A manifesto for the common good, long on sense, short on inspiration.
Wallis (Rediscovering Values: A Guide for Economic and Moral Recovery, 2011, etc.) presents a sober, common-sense argument that our political and religious institutions have lost their way in partisan infighting and ideological confusion and should return to first principles in the interest of serving the common good. In clearly reasoned, lucid prose and without rancor or dogma, Wallis traces the decline in civility in both the public and private sectors, the destructive effect of financial interests holding sway in politics, the importance of family to the development of individual and communal morality, and other such social issues. This even-tempered, mild, avuncular approach actually works to the book’s detriment. Wallis’ positions are so reasonable and obvious that some invective, zeal or sense of dramatic urgency is necessary to offset the essential banality of his arguments. As it stands, Wallis’ plea for a kinder, deeper, more caring world has all of the revolutionary fervor of a speech from Mr. Rogers on the necessity of playing nicely together. Wallis can be charming, with his childlike devotion to the Narnia stories of C.S. Lewis and baseball, and the messages of tolerance and cooperation to be found within them (he is refreshingly progressive on such topics as same-sex marriage), and his friendly, conversational tone makes the book a relatively painless read. But the moral lessons presented here should be self-evident to any reasonably bright and engaged young teenager. That may in fact be Wallis’ point, but the delivery of the message is simply too anodyne to make any kind of emotional or intellectual impact.
An admirable, worthy message that could be contained on a bumper sticker.