forms of housing violates our most enduring values. As we confront the restrictive zoning that has created homelessness and cost burdens for working families, let the message of Christmas and Chanukah mark a time of reflection and understanding that when it comes to housing, we are our brother’s keeper.
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