54: Salt and Light
On January 20, 2009, I wished the new President well on his Inauguration, though I am concerned about a linguistic scam that has produced a euphoria of naïve optimism. With not a hint of self doubt, Barack Obama earlier declared: “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for,” and his wife Michelle agreed. “We need a leader,” she said of her husband, “who’s going to touch our souls because, you see, our souls are broken.”
Such this-worldly optimism is perennial. C S Lewis wrote of it in 1942, as the clean shaven gentleman, of obvious intellectual sophistication, in The Great Divorce, says:
…there has been a revolution of opinion… We now see…the promise of a new dawn, the slow turning of a whole nation towards the light…a spiritual city…a nursery [for] the creative functions of man.
Alas, blinded by his vision, the clean-shaven gentleman misses heaven!
Millions, with promises of “hope” and “change” and “we will get there,” recently bought the vision of a nation turning to the light. Thomas Sowell observes: “It is one of the painful signs of our times that millions of people are so easily swayed by rhetoric that they show virtually no interest at all in finding out the hard facts.” We are now beginning to find out what the political rhetoric meant. With the appointment of many from the earlier Clinton administration, getting “there” clearly means getting an America transformed by the vision first unveiled at the election of Bill Clinton. That vision has now come into even clearer focus-a pan-sexual, religiously syncretistic, warming alarmist, anti-family, global/anti-nation-state, radical feministic society, that will be exported worldwide in Sixties’ revolutionary Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s tax-funded jet-liner. The brokenness will not be healed by the Sixties ideology that was coronated on January 20.
George Weigel, the Catholic journalist is not fooled, He says: “By the dawn’s early light on Nov. 5, 2008, two distinct Americas hove into view … the culture of life and the culture of death.”1
By the term “culture,” Weigel describes two mutually exclusive, antithetical, life and death worldviews that slice through the American experiment. I am not seeking to demonize the Left or “angelize” the Right, because both sides deal only in surface issues of culture and politics. But in the final religious and scriptural analysis, the world is divided into two worldviews that contradict each other at every significant point.
According to the apostle Paul, there are in this world two systems of essential religious thinking and acting. They cannot be harmonized, for they are each other’s very opposite, one the result of human disobedience, the other divine revelation. One proposes a self-creating, self-perfecting, evolving Nature; the other describes a fallen world in apostate opposition to God, and in need of divine reconciliation.
The political programs of the Right and the Left are but pale, inconsistent and hopelessly mixed-up reflections of these two options, so much so that Christians must have another focus other than politics as the goal of their lives. Fortunately, Scripture gives that focus-the function of the church to be both a beacon of saving light and a source of sanctifying salt to a culture with broken souls, in rebellion against God’s will for his creatures.
There is nothing that quite focuses the attention of Christians about their real calling than a political program that takes us towards a culture of death. To be sure, we must strive as citizens to preserve the culture. But the real change, the deep healing from brokenness, comes only when sinful human beings are confronted with the love of God and are radically transformed from top to bottom. “My chains fell off…,” said Charles Wesley. With that kind of liberation two things take place:
- God is given his rightful place, which is the whole point of human existence. In meeting God as Savior in the person of the dying Jesus, we meet a holy, transcendent God who enters fallen human reality for the purpose of saving undeserving sinners. No other God in any other religion brings about the saving miracle we all so desperately need. Indeed, only the God who made the cosmos can save it. So in the Savior we meet the holy and loving Creator whom we then trust as Lord. In this we shine as light.
- We find our calling. The sinful human heart having lost its egotistical pretensions to believe it can save itself, begins to love all sinners. Motivated at the deepest level by an inward sense of gratitude, we can begin living in a way that pleases the Father. A group of people like that makes up a local church whose goal is to live out the Gospel before a watching and spiritually hungry world. In this we function as salt.
This is our Christian task after January 20, 2009. Let’s go for it.
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” (Titus 2:11-14)
1 George Weigel, “The Two Americas,” catholicexchange.com (November 25th, 2008).