And in the midst of this political-societal maelstrom, how should Christians respond and what should they do?
First, we must listen to our fellow Americans who are clearly far too often insecure about their families' and their country's economic future. They are genuinely frightened about significant terrorist threats that they feel make their loved ones and themselves increasingly unsafe in their own neighborhoods and workplaces.
Far too many of them dread what they see as the looming prospect that for the first time in American history their children and grandchildren will have a lower standard of living than they have enjoyed.
And many of them are to varying degrees disappointed and concerned that the genuine progress made toward racial reconciliation in American society has stalled and degenerated significantly in the last decade.
Add to these fears and concerns the growing conviction that their government doesn't really care about them and often just simply doesn't work, for all of its increasingly intrusiveness in their lives. And what you are left with is a critical mass of very unhappy campers, which provokes the question, "Can the center hold?"
The late John Drakeford, former counseling professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote and spoke often about "the awesome power of the listening ear." Even when Christians may disagree with their fellow Americans about the accuracy of their perceptions or their perceived solutions, we need to listen and show that we care about how they feel, which is their reality. It was a wise man who once observed that "people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."
In order to be the salt and light in society that Jesus has commanded us to be, we must be known as compassionate and caring people who really do empathize with the emotional angst and personal insecurity tormenting our fellow citizens.
Second, we must reaffirm our ultimate allegiance to Jesus Christ and the Christian faith, "once delivered to the saints," what C. S. Lewis aptly identified as "mere Christianity," the simple orthodoxy of the New Testament. That loyalty trumps all other allegiances — to country, to party, to political beliefs, to family, or personal preferences and desires.
As Christians, we are in God's Army, in service to our Heavenly Father and at His command. In our nation's current political-societal morass, we are called upon to bear witness in word and deed to Gospel Truth, to function as the moral memory of Judeo-Christian civilization and to call people to listen to what President Lincoln called "the better angels of our nature."
Almost 70 years ago C. S. Lewis wrote a deceptively small, but critically important book, The Abolition of Man (1947). In this book Lewis provides a lethal analysis of the deleterious impact of the moral relativism. He argues that the head (the intellect) rules the belly (desires and instincts) through the "Chest — Magnanimity — Sentiment — these are the indispensable liaison officers between cerebral man and visceral man" (34).
What Lewis calls "the Chest" is character and moral virtue. Moral relativism, which has simply engulfed our culture, produces "Men without Chests" who are governed solely by the "cerebral" (progressives and "intellectuals") and the visceral (populists and disciples of the "culture of desire").
Lewis laments, "We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful" (35).
Christianity and the Holy Spirit produce men and women with moral character that can hold the center together and produce a critical mass of citizenry who love their neighbors -- both progressives and conservatives and all those in between -- as themselves, treating others as they themselves would want to be treated. After all the Apostle Paul reminded us that God "hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation" and we are "ambassadors for Christ" (2 Cor 5 19-20) to all, left, right and center.
And a good place to commence our reclamation of this society would be to clarify what it means to be a Christian in the first place. Surely all Christians of good will can agree that it begins by affirming that God, loving us while we were rebellious sinners, sent His perfect Son to die a cross kind of death to pay the price for our sins and to secure eternal salvation for all those who will repent, confess their sins, and trust our Savior's sacrifice on the cross, trusting Christ and Christ alone for our salvation.
That means at the very minimum, you acknowledge that personally you have sinned against God and, under moral conviction, you confess your sins to Him and ask for His forgiveness.
Having identified who the Christians are, we must go forth to be salt and light, serving as His ambassadors of reconciliation to a non-reconciled world, carrying the moral memory of a society populated by men with "chests" (character) who provide the glue to allow the center to hold and flourish.
In other words, the solution to the political-societal crisis is a spiritual awakening led by men and women who have been reconciled to God through faith in Jesus Christ. Government and society are cabooses. The people are the locomotive. When the people change, government and society will change, not the other way around.
God calls all His disciples to be spiritual change agents. Let us be about our Father's business!