Tuesday, October 23 , 2018, 6:51 pm | Partly Cloudy 66º

 
 
 
 
Faith

Gregg Caruso: The Christian Contribution to Our Current Moral Crisis

I didn’t vote for President Donald Trump but I can understand why people did.

Many Americans are fed up with the partisan politics in which both sides of the aisle pursue political agendas with the (seemingly) underlying goals of personal enrichment and, therefore, re-election. (For instance, how many of our representatives would vote for us to have the same health-care plan they do? Or the same retirement benefits?)

People took a chance on someone they thought could “drain the swamp.” I get that.

And I get that Christians were hoping for more of a voice in determining public policy.

But Trump is who we thought he was — and we (all) need to own that.

It’s also been demoralizing to listen to many of the “Evangelicals” who are backing him. The vast majority of them certainly don’t speak for me. And the levels of incompetency many of them bring to the table are baffling to me — whether it’s theologically or professionally, and in some cases, both.

Sometimes it’s hilarious, but usually it’s quite sad.

Also, thinking of last weekend in Charlottesville, Va., it doesn’t take a graduate degree in theology to know that the actions and activities of “alt-right” groups are antithetical to biblical Christianity — and neither does it make anyone who disagrees with them “leftist.”

Here’s what I see the Bible plainly saying: God sent His Son — a brown, Jewish Middle Eastern man — to live a perfect life and die a sinner’s death so that we could enjoy a relationship with a perfectly holy, just, loving and righteous God.

And I get that many people struggle to connect perfect holiness with love, or perfect justice with love. The place where they intersect, however, is at the cross. This is what makes biblical Christianity distinctive from every other religion or philosophy of life. It’s about what God has done, not what we must do. That’s why we call it “good news.”

The result of this gospel grace is that sinners like me from every race, tribe and tongue will celebrate God’s goodness together, as a family, for all eternity (see Revelation 7:9). My belief is that the gospel alone has the power to overcome social, ethnic and gender barriers (see Galatians 3:26, 28).

I am saddened to think that our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be shocked to learn that many of the beliefs and practices that the current “Evangelical Church” clings to will be just as baffling to them as us looking back and wondering how anyone, ever, could have believed and taught that slavery of any kind was God-ordained, or that any other human being did not/does not inherently possess equal value, dignity and worth.

What’s the way forward? Three things come to mind.

» Humble, respectful and convictional dialogue. This is especially essential for those of us who identify as Christ followers. It is very confusing to people when so-called Christians who profess to know God and practice the Bible behave in ways that do not reflect the demeanor of Jesus. And we must acknowledge that when Jesus did speak and act in anger it was in legit response to the hypocrisy and greed of the religious leaders.

There are many excellent resources available, in addition to the Bible. One that I have enjoyed is the book, Convictional Civility, with the subtitle of “Engaging the Culture in the 21st Century, Essays in Honor of David S. Dockery,” who is president of Trinity International University in Deerfield, Ill.

» We (white folks, especially) need to speak out on behalf of — and serve — the marginalized, the poor, the weak and the alien. Period. It is clearly stated in the Bible. There is simply no way around it. New life in Jesus Christ will place new motives, capacity, desires — and trust in our hearts.

» Participate in the political process, and support civic education. It’s been said that we get the leaders we deserve. There is truth to that. The “they” needs to become the “us.”

In 2012, former U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter was interviewed at the University of New Hampshire School of Law, where he said, in essence, that democracy will fail if we continue our decline into “civic ignorance.” You can watch the (impressive) clip below:

(PBS NewsHour video)

— Longtime Santa Barbara resident Gregg Caruso is a managing partner at Vital Church Ministry. He earned a M.A. in Leadership from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena and serves churches in transition or crisis in North America and the United Kingdom. This essay was first posted on his blog, Refractions on Life and Leadership, and is republished with permission. Follow him on Twitter: @greggcaruso. The opinions expressed are his own.

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