Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Crisis of Character

I think more and more people are worried about the American character—who we are and what kind of adults we are raising....  From a piece by Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal.  You can read her whole opinion piece here...

You know how the proverbial Clinton campaign said, "It's the economy, stupid."  Some are trying to say that this election is a repeat.  It is still about the economy.  Peggy Noonan is not so sure.  She pointed to a list of the current news events which had nothing at all to do with the economy and everything to do with character.  From the GSA party in Vegas to the Secret Service men paying for hookers, Noonan goes down a checklist of items that point to a betrayal of our noble values.  She also identifies the tendency to turn the blame to others and to look to government for a solution -- but Noonan insists that the solution is not to be found by bigger government for the problem is within us.  Finally she reminds us that the polls that tell us we as a nation think the nation is on the wrong path have less to do with simple economic policy and everything to do with honest angst over the character we reveal and the kind of adults we are raising.

This is exactly the problem which we in the Church identify as sin.  The fallen man is not some free individual who looks for an opportunity to show forth the noble person within.  The fallen man is captive to himself and lives in the prison of his basest and most selfish desires.  The solution for the fallen man is not more freedom (in which error is excused, sin is justified, and wrongs are turned into the right).  Neither is the solution for the fallen man more law, more rules, and more regulation of daily life (the law can control our behavior as long as we fear its consequences but it cannot make us desire what is good and right and true).  The solution lies in the Gospel, in the love revealed is sacrifice, in the greatness that shows itself in being servant of all, and in the redemption that pays for the guilty and then declares the sinner forgiven and righteous.

I was heartened by Noonan's article.  It is my hope that it points to the beginnings of renewed conscience and the realization that the troubles we face cannot be wished away by well meaning folks nor can they be washed away by the growing tide of financial growth and security.  We have bought into an entitlement culture and we have shifted the burden from ourselves to others (especially government) to fix what is wrong.  It is no wonder that we have trouble seeing the Gospel take root in a culture that refuses to say "my fault, my own fault, my own most grievous fault."  Just maybe the bubble is about to burst.  It will not make it easier to speak the good news but when the hearers know the reality of conscience God has already laid the ground work for the Gospel. 

We as a nation have been on a constant search to blame someone or some thing for all ills.  We need to look into the mirror and stop turning away from the personal responsibility that was once the hallmark of our nation.  America was not born the entitlement culture it has become.  As one commenter put on another post on this blog, we were far too successful in the self-esteem program of the past and now we reap the bad fruit of this effort.  I hope many will heed Noonan's call to responsibility and accountability, to character and to virtue.  It certainly would not render the preaching of the Law and Gospel unnecessary but it could just provide a setting just slightly more friendly to the sound of that message than the culture of this moment...  I will wait to see...and keep on preaching in the meantime.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It was the consensus of our Founding
Fathers that democracy would only
work if there were moral and upright
citizens. For this reason they felt
it was important for Americans to
have a personal religion. All of our
citizens strengthen our nation when
they have strong moral character.

Remember Washington was a Christian,
Adams was a Unitarian, and Jefferson
was a Deist as our 1st 3 Presidents.