By Dr. Mark Creech
A few weeks ago, Harvard’s Robert Putnam told the Washington Post that organized religion had focused too much on the culture war and wasn’t focused enough on issues of poverty. President Obama has also echoed these words, as well as many others on the left.
I suggest the statement is fundamentally flawed for many reasons. But let me simply say, it’s certainly right to reach into the river of despair and rescue those who are drowning in issues of impoverishment. Still, it can be just as important, if not more so, to look up river and see who is throwing these people in.
Issues of poverty are tied to marriage and family dissolution, a wrong-headed sexual ethic, alcohol use and abuse, drugs, and gambling. Poverty issues are also tied to an abandonment of Judeo-Christian ethics on the proper role of government, free markets and government regulations, taxes, wealth redistribution, etc.
I once heard Rev. William Barber of the NC NAACP say that there were more verses in the Bible about poverty than anything else; therefore the church should focus on helping the poor, not on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. But the number of verses in the Bible on a particular subject does not constitute its importance. There are more verses on poverty than on the deity of Jesus Christ, but without the doctrine of Christ as the incarnate God the entire construct of the Christian faith would fall.
The Bible’s message is not simply about whether people are rich or poor; it’s also about whether people are good or evil. Make no mistake, character is destiny.
Between the late 1980s and the early 1990s, I took three short-term missions trips to India. I saw first-hand in that dark country the way its value system, more specifically, religion, impacted its people’s material welfare. India is a nation that suffers widespread hunger problems, but their deprivation isn’t caused by a lack of natural resources. Instead their poverty is caused by the people’s belief system. Most Indians are Hindus. The Hindu religion teaches that people who die are reincarnated into animals. So naturally their laws reflect these beliefs with prohibitions against killing rats, cows, pigs and many other animals.
There are as many as 200 million “sacred cows” roaming the streets of India every day. Yet it’s also quite common to see children with bloated bellies from starvation. I’m told the cows alone could feed nearly one and a half billion people, but Indians won’t kill a cow lest they take the life of one of their ancestors. There are mice and rats that eat up much of their grain. The grain and the meat from the cows would provide ample supply for all of the hungry people in India, but it’s their belief system that holds them back.
The economic state of a nation depends upon the state and health of its religion. Or should I say, in some cases, the lack thereof?
The soul of our nation is being challenged as never before. We are in a state of national emergency. The deterioration of our moral perspective and the willful assault on our religious heritage is a threat that if we cannot turn back, we cannot survive.
Jesus asked, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36). The same could be said for a nation. Spiritual bankruptcy leads to all sorts of economic deprivations. The culture war is about our character as a nation, something without which we cannot prosper. That’s every bit as important as helping poor people.