By David Hegg
A few weeks ago I was honored to attend two important civic events. First, I joined a few hundred invested Santa Clarita Valley citizens at a Town Hall put on by my friends here at The Signal. Owner and Publisher Richard Budman recognized that the fentanyl tidal wave currently washing over our nation must be taken seriously. That means being educated about the drug, its devastating effects, and the various ways we as a community can pool our resources to protect one another and, especially, our children. Mr. Budman moved from thinking to doing, and organized a very necessary and important event.
Those in attendance were greatly benefited to hear from an excellent expert panel made up of professional addiction counselors, medical experts, law enforcement professionals, governmental leaders and even one courageous woman whose story of losing her brother to the fentanyl plague brought tears all around. We learned a lot, received many harmful resources and tips on taking on our part of the fight, but I’m sure many joined me in walking out with very heavy hearts. I also left carrying a healthy cup full of disappointment.
A few days later I was invited to the public swearing-in ceremony for our new Assemblywoman Pilar Schiavo. With many others, I braved the downpour and found my seat, thankful to attend an important event in Assembly District 40. The room was filled with friendly, excited people ready to hear Assemblywoman Schiavo. There was a steady parade of speakers, as well as a number of officials with commemorative gifts and congratulative statements.
Finally, Assemblywoman Schiavo rose to address us. She did a very good job expressing her gratitude for the opportunity to serve our district. As well, she chronicled the benefits of living in our fair valley, and our state. Along the way, she mentioned several areas where she hoped to make a difference, always highlighting the fact that she was first and foremost serving us, her neighbors in District 40. Once again, I learned so much, met a number of wonderful people, but left with a measure of disappointment.
Let me make it clear. I wasn’t disappointed in either event. Both were necessary representations of their particular side of the necessary triangular cooperation that is essential in every society. Every successful society relies on a cooperative triangle made up of those entities responsible to ensure that the doing, knowing, and being of its citizenry proceed in ways that enhance the public good.
At the risk of oversimplification, our doing is largely overseen by government while our knowing is provided for by our educational and journalistic entities. The two events I attended demonstrated that those areas are alive and well.
But, historically, the being component is the area where the faith community has provided the stuff of ethical, character-building truth for the purpose of shaping the very being of who we are. If space allowed, I would go further to say that many of the problems we are facing, from drugs and homelessness to rising crime and corruption, can be traced, at least in some way, to the erosion of spiritual health and ethical vigor in us. Who we are, our being is eroding ethically.
As I walked away from both events, my disappointment was not that neither one considered it beneficial to see religious leadership as a helpful partner in the battle. No, what disappointed me were two other issues.
First, I was disappointed to recognize that having God, and the “faith of our fathers” as part of a public event, is increasingly seen as controversial, even potentially a trigger to the cancel culture clan. But this should never be the case in our nation given that religious pluralism, and freedom of religious belief and practice, are foundational stones of our democracy.
But second, and more important, I was disappointed that too many of us, the religious leaders of our day, have shuttered ourselves so securely behind our church doors that we are no longer recognized as having a part to play in the public square.
That’s not me. I refuse to either go to war with culture or withdraw from it. My Master has called me to witness to the culture as a partner in this society. I’m ready, willing, and able to let you know what God has revealed about himself, his creation, and those in it. And, I don’t care what your political, philosophical, theological or ideological views may be, if you want a substantive yet winsome discussion, I’m in. As we watch the collective spiritual character of our nation erode, it is easy to ridicule and mock, to put the blame on any number of ideologies, entities and individuals.
But in my mind, many of us who see the world through the biblical lens have been too satisfied to sit in the bleachers and boo. Now, I am not suggesting we rush the field and take over the game in unethical and harmful ways. I do, however, advocate that we get in the game and play the position we’ve historically been given. Who knows? Maybe truths like “love your neighbor as yourself” and “true religion is to care for the widows and orphans” have a place in the marketplace of ideas today.
Local resident David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church. “Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays.