When reading Joseph Shapiro and Andrea Wright’s article, Can Churches Save America, I couldn’t help but to feel compelled to write about this. The article touched on how the government is an institution that is impersonal to those who are seeking help to reestablish themselves in society, yet the most churches are caring and plant their programs in a strong-grounded religious foundation. The same goes for programs that are in our prison systems. Although churches may not be able to totally replace the aides that the government supplies for its citizens, it plays an important part in placing needed morals back into our society.
For some time, I have watched the media address social and moral issues. For some time, I have been bothered by what I see. The issues themselves are troubling, but that is not what distresses me. We must address the current problems of society if the church is to fulfill its role, so it doesn’t trouble me that the media addresses these issues. What they say about social issues doesn’t bother me, either. It is usually excellent. It’s what they don’t say that disturbs me.
For example, a couple of months ago I checked a dozen or so articles and editorials on social and moral problems in four issues of Christianity Today. Most of the articles described a social or moral problem, analyzed it from the perspective of Christian values and ethics, and presented several specific things we can do to address the problem. The perspectives were very good. The ideas for action were excellent, ranging from ways of effectively pressuring politicians to ways of demonstrating to people that their position is wrong without arguing.
From the emphasis of these articles (and broadcasts), however, I subtly reach a larger conclusion: “That’s all there is to it; if enough of us look at these issues correctly and do these things in response, we can eliminate these problems.” I am not claiming that the authors intended for me to reach this conclusion, or that they believe it. Nevertheless, it is what I usually sense from these articles. Through repeated emphasis, my focus drifts (perhaps unconsciously) to the battlefields of moral persuasion and political action.
A Porsche without an engine may look impressive, but it won’t go anywhere. A farmer who doesn’t plant seed is going to have a very poor harvest, no matter how well he plows and waters his fields. So it is with our lists of actions to take in response to these social problems. The part that’s missing is so fundamental that without it the other parts, though good in themselves are wasted.
Since society’s problems are spiritually rooted, our primary responses must also be spiritually rooted. Out of that spiritual root will grow the secondary responses of political action, legal action, social action, and everything else. But unless our responses are spiritually based, they cannot change society (or even individuals) in any way that really matters.
Political action is inadequate because legislating morality can only state publicly a moral standard. It cannot create in people’s hearts either the desire or the ability to fulfill that standard. This nation will never be morally sound until the people in it are spiritually sound – something that mere politics is helpless to bring about. If we change the spirituality of our nation, that spirituality will in turn transform the country’s morals and politics. However, if we only change the morals and politics, the spiritual problems remain, and the moral and political changes cannot last.