Practical Steps for Fidelity Month

Let’s observe June as Fidelity Month — a month to remind us of those values we have forgotten.

Norman Rockwell, ‘The Four Freedoms: Freedom of Worship’  (detail), 1943, State Library of Ohio, Columbus
Norman Rockwell, ‘The Four Freedoms: Freedom of Worship’ (detail), 1943, State Library of Ohio, Columbus (photo: Public Domain)

June 2024 is “take two” of Princeton Professor Robert George’s initiative to make June “Fidelity Month.” The first Fidelity Month took place in June 2023. George’s effort is to reemphasize the importance of fidelity in three areas: God, family and community.

Fidelity Month is not designed to be — and isn’t — a nationally-coordinated-and-driven enterprise. In that sense, it’s not the well-oiled, rolled-out PR effort of other June lobbies. That’s not bad.

It’s not bad because fidelity, ultimately, is not something that can be imposed or adopted by fiat. Fidelity is a virtue, and virtues are only effective one person at a time. Fidelity comes about not by a press conference or proclamation, but by an individual’s decision to be faithful.

George produced a short video on what Fidelity Month should mean and how it can be celebrated. Some of his key points (and my comments):

First, fidelity inherently requires being social. To be faithful requires a faithful relationship to someone or something else. In that sense, fidelity is a counterweight to the isolated individualism plaguing our country, whose effects range from “bowling alone” to the pandemic of loneliness manifest in shrinking lifespans and even spikes in teenage suicide. To be faithful means getting out of yourself.  No doubt, some will insist we must first be faithful to ourselves: “To thine own self be true!” But even there, fidelity to self means acknowledging the truth about oneself, and that truth is that man is not made to be alone. Relationship is not a human optional extra: the person who remains an isolated individual is, in faith, unfaithful to himself.

Second, fidelity starts in your head, but it does not end there. You need to decide that fidelity is important, that this is a value worth pursuing. Until you at least concede to giving that a try, we’re on ground zero. But we also remain on ground zero if that’s where the decision remains. It’s not enough to think “I should be more faithful.” Thinking requires doing, getting out of our heads and into action.

Third, start with fidelity to God. God often receives the least fidelity because it also requires faith, and so we tend to “cheat” on that fidelity. George’s recommendations for human fidelity vis-à-vis God are not rocket science. Do you pray? If not, start. If you do, try to pray better. Do you go to church, synagogue, or mosque? If not, start. If you do, be more faithful about it: statistics about participation in worship generally show ecumenical and interreligious unity in infidelity. But recognizing there is Someone bigger than yourself, recognizing amidst your contingency that there is Someone to whom you owe your very being should intuitively posit awareness of a need for relationship — a more faithful relationship — with that Somebody. Why not start now?

Fourth, move on to family. George expands the idea of “fidelity.” Sure, you’re probably not cheating on your spouse (although adultery seems to be on the rise). But how can that relationship be enriched? The same with children. How can those ties be closer? Don’t succumb to the “quality time temptation.” Life tends to be too short. You don’t need “quality” time to throw a ball around. You just need “time.” Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle” captures that tension when he puts off his 10-year-old’s request to play with him using the ball he gave him for his birthday. Only later does he realize how much has been put off when his son — nominally with good intentions — has no time to visit the old man. “My boy grew up just like me.” Is that the faithful child you want to produce?

Fifth, move on to community. It’s probably obligatory at this point to cite Alexis de Tocqueville, but the truth is that Americans once valued community action far more than they now do. Again, George makes clear fidelity to community is not some Herculean lift. Do you vote? Showing up is half the battle. If you care about your community, what else do you do? Is there a candidate you believe in enough to mount a bumper sticker or put up a yard sign? Ever thought of going to a school board meeting? Throwing in a few bucks to a campaign? Fidelity to community means caring about that community, giving back as well as taking from.

None of these ideas is rocket science. They were once part of the convictions that held faith, family and civic communities together. George isn’t campaigning for some grand gestures. He just wants to reapply some of that old glue — and that’s something that has to be done, church by church, synagogue by synagogue, family by family, town by town. “Fidelity Month” reminds us of those things we have, to our loss, tended to forget. Let’s use June as an opportunity to remember.

For more information, see the “Fidelity Month” public group on Facebook, or watch this video: