In a week when evangelist Billy Graham is visiting New York for what may be the last mass meeting of a long and noble ministry, Richard Ostling of the Associated Press asked him about social issues. Graham replied, "I don't give advice. I'm going to stay off these hot-button issues."
Graham hasn't always shied away from those topics, but he learned where the greater power comes from and it isn't government. The 86-year-old Graham "now seeks to shun all public controversies - preferring a simple message of love and unity through Jesus," writes Ostling.
John Danforth seems to flirt with universalism when he says that he and his fellow religious moderates believe "religion should be inclusive." Not exactly. Different religions make competing claims and the Christian faith separates "sheep from goats," the saved from the lost, and heaven from hell.
Jesus said he came to bring a sword. A sword divides. The primary objective for the Christian should be to seek and to point others toward Jesus, not to political parties and agendas.
The social ills confronting us have not produced our collective indifference to a moral code. They reflect that indifference. Fixing social ills does not begin in the halls of Congress or Supreme Court, but in individual human hearts.
Government can't go there. God can. But if God's servants prefer government to God, or seek to attach God to political parties and earthly agendas, they are doomed to futility.
Danforth notes that Jesus sat with "tax collectors and sinners" and sees these acts as part of Jesus' "tolerance" and inclusiveness. But his purpose was not to justify their often corrupt tax-collecting practices and other sins. It was to lead them to repentance and faith in himself. He told the woman taken in adultery that while he did not condemn her, she was to "go and sin no more." To a moderate, I guess that was intolerant.
These concerns were never raised when religious moderates and liberals had the public square to themselves. They're upset because they have been marginalized. Still, Danforth is right about where true power to change people comes from, and it isn't from the state.
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