Would you rather have a million dollars or true love?
That was the question posed to an American radio audience. The result: 60% would prefer the million bucks.
Frankly, the results don't surprise me. But they do sadden me.
I think the results are a reflection of our cultural values. Historian and sociologist Francis Schaeffer outlines in his book "How Shall We Then Live?" (written way back in 1976) how cultural values changed from the ancient Greeks to the Romans to the Reformation to the Renaissance to our current post-Christian Materialistic society. His research asserts that the predominant values of Americans since WWII have been a focus on my affluence and my personal peace.
Most Americans have been been fed a steady diet of this values system their whole lives. Hollywood, Madison Avenue, Wall Street, and the mainstream media are doing a great job keeping it alive and well. Moreover, these two values have been propped up as American, good, and noble.
However, these are not historical American values. Our roots are in one nation that reveres God... and a citizenry who willingly sacrifices to ensure the freedoms of their fellow man. The U.S. Constitution phrases it: "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness," but the intent was that we would strive for that opportunity ourselves and protect that opportunity for others. We've forgotten the second intention. The biblical equivalent is "Love your neighbor as yourself."
Here are a few quick thoughts on each value: "my affluence" first and "my personal peace" second. Then I'll let you go ;-)
Take a look at two tired cliches that we're all a little numb to: "Money can't buy you happiness" and "You can't take it with you." The first one is true for someone who has tasted wealth and knows it to be hollow... or for someone wise enough to trust the Truth of the Bible without all the heartache of trusting in money .
The second only makes sense to someone who believes there is a heaven and a hell... and that a focus on loving others while on earth is more blessed than feverishly scratching away at building our own kingdoms.
The only way to transform these cliches into liberating Truths is to develop the proper paradigm about how God has ordered the world. We need to un-brainwash ourselves. If you want your heart to absorb the Truth, crack open the bible, get to a good church with solid teaching, start reading books about Jesus, go www.gotquestions.org to wrestle with your doubts, talk to people who are more spiritually mature than you, etc., etc.. (I talk about all of this in the "Abiding" chapter in my book.)
If you're not a Christian, my encouragement is to at least find out what Christians claim True Love to be. You'll always have the prerogative to disagree, but it makes sense to be well-informed on what you're rejecting.
MY PERSONAL PEACE
The problem here is not "personal peace," but the "my" that comes before it. The individualization of values and norms means there is no True North any more. We are now reaping the rotten fruit of 70 years of moral relativism. The divisiveness is ugly and ubiquitous. Is Trump 100% bad, 90% bad, 10% bad? If it's ok for same sex marriage, can I marry my sister or my cat?
My point here is not to argue the details of these issues, but to highlight the fact that a culture of moral relativism leads to a toxic mix of some points of view being revered as "freedom of speech" while others are labeled "hateful." Everyone is right and noble and -- simultaneously -- everyone is wrong and intolerant. There is no True Love in this context.
America's solutions will most certainly be found in our political, social, moral, financial, and educational systems only if our spiritual deficit is addressed at the same time.
The cure for our personal malaise and nationwide strife is to experience -- at a heart level -- the message of Jesus. (Not the message of "religion". One of the worse things that ever happened to Jesus' message was "religion".) Christians are mostly to blame for this drift. Many are trapped thinking that Christianity is a moral code. It's not a moral code. It's a spiritual reality that leads to real freedom, real peace.
If you're a Christian, and you're frustrated with our divisive national conversation, my encouragement is to stop defending your opinion and instead get creative about shifting the conversation to "what Christ means in my life." Together, let's try to be more of a light than a bullhorn. Maybe we can make Jesus attractive enough for people to become curious about Him again. This will change values and behavior (and eternities!) way better than any of our human efforts.
When I first started re-exploring Jesus in 1998, I was worried that I'd have to ditch my sense of humor, narrow my mind, shut down my brain, and stop having fun if I became a Christian. For whatever reason, I thought Jesus was about rules and not about freedom.
But I've now experienced the True Love Jesus offers when he tells us:
"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
I'd pay a million dollars for that kind of True Love. Oh, wait a second, someone already paid it for me. And for you, too, by the way.