American is a heterogeneous and diverse society, where multiple political, racial, and social ideologies are prevalent. While the beliefs might differ between groups, one can identify a set of core values that unify all Americans. Most of these values are taught from a young age and serve as an indication of high morality and good character. Generally, they focus on individual achievements, personal freedoms, democracy, and hard work. The deviation from these values often provokes disdain or judgment from fellow citizens. Religiosity also presents as one of the core American principles, reflected in the numerous religious groups within the U.S. One example is the Franciscans, which form an order within the Catholic church (Holy Family College, 2020). Their values center around community, reverence of each person’s dignity, compassion, peacemaking, and acting in the name of God. This essay examines how the core Franciscan values compare and contrast the American belief systems. In particular, it focuses on the following: community vs. individual achievement, religiosity and the reverence of creation, and peacemaking vs. racial conflicts.
Unlike the emphasis on individualism in the American value system, Franciscans place a higher value on the community. According to them, each individual was created in God’s image and, thus, possesses inherent worth, regardless of their achievements or personal characteristics (Holy Family College, 2020). This idea contrasts with the American individualistic view that encourages people to aspire for success and power to prove their self-worth. Americans praise individuals who work hard and rise from the socio-economic bottom to the top. While putting success in high regard, they look down upon people who appear not to work hard or have not achieved a level of prestige and wealth. There is the “American dream” that states that any American can achieve the highest level of success if he or she puts in enough work. Americans often blame individuals who fail to attain such highs, citing their laziness or the lack of ambition, failing to recognize how the institutional systems in place might have hindered their progress. As a result, instead of creating communal support observed among the Franciscans, American society leaves everyone to their own devices.
The similarity between American and Franciscan values lies in religiosity. The U.S. has a large percentage of religious people, with predominantly Christian faith. The faith often plays a big part in the sociopolitical institutions, such as religious colleges or political parties, whose value system is centered around upholding Christian beliefs. Similarly, the Franciscans emphasize the need to behave morally and ethically, spread God’s love, and act in solidarity with one another (Holy Family College, 2020). This belief is also referred to as the “reverence for creation.” It stems from the fact that St. Francis of Assisi realized that all of God’s creations reflected his goodness, truth, and beauty (Holy Family College, 2020). Through his spiritual awakening, he recognized that all God’s creations are inter-connected and should act in unity and solidarity. This notion is similar to the American core value of humanitarianism, which focuses on helping others in need and displaying kindness.
Consequently, the other Franciscan value of fostering peace and justice stems from the reverence for creation. If all beings are created in God’s image and reflect his inherent truth and beauty, then there should not exist any dominance of one person over the other (Holy Family College, 2020). The notions of peacemaking and compassion stress the importance of forgiveness over vengeance and discredit brutality and violence. This idea contrasts the American values of racism and group superiority, which penetrate American history. American’s genocide of the Native Americans, a long-lasting record of slavery, and continued institutional racism signify the feeling of superiority of some American classes and racial ethnicities over others. Interestingly, these concepts contradict some of the other American values, namely, equality and democracy. They state that every American should be given an equal opportunity to succeed and express their opinion in the making of American politics. Throughout history, white Americans upheld certain privileges and had a higher chance of obtaining wealth and power. In contrast, African and Latino Americans often were marginalized and held less authority in the predominantly white community.
The abovementioned ideas show that the main similarity between the American and Franciscan values is religiosity. Both regard the love for God highly and act in his name. Consequently, it generates a series of similar values, such as compassion, peacemaking, and reverence of personal dignity. The most significant difference between Americans and Franciscans is the emphasis on individuality and the community, respectively. Interestingly enough, American value systems present numerous contradictions, while the Franciscans do not. Exercising compassion and regarding each other as usually equals present as the core Christian values, leading to the promotion of peace and forgiveness. While these principles are present in America, it contradicts the individualistic approach to obtaining success and power. Similarly, the presence of racial tensions and brutality go against Christian peacemaking ideas. As a result, many of the American core beliefs lose credibility, while the Franciscans appear more reputable in contrast.
Holy Family College. (2020). Franciscan Values. Web.