I live in Illinois, the state in which one hears jokes about governors moving out of the governor’s mansion directly into prison. It’s not funny.
Corruption, while present in every culture throughout the ages, seems to have gained a deadly stranglehold in our country in recent years. Peggy Noonan, in her editorial, America’s Crisis of Character, points out that only 24% of Americans believe we are on the “right track.” She suggests that we are increasingly dissatisfied with “American character—who we are and what kind of adults we are raising.”
Noonan recounts several recent stories of appalling personal behavior and government corruption as evidence for her thesis. She presents a convincing argument. With reference to the scandalous abuse of taxpayer money by the General Services Administration, Noonan observes, “The reason the story is news, and actually upsetting, is not that a government agency wasted money. That is not news. The reason it’s news is that the people involved thought what they were doing was funny, and appropriate.” (Italics mine.)
When corruption is assumed, tolerated and even flaunted, we are in real trouble.
Perhaps this issue captures my attention today because I am also reading a book on the socially redeeming effects of Christian grace. In The Grace Effect: How the Power of One Life Can Reverse the Corruption of Unbelief, author Larry Alex Taunton says, “It is…my purpose to make a case for society’s need of Christianity’s gentling, inspiring, and culturally transforming power.”
Taunton does this in the context of his experience with an adoption process in the Ukraine, a country in which corruption is pervasive and expected. Such blatant abuse of power, he argues, is the result of communism’s determination to stamp out religion, specifically Christianity. On what basis are moral decisions made when God is off-limits? Power replaces right and wrong. Taunton writes (p. 104), “The government sets the standard: those sitting above can easily spit on those below.”
Is that where we’re headed? What is the remedy for systemic and increasingly corrosive corruption?
I found some insight in my Bible this morning.
“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” 2 Peter 1:3-4
That corruption arises from evil desires makes sense. So, then what is the remedy for evil desires?
The solution is not a better economic or political system or better oversight or redistribution of wealth or improved education. Any political structure, social program or economic system will simply be exploited by the evil desires of those who control it.
The remedy for evil desires, and therefore corruption, must start with the transformation of human hearts. And only Jesus Christ can change a heart. All other religions and philosophies offer only methods to manage evil desires, not the power to overcome them.
Therefore, Christians can, in fact we must, live in a corrupt world (what other choice do we have?) and yet escape becoming complicit in the corruption. If we can pull that off, then it follows that Christians actively living in freedom from evil desires can have a “gentling, inspiring, and culturally transformative” effect on society as a whole.
What do you think? What is the remedy for corruption? Can you think of any country in which moral standards are high, where people are generous, kind, and honest, that has NOT been influenced by Christianity?
“And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with every increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Cor. 3:18