“When there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint” (Proverbs 29:19, New English Translation)
I think we, in the United States, are living in a time described by Proverbs 29:19. There is no one in our society who speaks with any moral authority (“prophetic vision”). And by “no one,” I mean no one in any high profile position in our government, in our educational institutions, or in our religious organizations. There is no one that when he or she speaks, people from all walks of life listen. As a result, “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6). Sociologists refers to times like these as anomie; an absence, or breakdown of social norms and/or values that uproot people, leaving them feeling out of control and in chaos. Anomie exists when social norms are no longer powerful enough to dictate personal behavior. Eventually, new cultural norms will evolve. But the time in-between, is anomie.
In the past we have had certain politicians who have spoken with moral authority. Consider these quotes:
“Because power corrupts, society’s demands for moral authority and character increase as the importance of the position increases” (John Adams).
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” (Franklin D. Roosevelt)
“Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country” (John F. Kennedy).
In the past we have had certain educators who have spoken with moral authority. Consider these quotes:
“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest” (Benjamin Franklin).
“Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom” (George Washington Carver)
“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself” (John Dewey).
In the past we have had certain religious leaders who have spoken with moral authority. Consider these quotes:
“Racial prejudice, anti-semitism, or hatred of anyone with different beliefs has no place in the human mind or heart” (Billy Graham).
“Christians should never have a political party. It is a huge mistake to become married to an ideology, because the greatest enemy of the gospel is ideology. Ideology is a man-made format of how the world ought to work, and Christians instead believed in the revealing truth of Scripture” (Charles Colson).
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” (Martin Luther King Jr.).
But now there is no one who speaks with any moral authority today.
The government (politicians) can’t speak with true moral authority because it has become obvious the goal of politics is not what is best for everyone, but only what will keep their political party in control. Power is the goal, not public good.
The educators can’t because there is no consensus on what should be taught in school. School, from kindergarten through college, seems to be more about social engineering then reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic. Everyone has a different idea about the role of education in public life.
Religious leaders can’t speak with any moral authority because they have gotten in bed with politics. My religious tribe (evangelicals), after talking about character and morality for decades, and after being judgmental about whom a person sleeps with, has shown a tremendous amount of hypocrisy by voting for an amoral candidate. As a result, the unchurched and nonreligious people in our society will not listen to anything these religious leaders say on any issue. The fact that 81% of evangelicals voted for Pres. Trump has done damage to our witness for Christ that will take a while to overcome.
As a result, “there is no prophetic vision” and our country is fighting through a time of anomie. Eventually, I believe, someone will rise up and speak with clarity and conviction. Someone will be deemed the moral authority of the day. I just hope that “someone” is not Friedrich Nietzsche’s Superman (Ubermensch).
“I beseech you, my brothers, remain faithful to the earth, and do not believe those who speak to you of otherworldly hopes! Poison-mixers are they, whether they know it or not” (Friedrich Nietzsche).
I’m a pastor. Being a pastor is all I know how to do. Furthermore, I am a pastor of a small church. I don’t have a national platform. However, our church is active in the community and desires to be a conscious to the community. I do what I can, locally, to speak with moral authority. Our church strives to stand up and speak out. My audience, though small, is extremely important.
And I think that is how to change things and bring moral authority back to our country. It’s not going to happen from the top down, but from the bottom up!
My challenge is for local church pastors, regardless of the size of your church, to speak with conviction and moral authority to their local congregations. Be the voice to the people under your influence. Be the agent of change you wish others would be. Moral authority will not trickle down from the White House or the School House. Moral authority will only return when local pastors address social issues with courage and conviction. Pastors! We have done a decent job over the last generation preaching against personal sins. Now, it is past time to start preaching against public sins.
“An individual gospel without a social gospel is a soul without a body, and a social gospel without an individual gospel is a body without a soul. One is a ghost, the other a corpse” (E. Stanley Jones)