Get out the salt
Kenneth L. Brokmeier
Recently I read a reflection in our local paper about the importance of religion in public life. The author referenced a YouTube presentation by Clayton Christensen, a professor in the Harvard Business School. I typed in the address and watched the video, which was first uploaded in the spring of 2014.
In the 90-second clip, Christensen relates a conversation he had with a Marxist economist from China. This man was in the United States studying on the Fulbright Fellowship. At the end of his stay, Christensen asked him if he had learned anything that was surprising or unexpected. The man stated that he had no idea how critical religion is to the functioning of democracy.
This economist’s observations were that democracy works not so much because of the political enforcement of law. Instead it works because individuals, in general, see themselves as accountable to God and therefore they choose to obey the laws. The economist credited religious institutions for helping to preserve not only morality but also democracy. The question was for how much longer would religion in America continue to hold such sway?
Christensen concurred and concludes the video by stating, “If you take away religion, you can’t hire enough police.”
I watched a few more YouTube postings/ interviews involving Christensen and discovered that he is willing to express his beliefs. He appears to be a man of high moral character and would like to see our country also have those kinds of standards. Logically he concludes that if America continues down the path of immorality, democracy will soon become a casualty.
As I listened to Christensen, something was notably missing. Further research uncovered that Christensen is a Mormon. What was missing is Jesus. What was absent is a clear understanding of what it means to be a Christian living in our world. What was missing is a correct understanding of law and gospel.
In some ways I laud Christensen’s desire that religion have an important influence in public life. After all Jesus does tell us, his followers, to be salt and light in this sin-darkened world (Matthew 5:13-16). However, the influence of any such religion must be based on truth.
Not all religion is proclaiming truth. Ironically, in that very same newspaper which published the reflection on the importance of religion in public life, were two other articles: one religious and the other a political opinion by a national journalist.
The political headline read, “LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) community fighting for the right to be ordinary.” The article noted that gay marriage is already sanctioned in 36 states, where about 70 percent of Amer-icans live. As the headline hinted, the rest of America should see the lifestyle of the LGBT community as ordinary.
The other headline, the religious one, noted that a local congregation had voted to become “open and affirming.” The article stated, “This means that the congregation has declared that all people including members of the LGBT community are welcome . . . and invited to receive all sacraments and rites of the church, including marriage.”
This kind of religion will certainly have an influence on public life. However, it won’t be a positive one, at least not from God’s vantage point.
Now, more than ever, it is imperative that we, as God’s children, live like the salt of the earth, as Jesus told us. But we do so not just somehow to preserve democracy but to preserve and share the truth: “Christ has died! Christ is risen! Christ will come again!”
Contributing editor Kenneth Brokmeier is pastor at Our Savior, Brookings, South Dakota.
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Author: Kenneth L. Brokmeier
Volume 102, Number 4
Issue: April 2015
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