Morality in Government: The Sanford Case

I argue constantly for Biblical morality to be the standard for our government, not only in its policies but also in the people who make those policies. One of the most poignant quotes I pass on to my students comes from John Adams, who warned,

We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge . . . would break the strongest cords of our constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our constitution was made for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.

When a nation’s morality plummets, so does the nation. This is particularly true when the citizens choose their civic leaders. I’ve often said our government is no more than a reflection of those who put it into power.

If I lived in a certain district in South Carolina this past week, I would have had to make a hard decision. Mark Sanford, the former governor of the state, was running for a congressional seat in a special election. Sanford has become infamous for brazen lying and adultery. As governor, he kept going on secret forays to Argentina to see a mistress while publicly saying things like he was out hiking on the Appalachian Trail. When the truth became known, he found himself the focal point of disdain and jokes.

Sanford, of course, is hardly the only politician with unsavory character. Give me time and I could come up with quite an extensive list of public officials no better than he. That, in itself, is the bane of our political life, and it is why some Christians shy away from any political involvement, thereby withdrawing their positive influence from our government.

This special election pit Sanford against Elizabeth Colbert Busch, a political neophyte and the sister of comedian Stephen Colbert. What went largely unreported in the media is the fact that she spent some time in jail back in the late 1980s for contempt of court while going through a messy divorce. I don’t know all the details of that incident, but it certainly should have been part of her resumé upon which the voters were to make their choice. The media—and this was a national event for them—simply ignored that fact. A good portion of the media saw this election as a harbinger of what is to come in the 2014 congressional elections. Many were hoping Busch would win as a sign that Democrats will take back the House next year.

Back to the question: what would I have done as a resident in this district? First, I believe in forgiveness, and that would apply to both candidates. However, forgiveness comes only after genuine repentance. That’s God’s standard, and it should be mine also. Busch, to the best of my knowledge, has no Christian foundation to her life or her political stance. She was heavily supported financially by Nancy Pelosi, a maneuver that apparently backfired on her in that conservative district. At least that’s some of the analysis that has appeared after Sanford’s victory.

What of Sanford? He spends a lot of time talking about God’s forgiveness, yet I have not seen any real repentance on his part. He never made a serious attempt to reconcile with his wife; as a father, he has now practically deserted his children, and his mistress is hanging around, ready to take on her new role, presumably, as the new Mrs. Sanford.

As a voter, what I would have before me is a choice between two very flawed people: the Republican who stood for family values and then hypocritically repudiated them; the Democrat who has some history of a run-in with the law and whose policies would be contributing to the overall decline of the nation. And that then becomes the crucial feature for me.

While I decry Sanford’s immorality and don’t want to see him rewarded for it, I know that another pro-abortion, pro-homosexual, pro-Obamacare member of the House helps destroy the entire nation. Sanford, at least, will probably vote the way I wish he would on most issues. Busch never would do so. She would help advance an anti-Christian, anti-family agenda that will do far more lasting harm than anything Sanford has done or may do. Consequently, as distasteful as it would have been, I would have had to cast my ballot for him.

One of the more comical aspects of this whole affair, so to speak, is how concerned Democrats suddenly became over moral issues. When it works to their advantage, they will trumpet the moral failures of Republicans. But there’s one thing to remember, illustrated quite well, I believe, by this classic political cartoon from a number of years ago:

It’s not hard to clear the bar if it is set so low to begin with.

Meanwhile, what of Sanford? I presume he’s looking at his newly won congressional seat as a political comeback.

Outwardly, this is a comeback, to be sure. But redemption is not primarily external. True redemption occurs in the heart. Unless Sanford experiences that true redemption, I would urge Republicans in his district to begin looking for a suitable challenger in the primary next year. Putting moral people in government should remain a top priority.

Our Departure from the Laws of God

Four people died in the Boston Marathon bombings and subsequent manhunt. Four people died in the Benghazi terrorist attack. We had wall-to-wall coverage of the first, virtually nothing on the second, although that may be changing. Hearings this week will highlight whistleblowers who have tales to tell about this administration’s attempt to cover up its incompetence and failure to act. That failure seems to be the result of lack of desire to call out Islamic terrorism for what it is and to ensure reelection by shoving the event under the rug. As the pressure mounts for the truth to be known, how does our president spend his time? What does he consider worthy of attention?

The NBA player is being hailed as a “hero” for coming forward with a declaration of his homosexuality. It’s kind of an upside-down world when that is celebrated and a solid Christian faith is not:

Here’s another example of how backward we have become morally:

Meanwhile, the jury is still out on Kermit Gosnell. One has to wonder if justice will be served there, given the moral state of the country. Who are the jurors? Will they realize the immensity of the depravity on display? Four died in Boston. Four died in Benghazi. Thousands died at the hands of Gosnell. He is the face of the entire abortion industry, which has rightly been termed the New Holocaust. As with Auschwitz, perhaps we should make Gosnell’s facility into a somber reminder of our departure from the laws of God:

Hope in a Deteriorating Culture

The culture shift of the past forty to fifty years has been astounding. I remember the late 1960s when it began in earnest. Being in college from 1969-1973, during the height of the Vietnam War, meant interacting with that shift constantly. Yet, even in the midst of such influences, my Christian faith was confirmed and became more real than ever.

This is what gives me hope.

Today, those influences are more in-your-face than before. We’ve seen radical changes in the acceptance of what was before deemed immoral sexual behavior. It now threatens basic organizations that used to promote values consistent with Biblical faith.

That cartoonist was taking a chance by clearly calling homosexuality a sin. I applaud his willingness to stand up for truth and accepting the consequences that may follow. How much longer will his syndicate put up with those views? We still have freedom of speech technically, but the pressure is being applied to bow to the “new wisdom.”

The family structure is breaking down. We now consider almost any arrangement to be a family. And parental oversight of their children? What has become of that?

When 70% of inner-city children have no father, we shouldn’t be surprised at the outcome. Another factor in the deterioration of morality is the steady diet of violence to which children are subjected. I’m not saying all violence needs to be censored, but there’s a way to portray it within a moral framework. Unfortunately, that is no longer the norm:

Then we attempt to fool ourselves into believing it does no harm.

Yes, things are demonstrably worse now than in my early years. Yet the remedy remains the same: the application of the gospel to individual lives. If enough lives are changed by the God who reaches out to the lost, a society can turn around. I’m not a wishful thinker; I see the reality. However, I see a deeper reality behind what the world sees. Until God gives up on us, I’m not going to give up either. That time may be coming, but until I’m convinced we’ve come to that stage, I will continue to speak up for the One who is the truth. If those who know Him are faithful to that calling, you never know what can happen.

Media Distortion & the Christian Response

Last week I wrote about the main problems I see in the church today, and why Christians aren’t making as much of an impact on the culture as we should be. I wanted to be sure we understand that’s where the greatest blame lies. We must always examine ourselves before pointing fingers elsewhere.

Sometimes we can be our own worst enemy, but there are other times when deliberate distortion of Biblical positions and those who espouse them takes center stage. Unfortunately, that is happening quite often now in the media, both the entertainment variety and the supposedly unbiased news media.

When 90% of those involved in the major networks and newspapers rarely go to church, let alone actually believe the Christian faith, what can one expect but bias? Those in our society who believe in nothing more than themselves or who have no clear belief system will be heavily influenced by the distorted presentation of Christians and Christian beliefs in the news. This has come into focus, in particular, on the “gay rights” issue where anyone who holds to Biblical morality is deemed hateful.

This approach carries over to all conservatism in America. Nearly every conservative stance is questioned in a way liberal positions never are—with the exception of Fox News—and it’s a double treat for the media if the conservative who is being attacked is also an evangelical. The over-the-top bias during the last election cycle was worse than ever. Stories that should have been extremely significant were relegated to irrelevance if they could in any way be a detriment to Obama’s reelection.

In fact, one might say, without too much critique even from the Left, that the media was pulling for an Obama victory:

Now, we can bemoan this unfair treatment and complain about the bias—which I am doing and will continue to do—but that can never be the last word. Christians—and conservatives overall, to the extent conservatism retains its Christian moorings—have to expect to be portrayed unfairly. We are bringing the light of God’s truth to a sinful world; people steeped in their sinfulness don’t like to be told they are wrong. Do we need this reminder directly from Jesus?

This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.

We also have this “promise” from the apostle Paul:

Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.

Some promises are not as welcome as others. Yet Paul didn’t stop there. After informing his disciple Timothy what to expect, he proceeded to give him instructions on what he should do about this state of affairs:

You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

Paul didn’t leave Timothy with a negative. He encouraged him to move forward with what he knew to be the truth, to keep teaching, reproving, correcting, and training his hearers. I plan to follow the same sage advice, and I hope my readers will be edified by my continuing efforts.

Happy New Year? Why Would We Think So?

On January 1st each year we fall into a pattern long emblazoned on our psyche of saying “Happy New Year!” I realize it’s mostly a hope that we hold out, expecting that things certainly have to be better this time around. But on what basis do we hold to such a hope? Is there a solid reason for hoping, or is this more a shadowy, wispy type of wishful thinking?

For me, on a personal level, I have what I consider to be a well-grounded hope. Having been salvaged from a life of despair and purposelessness by the grace of God, hope is real. Yes, I will be affected adversely by circumstances in the world around me—by culture rapidly losing its Biblical underpinnings and a government in the process of destroying basic American liberties—but even if the worst occurs, I will still have the faithful God who gives the promise of eternity in a much better place.

It’s our society on the whole that concerns me. What is happening right now that would give anyone a reason to hope that things will improve? As I noted above, the culture is changing for the worse and needs to be turned around for anything to get better. There are a lot of reasons for that change; some can be seen in this political cartoon’s depiction of our current situation:

The cartoonist used the image of the Newtown murders as one manifestation of how our culture has been debased. Then the media and the politicians come along and make matters even worse by blaming the wrong people. One newspaper decided to show a map of the homes of all those in its county who have legal gun permits. The goal, according to the paper, was to increase “awareness” of the gun problem. Excuse me, but the legal ownership of weapons is not the problem. Yet now those who have followed the law, and have always done so, are being targeted [the use of that word is intentional].

The other focus of news reports at the moment is the so-called fiscal cliff. Few, though, are the news outlets that are willing to expose the real issue: it’s not a revenue problem; it’s a spending problem. The media are in protection mode—ensuring that the One is not blamed. Of course, he has made blaming others into an art:

The next fiscal controversy will be the debt ceiling, which Obama seeks to have removed altogether. He wants the power to spend whatever he desires, without any constraints. The result would not be difficult to foresee:

And what of the loyal opposition? To what extent are Republicans willing to go to stand for sound principles, regardless of the political fallout? There is a segment of the party that mirrors the old Republican lack of vision that dominated pre-Reagan: never challenge the roots of the problem but just try to be a little more moderate than the Democrats:

That approach has always led to defeat.

So, I ask again—on what basis can we hold out hope that anything will improve this year?

In my view, the main reason we are where we are as a society is that the church of Jesus Christ has not fulfilled its obligations as the salt and light of a nation. There are a number of areas in which we have failed, but let me acknowledge three that are paramount:

  1. We have watered down the message of salvation in the desire to draw more people to the faith. A watered-down message leads to a weak faith, or no genuine faith at all.
  2. We have deviated, to some extent, from Biblical morality and do not grasp how Biblical principles apply to a proper understanding of the limitations on civil government, the primacy of the rule of law, and how economics really works.
  3. We have abandoned control of our children’s education and turned that task over to the government, thereby making the problems worse with each succeeding generation.

Those are the three areas I want to address the rest of this week.

Challenging the Culture

Government is not our savior. Government policies, while significant, are not the primary drivers of a civilization. The old maxim that in a representative system the government is a reflection of the people who elected it remains true. Our government can only do what the people allow it to do. Right now, we are allowing it to control more of our lives than ever. What does this say about us as a people?

I write often about the necessity of placing the right people in the government, and I spend a lot of time critiquing the policies currently in place. That is important, but even if the right people get elected, and even if they are able to muster enough votes to make better policies, unless there is a fundamental change in thinking in the American electorate as a whole, any changes made now will be temporary. We will eventually revert back to a secularist, totalitarian mentality.

The only hope for the redemption of our increasingly depraved society is to reestablish Biblical principles as the source of our thinking. Those principles apply to all areas. Nothing is exempt from God’s truth. The message is going to have to be more unflinching, though, as we face a culture that hates the truth. Some say we have to adapt the message to the culture. They urge a softening of the gospel message to make it more palatable to modern sensibilities. God will never work that way. His message is unchanging and applicable to all times and places. Yes, we have to use different methods and be creative in ways to communicate His truth, but the truth itself cannot be altered to make people feel better. Sin is still sin. Repentance is still mandatory to receive the mercy God offers. Obedience is not optional; it is a requirement for a disciple of Christ.

So that’s the first step: become bolder with the message and don’t allow it to be watered down. Our societal problems are, at their root, spiritual problems. They will never be solved with a weak—actually, false—gospel.

But even if we take our ambassadorship for Christ seriously, the battle for the mind is going to be difficult. Unlike previous generations, we are constantly inundated with anti-Biblical propaganda masquerading as education and entertainment.

Government controls education. It was never meant to be this way. Early Americans were suspicious of putting the government in charge of education, realizing that it could then enforce a uniformity of thinking. The government can now decide what everyone is supposed to learn. As our society began to drift from Biblical principles, the drift gained speed when professional educators who were alienated from Biblical truth were placed in positions of authority in the public school systems in every state. Those schools systems today are little more than conduits for the latest false philosophies—Marxism, multiculturalism, radical environmentalism and feminism, etc. They have become laboratories for social diversity with respect to sexual lifestyles. Basic Biblical morality is considered old-fashioned and quaint, relegated to backward people who can’t come to grips with the new reality.

Our young people not only are indoctrinated in the schools, but due to their addiction to entertainment, they are saturated with those same views through the music they have piped into their ears continually, the video games they play incessantly, and the movies and television programs that form their concept of the world. Christians are mocked through these mediums, morality is undermined, and they are schooled in an Obamalike philosophy of life.

My undergraduate degree was in radio, tv, and film production. I know these mediums have tremendous potential for both good and evil. I’m not a Luddite when it comes to technology and the use of it to communicate a message. I’m attracted to well-acted, artistically excellent productions. I’m discriminating; I don’t go to just any movie or watch just any television program. Too many now have the aroma of the new indoctrination, and it now slithers its way into otherwise fine shows. For instance, I had been watching the new Upstairs, Downstairs series on Masterpiece Theater. For historical drama and social commentary, it has few equals. But I finally had to draw the line when a lesbian storyline intruded itself into the plot. The problem was not the recognition of how this deviation from Biblical morality crops up historically but how it was presented—as a positive development complete with on-screen scenes of passionate kissing between the two women. This has now become the norm. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to find any series without at least one homosexual character sympathetically portrayed.

The answer is not to retreat from the culture, but to infiltrate it. Whenever Christians recoil in horror and shut themselves off in a Christian cocoon of some type, sin has a larger field in which to play. We need to confront the lies that have become part of our culture and help people recognize them as destructive of all that is decent and honorable.

I applaud parents who take greater responsibility for their children’s education, whether in alternative Christian schools or via homeschooling. They are refusing to be molded by the culture but are preparing their children to be those who will challenge the unchristian trends. Parents who have chosen this path are not keeping reality from their children; they’re the ones who are showing them the stark differences and instilling the Biblical principles that are our hope. These children will not grow up timid, but bold. Already they attend college at a higher rate than their peers in the public schools and will take positions of responsibility as they mature.

I welcome those who see their Christian calling in the entertainment media. More movies with solid Biblical themes are being produced now, and their quality is improving. The only way to reclaim a culture immersed in entertainment is to take the uncompromising message to them through that media. Thought-provoking dramas drawn from real-life experiences can connect with their audiences and show the way out of the immoral morass of modernity.

We are a divided people. The Biblical worldview, on the surface, is diminishing. But I’m hoping that is merely a superficial appearance. Perhaps beneath that superficiality a river of life will finally burst through. Jesus said, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'”

May the living water flow.

Averting a Nightmare

Tomorrow is D-Day. The decision will be made, after a marathon campaign season. I will be speaking at a local Republican Club on Wednesday evening, giving my analysis of the election results. I hope it will be a joyous analysis.

If you have been watching any of the final campaign events, you should have no trouble spotting the difference between the candidates at this juncture. Obama sounds pugnacious, angry, even a little resentful. He resorted to the word “revenge” when calling upon his followers to vote. Revenge? For what? Romney is not in power. He hasn’t done anything for which one should seek revenge. That comment showcased a petty incumbent who seems offended that anyone would even dare to knock him off his perch.

Romney, on the other hand, has been quite winsome in his speaking, exuding optimism for the future and a quiet confidence that he will be able to get the job done. His crowds, unlike Obama’s, have been huge and enthusiastic. He’s now even foraying into formerly forbidden territory, making stops in Pennsylvania. Polls show he has pulled even in states like Ohio, Michigan, and Iowa. He’s slightly ahead in Wisconsin and making it a tight race in Minnesota, of all places. It may be somewhat clichéd to talk of momentum, but it is clearly visible on the Romney side.

Obama has so much to answer for—from a terrible economy to a government takeover of healthcare that threatens religious liberty, from a futile stimulus that spread its money to his cronies in the unions and green industries to a foreign policy that is unraveling. Libya is not going away, no matter how he tries to ignore it. Even with all the help he’s received from an obedient media, the word is getting out that his sympathies for Muslim extremists led to inadequate security and death. The word is getting out that he failed to protect our diplomats. The mainstream media no longer holds a monopoly on the news:

Charles Woods, the father of Tyrone Woods, one of the slain ex-Navy seals who gave his life to save others, has spoken out frankly about how the president’s inaction is responsible for his son’s death. Does anyone remember when Cindy Sheehan tried to make life miserable for George Bush when her son was killed in action? Recall how she became a media celebrity? Not so Charles Woods.

Evangelicals, despite Romney’s Mormonism, have rallied to his side because of Obama’s war on Biblical morality, from abortion on demand to same-sex marriage to trying to force Christian organizations to violate their deeply held beliefs with an Obamacare mandate. Obama has tried hard to accuse Republicans of a war on women. Nothing could be more hypocritical:

This may be the most important presidential election in American history because we’ve never before had a president so eager to transform America into a socialist utopia. If he succeeds in holding on to his office, the next four years will be nightmarish for those of us who want righteousness to prevail. The nightmare needs to be averted. I believe it can be. I pray it can be.