Sunday, April 22, 2012

Above All Keeping

Nations, like people, draw their greatness from their value system. And, like people, they rise and fall on the worth of that value system.

Our system of values, whether national or personal, is composed of various standards, morals, ethics, ideals, principals, tenets, and beliefs which are important to us, and thus deeply held. And these values shape who we are, what we do, the quality and worth of our existence, and generally, how we end up.

The large difference between our personal value system and our national value system is, of course, the “sharing” aspect. Our national value system is distilled from the entirety of the population to become only those values which we hold in common. Our national values are those values which we are willing, as a nation, to embrace and employ to establish order and guide our course forward.

And so, we come to the present American dilemma. We are conflicted, as a nation. We are no longer certain who we are or what we should do, because our individual citizens have become very diverse in the values they hold. Thus, we can no longer distill from our whole society a clear set of deeply and widely held beliefs. So, we have become “a house seriously divided.”

From our early history up to the last several decades, Americans were broadly impacted by the Christian world view, if not the faith, itself. The nation, as a whole, held a widespread confidence in the values which Christianity brings with it. Thus, the vast majority of our citizens have historically believed in and actually employed those values to shape their character and guide their actions.

These deeply held values include honesty and integrity, love and respect of fellow man, respect for human life, and accountability and responsibility toward others. They include personal initiative, the belief that good must and will prevail, mercy and forgiveness, a concern for character and reputation. They also include charity and hospitality, a deep respect for justice and fairness, respect for all things holy, humility before men, and a profound humility before Almighty God.

Now, however, these and other Christian values are no longer settled issues within the American conscience or consciousness. Presently, all are being vehemently challenged in the national debate. And these proven and precious tools for a sturdy social construction are coming to disuse by increasing numbers of our citizens.

And, so much so, that the loss of our cultural grip on these worthy values, and the slippage of their grip on us, has now become undeniable. Realistically, we are forced to admit – the Christian value system is no longer efficiently and effectively shaping the composite character of the country, and less so with each passing year.

Now, we are considering, and far too often choosing, a competing set of values. They are the values of the Darkness. And they only ever lead to a diminished quality of life and ultimate failure.

This value system includes such values as a preference for the momentary expedient over principle, a disapproval of absolutes, cheating, selfishness, greed, minimal investment, baseness, forcefulness, hyper-materialism, hypocrisy, subversion, irresponsibility, fatalism, and the highest levels of arrogance - to mention a few.

More recently, it has been these dark values which are enjoying a momentum in the "national heart." Thus, these qualities are, more and more, shaping our national character and behavior. And already we can easily note their diminishing impact of the quality of life in America.

And the present societal condition is conducive for that trend to continue. We have a serious breakdown of the parental role. We have institutionalized the philosophy and teachings of the Darkness in our schools.

Add to these, the multi-form media presence which is constantly promoting ugliness in the culture, and the present weak influence of the Church, and the stage is well set for an eminent social catastrophe in America.

Nevertheless, ultimately, it is all about the value system. Whether we speak of a nation or the individuals within it, the proposition is simple and intrinsic to our existence. We do, indeed, rise and fall on the quality of our value system.

The Bible puts it this way, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” No individual is truly well governed unless he or she is well governed in the heart. And no nation is truly well governed unless it is well governed in the hearts of the vast majority of its citizens. So, as usual, the Bible provides the key to success, both for Americans - and for America.