By David Hegg
You should know that, to keep up with the pressure of a weekly deadline, I usually write this column a week ahead just in case my schedule blows up on Thursday. So, I had no way of knowing that the unimaginable rioting and criminal activity that brought every reasonable American to tears on Jan. 6 would occur only days before my column hit your driveway. While I was calling for a revolution of kindness, hundreds of ethical infants were storming our Capitol, plundering its hallways, and desecrating the very core of our experiment in democracy.
Since Jan. 6 we have been inundated with pictures that will forever be seared on our memories. As well, we have been subjected to myriad politicians and pundits schooling us on why this happened, who is to blame, and how judgment must roll down on the bad people.
At the risk of muddying the waters even more, here’s my take. Our root problem in America is not political. It’s not financial, educational, racial, medical, or any other fancy descriptor ending in “al.” Those are all fruits of a rotten root and until we’re willing to acknowledge that our ethical roots have been rotting for years we will never recover.
Remember the Pledge of Allegiance? Yes, I know. Today we are told to honor those brave enough to take a knee rather than bow the knee in honor to our flag and the nation for which it stands. And God forbid we invoke the name of God. Yet, look what happens when God and honor are evaporated from our national scene.
The nation that no longer considers it necessary and profitable to be “under” the ethical standards of a theistic worldview will find itself … well … on the path we’re walking down today in the USA.
Untethered from those undeniable standards of right and wrong that have historically flowed out of a belief that all are accountable to a transcendent God, a nation and its people will become more and more chaotic as everyone starts doing what is right in their own eyes.
And sadly, we’ve had a front-row seat to watch exactly that over the past months and years. What we all thought could never happen in America not only has happened, but also there are millions who are applauding it as both necessary and appropriate.
The Pledge of Allegiance reinforces the connection between theism and practical unity. The nation that is “under God” can remain “indivisible” even in times of disagreement because the manner of disagreement will be collegial, not combative, as love for truth and love for neighbor intertwine to bring about understanding and cooperation. Nothing is clearer than the fact that, having pushed God to the margins, we are watching our national unity dissolve.
And, sadly, the devolution of our national soul has allowed injustice and the erosion of freedom to become commonplace. In the pledge we declare that being “under” God guards us as “indivisible” while guaranteeing “liberty and justice for all.”
Voddie Baucham, an African-American Evangelical pastor, borrows from Jesus and states our predicament well: “We are not seeing terrible things in our culture because we vote the wrong way. We are seeing terrible things in our culture because men love darkness rather than light.”
The problem in America is not primarily political. The great problem is ethical. Whoever said “if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything” had it right. We’ve become a nation where too many believe liberty is personal freedom from all restraint, from all rules, from all accountability, and ultimately from all uncomfortable truth.
We live today in the absurd swamp of dynamic personalism, where the only dynamic that matters is one’s personal beliefs, desires and dreams. As an example, against all scientific evidence we now can pick our own gender from among the 70-plus choices. And it’s a short walk from that absurdity masquerading as truth to the absurdity that it is right to attack law enforcement officers, necessary to use violence to get our point across, and perfectly acceptable to allow evil impulses to overwhelm rational commitments to God, country, family and neighbor.
The big question before America now is this: Whose ethical standards will win the day? The only vote we can cast will be one of personal belief and behavior. May God reveal his truth to us all, and may God bless America as America realizes that it is our best option to be a nation “under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Local resident David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church. “Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays.