A Good Society Depends on Hospitality, Order, and Justice

If you go into any grocery store, the first thing you’ll notice is order. The aisles are in precisely ordered rows. Food, flowers, and goods of all kinds are delegated to specific areas and signs and numbers point to where you can find what you want.

You can also find things based on experience, observation, and signs that post what each aisle contains. There is clarity, predictability, and neatness. Order.

That kind of order is based on order of a different kind—social order. Lower middle-income Americans and people in the economic quintiles above them live, generally, in pleasant communities. They are not perfect or crime-free or without many personal problems, but they are decent and essentially safe and productive because of certain assumptions born-out by common desire and experience.

Among the common threads are family stability, effective law enforcement, and a good infrastructure. The American suburbs and small towns have it pretty good.

Most areas in the world aren’t like many of the ones where we were raised. Were you to visit areas in Syria or northern Nigeria or the slums of any number of developing world cities, you would find great disorder. People living in hovels, crammed in together in no particular pattern. Sanitation is unknown. The threat of attack by bands of terrorists or neighborhood gangs hangs in the air like a cutlass.

Let’s bring it closer to home. Near where I work in Washington, DC, there is a city-run shelter for homeless men and women. Many of them are mentally ill or addicted to drugs or alcohol. These tragically broken image-bearers of God deserve better than to be warehoused in an often dangerous facility with little or no help. In this center, one finds alienation, confusion, fear, and an absence of hope. Social insecurity and uncertainty prevent the order my family and I presume upon just a few miles away.

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