There is a series of movies out called “Purge.” The plot is built around a set time every year in America when you can break any law you want, even murder. It is a fascinating concept. The idea is that America’s problems can be solved if there were less people.
It is a brutal movie. I don’t recommend it.
However, the plot presents an interesting concept. My thought after seeing the trailer was, why not? If we all agree that we are better off as a society with fewer people, what would stop us? What should stop us? Wouldn’t it be acceptable if our government said this was the way to be most successful? Majority rules.
I am sure many of us would hope our values would stop us. We would hope that we would all agree that something like this is wrong. Which brings me to my point. The values we hope would stop something like this from happening depend on a God who has commanded what’s right or wrong. If we consistently want to take God out of the picture, out of our government, out of our schools, out of our society, we must face the fact that we have taken the source of morality out as well.
My wife was a guidance counselor for an elementary school for many years. One of her responsibilities was to teach what was called “Character Education.” The curriculum involved lessons on how to treat your neighbor, why you shouldn’t cheat, how to resolve conflict, and showing respect to teachers and one another, and so on. I would tease her that she had the job of teaching the values of God without being allowed to talk about the source of those values, Jesus. Interestingly, schools need kids who practice the Christian values every Sunday School teacher promotes. The fact is that schools could not function without these values. Do you see the irony? We want the values of God, but don’t want the source of those values, God.
It is God who commands what is right and wrong. It is God’s love that motivates us to love one another. It is God’s Spirit that enables us to do what is right when it is difficult. It is God’s calling to love one another that is at the root of caring societies. Take God out of the picture and atheist Richard Dawkins confessed, “there is no design, no purpose, no good or evil, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.”* In a society without God what is to stop laws being made arbitrarily for the good of the majority, and government creating a purge? After all, who cares if a few people have to go?
The values God commands are meant to help us live abundantly with one another. They can help us create the foundation of great societies and communities. They can help us hold governments accountable to the good of all, not just the mighty. Yet, somewhere along the way, we decided that we didn’t want the God who gave us those values to be a part of our schools, governments or even our lives. We don’t want God, yet the truth is we function better if we have God’s values. I would argue that those values are in jeopardy if we continue to reject the God who gives us those values.
Recently, I spoke with a former Marine. I asked him if his Christian values ever conflicted with his military objectives. “No” he said, “In fact they have discovered that promoting faith and belief in God makes for better leaders.” He then told a story of a sargeant who saw his Bible fall out of his bag. The sargeant demanded that he kick it out of the way. He refused. The Sargent threatened the whole platoon if he did not do what was demanded. My friend then said, “I reminded the sargeant that as a Marine I pledged to Honor God, country, and my fellow Marine, in that order. The sargeant relented, and instead demanded he put his Bible away and get going. Do you see it? Even the toughest people in the service of our country understand that they are better living into faith in God and following the values of God. Even the military gets it. What about you?
*Richard Dawkins, “River Out of Eden”
The writer is the senior pastor at Sidney First United Methodist Church, Sidney.