It’s long been understood and accepted in many sectors that politics is downstream from culture – that what we see in Washington D.C. or on the campaign trail is but a manifestation or reflection of what’s happening in broader society, whether in our families, schools, sports, art or entertainment world.
In other words, dysfunction in Washington, D.C., doesn’t just happen by accident or because a few bad actors lack discipline, self-control or a general appreciation for good manners. Especially in this global world connected by social media, you can’t separate behavior on Main Street in Middle America from what unfolds on Pennsylvania Avenue in our nation’s capital.
Like most problems, there are many causes of a collapsing culture, but one of the primary characteristics missing from modern society today is a sense of awe and the virtue of reverence.
Generally defined as having a deep sense of respect, reverence is all too often mocked and maligned. As a Christian, having reverence also means to have a healthy fear of God. It’s to see Him above all things and to recognize we’re here to serve at His pleasure and will.
Yet culturally speaking, reverence is often dismissed as being stodgy or stiff. In fact, the rebellious of the “baby boom” generation practically launched their entire counterrevolution on the goal of being irreverent – and proud of it.
“The only reason you should be in college is to destroy it,” once said Abbie Hoffman, a proud member of the “Chicago Seven” who collectively led the disruption of the Democrat National Convention in 1968. “I believe in compulsory cannibalism. If people were forced to eat what they killed, there would be no more wars.”
Saul Alinksy, another character of the era who famously penned a playbook for radicalism, proffered:
“To the questioner, nothing is sacred. He detests dogma, defies any finite definition of morality, rebels against any repression of a free, open search of ideas no matter where they may lead. He is challenging, insulting, agitating, discrediting. He stirs unrest.”
Hoffman and Alinsky may be gone from the scene, but some of their acolytes and descendants gleefully pound away. They’re behind countless campaigns – from abortion on demand to the quest to redefine multi-millennia-old understanding of the family and human sexuality – to name just a few things.
As Christians, we revere the Lord’s authority. We revere His power and sovereignty. Even though we may not always understand His ways, we’re grateful for the limitations He places on us knowing they’re for our own good (Gen. 2:17).
Healthy and functioning societies also possess a general sense of reverence for institutions and individuals. Just yesterday, I was attending a men’s community lunch, and, after grace was said over the meal, we joined in pledging allegiance to the American flag. It was refreshing.
We don’t have to agree with a person’s party or position to show them reverence. It’s generally understood that people stand when a judge ascends the bench, or the president of the United States enters the room. At a church Christmas concert a few weeks back, the congregation rose when the choir started singing the “Hallelujah Chorus.” That tradition dates to the piece’s debut performance. Apparently, King George II rose to his feet, so everyone else stood up also. Reverence can be contagious.
Healthy cultures express reverence, but more reverence would improve daily life for all of us. After all, it’s difficult to be arrogant when you stand in awe of the majesty of God, knowing that every good thing we enjoy is thanks exclusively to Him.
Image from Shutterstock.