Andrea Mitchell, veteran Washington reporter, said this today:
“I’m an optimist. I have never been as discouraged as I have been this week about our country, not the people of our country but the leaders of our country. There is a central corruption of the spirit at the core of all of this and people have overlooked a lot of the financial self-dealing and a lot of the other things along the way. But when you keep making excuses you get to the center of it and there is, as Peggy Noonan was calling for love, all I see is self-love, and that is not leadership. So I don’t know where we go here.”
Her analysis is right on target: “There is a central corruption of the spirit at the core of all this. . .” The political dimensions of the mess in Washington are just the tip of the iceberg. The real issue is spiritual. America no longer produces, no longer raises up leaders with a spiritual foundation.
It is in part the fruit of the hubris that has gripped America for about a century. We are so strong and so smart that we don’t need the shackles of religion any more. And it is in part a result of the advertising, marketing, and entertainment industries, who spend billions of dollars each year inculcating false values.
But most of all it is a failure on the part of the church. From 1875 through 1925 (roughly speaking, of course) we tore ourselves apart with the battles between the Fundamentalists and the Modernists. Then after World War II we basked in our new-found popularity and relaxed, counting on momentum to carry forward America’s habit of letting the church set the moral bounds of political and social realities.
We can’t march on Washington and demand of our leaders, “Get spiritual!” First we have to reset our own spiritual foundations and raise spiritual young people to be tomorrow’s leaders. This will not happen so long as popularity remains one of the primary values of the American churches.
Then we go to Washington and remind them that, as the Founding Fathers knew (whether they were Christian or not), we are accountable to the eternal, righteous judge of all mankind.
We must never forget that the central expression of the American spirit is the Declaration of Independence, which is grounded in a specifically theological statement:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. . .