“We can trace all our human problems to our view of God.” -Bill Bright
Bill Bright, founder of the largest Christian mission organization in history, and my dad, knew what he was talking about. If you doubt his statement read on...
If I know how you view God I can tell you what you think about homosexuality, racism, abortion and most other moral issues… I can probably even tell you how you vote.
Baylor professor, Christopher Bader, summed up a 2006 study published by the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion this way,
You learn more about people’s moral and political behavior if you know their image of God than almost any other measure.
The Baylor study revealed a clear correlation between how Americans view God and how they view economics, morality, justice and politics. Those American’s who view God as personal have higher moral standards and are less reliant on government.
If that is true then real change in culture must start at the most fundamental level—how we view God.
In 1776 when America was founded, the average American heard over 3,000 sermons during the course of their lifetime dealing with their accountability to God and their resulting responsibility for their fellow man. The core belief driving this perspective was that God is the sovereign king of creation and therefore the chief purpose of mankind was to glorify God. All sects of Christianity and Judaism espoused this in one form or another.
Given that widespread view of God, the free market worked amazingly well. When my neighbor’s barn burned down I helped rebuild his barn. When my neighbor fell ill during the harvest it was my obligation before God to help him bring in the harvest.
My accountability to God for my neighbor dictated my civic duty to help make sure no one was left behind. This is the same dynamic that animated the abolitionist movement—the core belief that I am to glorify God with my life by serving my neighbor.
Today all that has been savaged by the theology of Tolerance.
The reigning belief now permeating most branches of Christianity and Judaism in America is “God wants me to be happy!” Notre Dame sociologist, Dr. Christian Smith, labels this “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism” (MTD). His landmark book, Soul Searching, explores how younger Americans see God’s primary purpose as ensuring their happiness. They see God strictly as a benevolent Santa Claus in the sky. They have demoted the Creator from King to head cheer leader.
This phenomenon has hijacked many pulpits as well.
When pastors expound, “It makes God happy when you are happy,” we know the cancer has fully metastasized. When Christian organizations embrace self- indulgent behavior in order to achieve “unity” we know man has deposed God as the ultimate arbiter of the Good. MTD twists the starting point 180 degrees from God to me. It therefore follows that anything that makes me happy must be Good.
This dynamic propelled a tectonic shift unnoticed by most from embracing “our God-given rights” and “our God-given freedoms,” to demanding “my rights” and “my freedoms.” God became irrelevant to the conversation. Self-indulgent love is now not only accepted but embraced as good. That is why Tolerance has supplanted Love as the new cultural standard for moral outrage. “Don’t judge me!” hijacked, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Jesus said we should love our neighbor as ourselves. He never advocated “tolerance” of wrong or selfish behavior. His perfectly pure love does not allow for such hypocrisy. Instead He recognized self-centered behavior for what it was, forgave it and then empowered the person in front of Him to change. As He said, “Your sins are forgiven. Go and sin no more.”
The key to changing culture is to change the way individuals within society view God. Anything else is simply playing Whack-A-Mole with the symptoms and cannot succeed.
Like Jesus, we should strive to love more and tolerate less.
©2022 Brad Bright