Capital Commentary is the weekly current-affairs publication of CPJ, written to encourage the pursuit of public justice.

Cultivating Rooted Citizens

Stephanie Summers


I seem to lack both the genes and the skills embodied by the farmers who make up half of my family tree. Instead, I possess what my sister kindly refers to as a “black thumb.” I recall sharing with her a short list of houses from which my husband and I eventually selected our home. Her counsel in response to my description of those with the potential for a garden was oblique but clear.  “Stephanie,” she said, “How many more green things have to die?”

This seems a fair analogy for how many of us view the state of our contemporary politics. We see what the political landscape presents to us each day, and we consider whether any effort we expend can possibly yield a good harvest. More often than not, we see only the potential for further withering, death, and decay. 

This election season has indeed painfully exposed the shallowness of most modern political engagement. We don’t have to look far to see that the most common responses to the upcoming elections are fear, apathy, withdrawal, and despair. 

But these are all shallow responses. The answer to the gross deficiencies of our political life is not more shallow politics but rooted citizenship.

In this election season, Christians have the opportunity to stand out as rooted citizens, in both the content and the manner of our engagement.

One of the ways we can stand out as rooted citizens is by asking deep questions about our politics, questions that get to the heart of the issues and that explore our assumptions and motivations.

So up to and following Election Day, Capital Commentary will feature a series of articles written to help cultivate rooted citizenship. Our hope is that each article helps us consider the broader universe of questions that Christians should be asking as we approach the task of electing fellow citizens to hold public office.

The goal of these articles is not to set up a comparison between the presidential candidates or the various party platforms. Instead, we aim to present a larger set of principles and questions that Christians seeking to be rooted citizens should be thinking about, but perhaps have not yet considered.   

For example, when it comes to education, we hope that rooted citizens will think about how to best ensure that parents are empowered to nurture and educate their children. Capital Commentary will explore how rooted citizens can work towards practices and public policies that provide all children with a quality education regardless of their zip code, by supporting the many types of schooling which can meet the distinct needs of the families they serve.

Likewise, other articles in the series will encourage the development of rooted citizens with an eye to November’s elections by looking at issues pertaining to human dignity, international relations, and economic opportunity. The series will also discuss the considerations rooted citizens must make when seeking to best support families, institutional religious freedom, and the environment.

Our hope is that this series becomes not only food for thought, but nourishment for discussions among citizens gathered together, with their eyes on the possibility of the flourishing of our public life.

In this tumultuous election season, may we practice citizenship as both our common calling and our distinctive witness, citizenship rooted in the God who created political communities with the good purpose of upholding public justice.

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Capital Commentary is a weekly current-affairs publication of the Center for Public Justice. Published since 1996, it is written to encourage the pursuit of justice. Commentaries do not necessarily represent an official position of the Center for Public Justice but are intended to help advance discussion. Articles, with attribution, may be republished according to our publishing guidelines.”