What Religion Can Do To Change America
I have before me an article by Cal Thomas, a columnist for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, printed in the Akron Beacon Journal (11-16-92). Thomas advised the "religious right" to leave politics. He reported that Jerry Falwell was being inundated with requests to crank up the Moral Majority again. Thomas' opinion is this: "if the objective is to change government policy and . . . return America to its spiritual and moral roots, the approach is backwards." Why?
The reasons he gives are true, but disturbing. He said, "Such an effort cannot work because we now live in what some theologians call a 'post-Christian culture.' This means that the old norms are no longer accepted by the majority. "The terminology is even frightening! "Post-Christian"? The majority used to hold a Christian standard of morality. This meant that drunkenness, divorce for any cause, lying, stealing, murder, etc., were regarded as sinful. I can recall, as a boy, how the entire religious community where I was raised stood opposed to sins like these. Are we living in a "post-Christian culture"? Are the days of standing against these sins - because we are Christians - gone forever? Is all of this a relic of the past? If so, what happened? How did it happen?
Thomas wrote, "The majority no longer accepts principles from the Old and New Testaments that once undergirded law, government, human relationships and social policy." Yes, sadly, this is true. Government, in writing law, no longer is interested in the revelation of God's mind found in the Bible. They not only do not care what the Bible says, they deliberately enact laws which oppose what the Bible says. There are no better illustrations of this than the legalization of abortion and the laws demanding acceptance of homosexuality as nothing more than an alternate lifestyle. Legislators and judges could not care less what God has said on these questions. The majority of people want to establish any kind of human relationship they please, and they will not tolerate anyone who says they have no right to live like that. They want sanctioned homosexual and lesbian unions, and they want to live together without complying with marriage laws, without being condemned for such. Therefore, they will demand a change of social policy and position which will permit them to do as they please. One secular author recently suggested that we take "In God We Trust" off our money and inscribe, instead, "Anything Goes." Those who were raised in a "Christian culture" can scarcely imagine what people are doing, and how their peers approve of that conduct.
Thomas said, "To appeal to this majority with the language and values of the past is to invite rejection even ridicule." We certainly do not need anyone to testify to the truth of that! We just completed electing a new president whose moral values and conduct were under scrutiny, only to learn "that character is a non-issue where the President of the United States is concerned." To the majority, it no longer makes any difference what a person has done in the past. He can still be elected to the highest office in the land. And, one would suspect, that it makes no difference what he might do in the future, so long as it does not cost the majority any money. During the election an appeal was made to the "Christian culture" about right and wrong, and to a recognition of "family values" as factors in the decision making process of the election. Thomas was right, this appeal was not only rejected, it was ridiculed! This was a hard lesson for religion to learn, but its about time we learned it.
Is the solution to this problem the re-birth of the Moral Majority? I agree with Thomas when he said, "No!" He suggested three things that must be done if we are to change things in America. I only partially agree with some of these things, but he is right on the mark in some instances.
1. He advised religious conservatives to separate their children from the failed public school system which has been invaded and captured by what he called "an alien philosophy." Our schools have become "hothouses in which young seedlings are converted into towering, liberal oaks." He advised that conservatives establish their own educational system which will teach their children that there is a difference between right and wrong. There might be some validity to this suggestion.
2. On this point I agree with him whole-heartedly. He said, "Preachers need to get back to their primary mission, which is to build their members spiritually and morally and to attract new members to a life, a cause and a kingdom not of this world." For too long religion, even some in churches of Christ, has been interested in nothing more than a "social gospel" appeal. Feed them and entertain them, and that will be enough, or so it was thought. Several generations have now been raised on this spiritual "nothingness" and they no longer know what is right or wrong, and really do not care. Thomas said, "It is the layperson, properly committed and properly taught, who has the real power to bring real change." He is totally right here! You cannot legislate morality. You must teach it. It must be learned and incorporated into the lives of every family. Then, and only then, can we change the direction in which our country is going. No vote will accomplish this, and we are dreaming an empty dream if we think it will. I find it sad that a newspaper columnist knows more about the mission of religion than so-called "religious leaders" know. Don't you feel that way too?
3. Because of the backlash to the position on abortion of the "religious right," Thomas said that "conservatives need to reposition themselves and be primarily known by what they are for, not what they oppose." He then proceeded to extol the virtues of the "positive message" which we are hearing so much about, even in the church. I do not understand why we must "eliminate the negative" from our teaching in order to establish a proper stance for our society. This "either-or mentality" that is taking over religion is ignoring biblical reality. God not only told us what to do, he had a great deal to say about what we are not to do! Consider the Ten Commandments. They were both positive and negative in their approach. The same thing is true about the gospel. Saint and sinner need to affirm what God said we ought to be, and they need to tell us what he prohibits us doing. Only when people learn the whole story will they start living like God wants them to live - you know, like they used to live before we abandoned biblical principles in America.
We can affect a radical change in our country if we will get back to the Bible, God's statement about how he wants us to live. We must teach it and we must live it. If we will do this, we will change "politics as usual" and this will change American life and lifestyles.
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 24, pp. 742-743