Wednesday, July 4, 2001

The Church is responsible for our 'moral mess'

Religion Columnist

The patriot in me says, "If the United States of America becomes a fallen country;" but, the spiritual realist in me says, "When the United States of America becomes a fallen country, no one will hold responsibility for the fall save the church alone." God will hold the church and the church alone, accountable for the total moral collapse of this great nation.

God would have no sound reason to hold elected politicians accountable; they are simply staying faithful to what they know politics. God would have no just reason to hold sinners drug traffickers for example accountable; they are simply doing what comes naturally.

We all can remember a former president on whom we would have loved to lay the moral depravity of our land. Can't! He was simply following the lusts of his flesh, much like FDR, JFK, LBJ and now we know, the venerable Thomas Jefferson. Presidents are sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States; they are not sworn to uphold the Word of God.

But there is a group of people perhaps meeting around the corner from your house who are responsible and accountable. The group is called the church. The group may want to bury its head in the sand of indifference; still, that group in its local expression and that group in its national expression is accountable to God for the moral mess of this nation.

My radical thinking was prompted several years ago as I visited Uganda, a country raped by ruthless dictators. At a national prayer summit, one brave pastor stood and said, "There's nothing wrong with Uganda; there's everything wrong with the church in Uganda." Historians will write Uganda's story with accounts of poor education, little industry, power-hungry tribal leaders, and circumstances ripe for exploitation. Heaven, however, may write Uganda's history different, including accounts of the church's failure to stand up to totalitarianism or the church's embracing survival rather than spiritual integrity. Indeed, as that Ugandan pastor spoke, God may lay at the feet of the Christian church all of Uganda's misery.

Is it different in America (speaking of the U.S.A.)? Seriously, the church barely yawned when the Supreme Court rendered Roe v. Wade, giving the go-ahead signal to the slaughter of unborn babies. The church, which should be the conscience of America, seems to have become comfortable serving as the country's consort.

Today, locally and nationally, the church and her mighty preachments are held captive to political and moneyed interests. Ask the average pastor which Biblical subjects that are taboo in his or her congregation. The Apostle Paul was appalled to learn that right smack dab in the church at Corinth immorality was being overlooked. A man was sleeping with his father's wife and the church was accepting of it as we are today (1 Corinthians 5: 1,2).

When Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville visited the United States in 1831 at age 25, he was so impressed with our country that he wrote a two volume set titled Democracy in America. Today, historians say, de Tocqueville's books constitute one of the most comprehensive and insightful books ever written about the United States. His books are still required reading for history and political science students.

But, this is what will shock your socks off: de Tocqueville observed that the strength and might of America could not be found in its halls of government nor in its industrial power. He said the strength and might of America was found in her churches. What has happened in the intervening years? What has the church become? Has the church simply become a social gathering of reformed sinners, having abandoned its prophetic role not only nationally but also within its own membership?

Has our pleasure-bent culture so infiltrated the church that the church is in business to please everyone except the Big One?

The Rev. Dr. John Hatcher is pastor of River's Edge

Community Church in Fayetteville.

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