Are you a member of an organization that was started by citizens to help make the world a better place?
How much of your time is spent volunteering?
How much money do you devote to philanthropic causes?
These are questions we should all as ourselves as we consider the applied role that citizenship and religion should play in our lives.
Active community service is not only central to my belief as a Christian generally and a member of the Mormon Church specifically, but participation in society is incumbent upon us as citizens of a democracy.
“Western societies are not held together primarily by the overall enforcement of laws, which would be impractical, but most importantly by citizens who voluntarily obey the unenforceable because of their internal norms of correct behavior. For many, it is religious belief in right and wrong and anticipated accountability to a Higher Power that produces such voluntary self-regulation.” Elder Dallin H. Oaks
Read the transcript of his talk The Complementary Functions of Religion and Government in a Global Setting here.
One of my favorite things about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the humanitarian aide work that we are involved in. LDS Charities is an example of a faith-based organization (FBO) that is an active part of our Civil Society.
There are many different definitions of civil society, in general this refers to a third-sector of society, separate from both government and business. Civil society usually refers to nonprofit organizations formally and any charitable group informally that is focused on philanthropy, volunteerism, and contributing to the overall good society in the world.
This year, I am in graduate school full-time completing a one-year Masters in Public Administration program with a certificate of advanced studies in Civil Society Organizations from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.
Prior to returning to school, I was a civil society junkie without ever knowing the term civil society. I have been actively involved as a member, teacher, leader and Public Affairs representative for the Mormon Church. I have been a National Face of Accreta and president of the New York chapter of Hope for Accreta, a Red Cross Spokesperson, MOPS member, a PTA and PTO member in 4 different states, a PTA board member, President, and district board member. I helped to design the Finding Common Ground 6 week interfaith dialogue course with the El-Hindi Center for Dialogue at Interfaith Works of CNY. I was a sponsor and planner for Dinner Dialogues, World Harmony Day, the Duck Race to End Racism, Refugee Ambassador Program, and The Spirit of America. I'm currently serving as the National Communications Chair on the board for American Mothers, Inc. Additionally, I have been part of many informal, socially involved groups including my Tully Mother Cluckers book group, various quilting clubs, mom preschool and play groups, and as a member of many online Facebook or blog groups. I love civil society.
For twenty years, I was a full-time, stay at home mother and homemaker who rarely stayed at home. One of my favorite parts of not having a 'career' was the fact that I could choose how I spent my time and efforts. Early on, I realized that my family and community were equally blessed as I served outside my home. My eight children have grown up sitting quietly beside me as I attended community meetings, helping me to set-up and clean-up from community events, interacting with friends in our communities who were physically, ethnically, and religiously diverse. My children have developed a natural ease and confidence, they are quick to help, they aren't afraid to plan large events, suggest large projects, or to lead large or small groups of people. Because we were always involved in our communities, my home had to function smoothly and orderly. Civil society has blessed my family.
Civil society or charitable efforts have brought about great changes in societies around the world. As we work together to find peace, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, respond to disaster, rescue, teach, heal, and love each other, our world is becoming a better place. Goodness begins with citizens.
I believe in civil society.