Monday, March 2, 2009

What are our core values?

The other day Glenn Beck talked about how we need to come together around our common core values to fix the divisions in America. I understand he is trying to bring unity by focusing on the good and not the bad, the strengths and not the weaknesses. The problem is I do not think we have common core values. We may have some common surface values, but I think the divide goes much deeper than his rhetoric would admit.

My core values are God exists and He is not silent. He speaks to us through creation. He speaks to us through the Bible. He speaks to us through His Son. His word is eternal. My goal is to live as consistently as possible to what He has said. That means God's written word is the only objective standard by which I can measure. I may not be perfectly consistent. I may not understand His word correctly. These are my failures, not His, and I need to change when He reveals to me where I am wrong.

I do not base my core values in the United States' Constitution, democracy, the writings of any Founding Fathers or the American dream. These are temporary things, giving guidance on how to organize our country right now. Please do not get me wrong. I believe we have the best governmental system to date. Until something better comes along, I think we need to defend these things and do our best to preserve them. Nevertheless, they are not permanent. There will come a time when they will grow old and pass away. On the other hand, God's word is permanent and will not disappear. Therefore, I base my core values on the permanent rather than the transitory.[1]

From my observations, I conclude there is a large segment of our society with very different core values. They believe in Humanism. In this system, man is the ultimate arbiter of right and wrong. This leads to a relativistic moral outlook and decision-making process. They rebel against the clear absolute teachings of scripture. In doing so, they deny, either outright or through their beliefs and actions, the word of God.[2]

It is possible to come together at some level and agree in principle on things governmental and political. The problem is there is no unity on core things. I look to God's word for objective truth. They do not believe there is such a thing as objective truth. This is a vast gulf of a difference and it will undermine any true progress.

This is evident in some of the major clashes seen in our society today. The radically different core values are why we have so much debate, demonstration and violence over issues such as evolution, abortion and same-sex marriage. These are not peripheral issues; fundamentally divergent worldviews drive these differences. A large segment of our society says the Bible clearly teaches these things to be wrong. Another large segment of our society says the Bible is myth and we do not need to listen to it; these things are perfectly acceptable.

I agree with Glenn that we need to try to come together in open, honest dialog and attempt to reconcile on issues where we can agree. In the process, we need to refrain from demonizing the other side; that causes separation and not unity. On the other hand, we cannot delude ourselves that this will bring about lasting change or that we are dealing with core issues. We are not. We are dealing with surface issues.

Finally, a quote by Abraham Kuyper, that explains both sides' passion:

When principles that run against your deepest convictions begin to win the day, then battle is your calling, and peace has become sin; you must, at the price of dearest peace, lay your convictions bare before friend and enemy, with all the fire of your faith.

1. I cringe when I hear well-meaning people expound about democracy being the best governmental system and how bad a theocracy is. The problem is we have not seen a true theocracy. When we do, it will be the ultimate governmental form.
2. In addition, a third segment tries to reconcile the two views. I think both other segments look on these people as pretty confused.